Northwestern will participate in the Cancun Challenge next season, according to a report by Panther Nation. The Wildcats are one of four host teams, along with Virginia Tech, Northern Iowa and one more team still to be determined.
As part of the Cancun Challenge, Northwestern receives a pair of home games in November against two of four visiting teams in the field. So far, Albany is the only of the four visitors announced. The Wildcats will then play two games in Cancun on Nov. 25 and 26 in a field with the Hokies, the Panthers and the other unannounced host team.
The Cancun Challenge will be a better fit for Northwestern than the Las Vegas Invitational was last season. The Wildcats faced a tough field in the Las Vegas Invitational with games against UCLA and Missouri. Virginia Tech and Northern Iowa are a big step below where the Bruins and Tigers were last season.
Virginia Tech is beginning a new, optimistic era under former Marquette head coach Buzz Williams. Williams’ Golden Eagles struggled to a 17-15 finish last season, but before that they had made the NCAA Tournament in each of his first five seasons. In the last three, they reached the Sweet 16, capped for by an Elite Eight appearance in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
The Hokies will likely be competitive in the future under Williams, but in the 2014-15 season they will still be one of the ACC’s doormats.
Of the teams announced, Northern Iowa is probably the best team in the field. The Panthers went 16-15 last season while finishing third in the MVC. They return their entire core and figure to be one of the nation’s better mid-majors next season and a MVC title contender. The Panthers have a pair of athletic guards in Wes Washpun and Deon Mitchell, a sharpshooter in Matt Bohannon, and two talented forwards in Seth Tuttle and Nate Buss.