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Vanderbilt to open with St. John's in Maui

Vanderbilt will open the 2015 Maui Invitational with St. John's. Who else could the Commodores see in Maui?

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The Maui Invitational has a perennially loaded field, and this year, Vanderbilt will get to boost its NCAA Tournament hopes with a strong showing in that tournament.

Officials announced the bracket on Monday, and the Commodores will open the tournament with Big East foe St. John's. Either Indiana or Wake Forest will follow in the second game. The opposite side of the bracket consists of Kansas, UCLA, UNLV, and the host school, Chaminade, and the Commodores will see one of those four in the final game.

Kansas is, of course, a perennial top 10 team, and UCLA and Indiana project to be top 25 teams to open the 2015-16 season.  Joe Lunardi projected Indiana as a No. 2 seed in his bracketology back in April. There's a legitimate chance that one or more of the teams Vandy sees in Hawaii winds up in the 2016 Final Four.

That's a major departure from their 2014 appearance in the Barclay's Center Classic. Though that tournament featured a Virginia team that finished the season ranked fifth in the country, it also included Saint Peter's, St. Francis, Tennessee State, and Norfolk State. Regardless of the outcome of the first round of games, only four teams - Vandy, Virginia, La Salle, and Rutgers - actually made it to the Barclay's Center portion of the bracket.

The Maui Invitational, which will be held from November 23-25, should provide a strong early test for Vanderbilt.  With four starters returning from a team that went 21-14 and made the quarterfinals of the NIT, Vanderbilt should open 2015-16 as a strong contender for the NCAA Tournament and a potential top 25 team.

Hopefully Samir Sehic and Camron Justice won't be working too hard on their tans though...