Second Annual Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off Begins Monday
FORT MYERS, Fla. (Nov. 23, 2019) – The second annual Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans Fort Myers Tip-Off is set to take place Thanksgiving Week in Southwest Florida, featuring four major conference programs including Bradley, Kansas State, Northwestern and Pitt.
Pitt and K-State will square off in the first matchup on Monday at 6 p.m. ET, while Northwestern and Bradley collide in the nightcap at 8:30 p.m. The third place and championship games are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. All games will be contested at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers.
Tickets for the event remain on sale and can be secured by visiting fmto.wpengine.com/tickets or the Suncoast Credit Union Arena box office. Tickets start at just $20 per day.
Each tournament game will be televised live on FS1 and will include analysis from veteran Final Four color commentator Bill Raftery, with Brandon Gaudin and Dave Ryan handling the play-by-play duties on Monday and Wednesday, respectively.
The teams head to Fort Myers having notched impressive victories to start the season. K-State is a perfect 4-0 to start the year, which includes a victory on the road against UNLV. Northwestern and Pitt meanwhile have also picked up early quality wins, with the Wildcats defeating Providence and the Panthers knocking off Florida State, and Bradley has won four straight games in the lead up to their semifinal contest on Monday against Northwestern.
Overall, the four teams participating in the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off boast a combined 111 postseason tournament appearances, including 67 NCAA Tournament bids, seven Final Four berths and 48 conference championships. Three of the four teams competing in the Tip-Off won preseason tournaments a year ago as Bradley won the Cancun Challenge, K-State claimed the Paradise Jam, and Pitt took home the crown in the Barclays Classic.
Bradley and K-State are coming off NCAA Tournament berths from a season ago after winning their respective conference championships and return key contributors in 2019. The Braves’ Darrell Brown was a second team All-Missouri Valley Conference member, while Elijah Childs appeared on the third team and was voted MVC Tournament Most Valuable Player. Nate Kennell was an All-Tournament selection. All three players are among five Bradley players who are averaging more than 10 points per game to start the 2019-20 season. The Wildcats’ Xavier Sneed was a Big 12 All-Conference honorable mention a year ago and is K-State’s scoring leader at 16 per game, while Cartier Diarra is averaging 12.5 points per game and ranks second in the Big 12 with nearly 7.0 assists per game.
Northwestern and Pitt will look to return to the postseason stage this year. Each boast dynamic sophomores ready to take their teams to the next level. The Wildcats’ Miller Kopp and Pete Nance, both former Top 100 recruits, are Northwestern’s leading scorers in the early going this season. Northwestern is also benefitting from the early success of grad transfer Pat Spencer, who won the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s top lacrosse player a year ago. Spencer has started each game to start the season and is the team’s leader in assists. Panther Xavier Johnson, an ACC All-Freshman Team selection last season, averaged a team-high 15.5 points per game a year ago. Johnson’s teammate, Trey McGowens, started 32 games in 2018-19 and averaged 11.6 points per game, which was third on the team. McGowens is the team’s leading scorer thus far in 2019 and is one of four Panthers averaging double figures.
The four head coaches in the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off have surrounded themselves with winners throughout their careers. Three of the four coaches have guided teams to the Final Four. K-State’s Bruce Weber led Illinois to the National Championship game in 2005, while both Collins and Capel were on Duke’s staff when the Blue Devils made extended runs in the NCAA Tournament. Collins was on staff with the 2001 and 2010 National Championship teams along with a Final Four appearance in 2004. Capel helped Duke claim the title in 2015. Additionally, Bradley head coach Brian Wardle entered the season with 153 victories, which ranked second among all coaches under 40.
The first game of the tournament featuring Pitt and K-State will be just the second-ever meeting between the schools. The Panthers outdid the Wildcats 70-47 on Nov. 26, 2014. Regional foes, Northwestern and Bradley will clash in the second game. The schools are just under 140 miles apart, but they have not played in nearly 34 years when Bradley recorded its only win against the Wildcats, 76-72, on Nov. 30, 1985. NU leads the series 8-1.
A potential second-round matchup awaits between Northwestern and Pitt and a reunion for head coaches Chris Collins and Jeff Capel. The two were teammates at Duke from 1993-96, advancing to the national championship game in 1994. Later, they were both assistants at Duke under head coach Mike Krzyzewski from 2011-2013.
About the Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans Fort Myers Tip-Off
Launched in 2018, the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off brings the nation’s top college basketball programs together for two days of incredible competition to see which team and their fans will #OwnTheFort during Thanksgiving Week. Contested at Suncoast Credit Union Arena, the home of Florida SouthWestern State College, the four-team tournament has quickly become a staple of the Southwest Florida sports calendar. For more information on the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off, please visit fmto.wpengine.com.
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