Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
8/26/2007 10:21:00 PM
Takin' it to the Street
NEW YORK -- Games at Rucker Park tend to be as much about the emcee, who roams the court with a wireless mic, spewing non-stop commentary and verbal diarrhea, as they are about the basketball. In Friday night's Elite 24 Hoops Classic -- the entertaining streetball stepbrother of the McDonald's All-America game -- there was zero defense played, 333 total points scored, and tons of hot air added to the already sultry Harlem night. The emceeing is an integral part of the scene, and some of it is solid, like when Ohio State-bound center B.J. Mullens suddenly acquired the nickname That '70s Show because of a mild resemblance to Ashton Kutcher; or when Arizona-bound point guard Brandon Jennings, who dominated the evening with 23 assists and 19 points, graduated from his '06 Elite 24 nickname, "Do Be Doo," into "The Takeover."
At its low points, though, the micsmanship devolves into name-checking the roster of celebs in the park. It was nice to know the first time that "We got Fat Joe in the house," but less helpful the third and fourth and fifth times; it felt like listening to a street version of Dick Vitale without a street version of Dan Shulman to occasionally right the ship. We were also told thrice that "Georgetown guard Reggie Sapp" was courtside before the announcer was informed the name was incorrect; it then became, in an attempt to overcompensate for the mistake, "Georgetown sensationJessie Sapp, who went to the Final Four." If Sapp is a Hoyas sensation, then what was Jeff Green?
I'll spare you a nuts-and-bolts report of the game, which Rise Mag aptly recapped. Basically, Jennings' team won 169-164, and he stole the show with an amazing array of open-floor passes, including an alley-oop to USC recruit DeMar Derozan right off the opening tip. Jennings originally committed to the Trojans before controversially switching to Arizona, and after the game told me that he has aims to woo Derozan to Tucson: "I talk to DeMar a lot about coming to Arizona, so we'll see what happens down the road," Jennings said. "I'm going to keep bugging him 24-7."
While USC fans digest that unsettling news, let's embark on a photo tour of the Elite 24 using shots from ace photog Geoff Leonard, who sweated through three hours of camera-work on Friday. His first shot, below, followed by my comments:
This was the "Skip To My Lou" squad, with (from left to right) 2009 top player Renardo Sidney, NYC stud Lance Stephenson, UCLA-bound Jrue Holiday, Mullens and Michigan State-bound Delvon Roe. The two things I was most interested about with this bunch: 1) Stephenson appears to be so in with Adidas, who sponsors his Lincoln High team, that he had custom blue-and-orange kicks for the game. 2) Mullens has a Gothic "B" tattooed on one forearm and a "J" on the other. Very un-Kutcher-like.
From the zero-gravity portion of the evening, we present Mr. Roe, a future Spartan, cruising past Mr. Jennings. Watching Drew Neitzel hit threes is OK and all, but this ... will be slightly more exciting.
Yes, the man next to the Gatorade is Tark, fulfilling his celebrity coaching duties in long sleeves on a humid evening by the end of which 90 percent of the spectators had sweat through their shirts. Sitting next to him is Stephenson, who scored 39 points and would have been prime UNLV material in the early '90s. For the talent and the baggage.
On the left: Williams, Jason (with Duke T-shirt). Center: Joe, Fat (with ice). Possible topic: How awesome everything was back in 2001.
Baron Davis went head-to-head with Tark in the celeb-coaching battle, and Davis' team won. Perhaps Baron's inspirational halftime message, which consisted of him standing around on the court, shooting threes righty, then lefty, was the difference. Nets point man Marcus Williams did not give any speeches either; he had just had his tonsils removed a few days earlier (seriously -- he hoarsely informed the blog of the operation).
There was a VIP tent where everyone mingled afterwards, eating catered fried chicken and posing for photos like this one, in which Mullens flashes an O-State sign and cleverly manages to keep his inner-forearm tats out of the frame. In an error more egregious than the Reggie/Jessie Sapp business, the emcee initially said Mullens was headed to Nevada. It was Luke Babbitt, who has committed to the Wolfpack. He looks nothing like Kutcher.
If you look back at the Baron Davis photo, you'll see a guy with incredibly long appendages reclining on The Goat Squad's bench. Same guy here, forced to sit at the front of the bus to stretch out after the game. His name is John Riek, a 7-foot-1 center who arrived in the U.S. from the Sudan in January as a complete unknown ... and is now being recruited intensely by UConn, Duke, Syracuse, Florida and Georgetown. Riek, the subject of a great Daily News article from earlier this month, does not speak English well but is a surprisingly polished center who could end up being a Lottery Pick. He's listed as a 17-year-old senior-to-be at Our Savior New American School in Long Island, but appears, a la Greg Oden, extremely "mature" for his age. One current college player who witnessed Riek during his summer explosion at the Amare Stoudemire Nike Skills Academy told me, "He looks like he's old enough to rent a car."
Kevin Love earned the nickname "Kevlar" last year at the inaugural Elite 24 game.
AJ Mast/Icon SMI
This blog is now on UCLA overload, but I promise, it's coincidental. The day after publishing a Q&A with Bruins coach and defensive guru Ben Howland, I ran into incoming UCLA freshman Kevin Love, who made the trip from L.A. to New York this week for the Elite 24 high-school All-Star game. Love played in the inaugural Elite 24 game last year -- being referred to as "Kevlar" by MC Bobbito Garcia -- and sat courtside for Thursday's scrimmage at Columbia University in New York.
I posed some of the same questions to Love as I did to Howland, and on the topic of positioning in the Bruins' linuep, Love was somewhat adamant about wanting to play the four. "My natural position is the four, because I'm a little over 6-9, and I'm not going to be playing the five at the next level, so you know, I've gotta start playing the four and stepping out a little bit," he said. "But I also need to try to be as versatile as possible. I'm not really set at a position, and I know coach Howland is going to put me in the right place to succeed."
Earlier in the week Love said he "got his butt beat" by Kevin Garnett in pickup games at UCLA's Student Activities Center. Love forced himself into the matchup -- "They were trying to push me to guard Lamond Murray, but I was like, 'No way, I'm going to take advantage of this situation and guard Kevin" -- and as consolation received a post-game tutorial from KG that included advice on post positioning, spacing and calling for entry feeds.
One thing Love does not need counseling on is his outlet-passing skills; he has long been known as a virtuoso of the long-bomb outlet on the AAU circuit. Bruins point guard Darren Collison got to experience it first-hand when he and Love played pick-up together for the first time, earlier this month at the Adidas Nations Basketball Experience in New Orleans. "We were setting up a little thing at the free throw line," said Love, "and right when I'd take the ball out of the net, he'd take off on a full sprint, and when he caught it at the other end, he wouldn't even need to take a dribble -- he'd just lay it up."
"People were asking us afterwards how many times we'd played, saying, 'You look like you've been playing together for years,'" said Love. "But that was the first time we'd played together, so it was good hearing it. Hopefully we'll take that into the season and make a run for a national championship."
With the addition of star recruit Kevin Love and four starters returning, UCLA coach Ben Howland looks to guide his Bruins to their third straight Final Four.
Rob Curtis/Icon SMI
For the latest in a series of offseason Q&As, I chatted with UCLA coach Ben Howland, who guided the Bruins to their second straight Final Four this past season. Howland, who had just returned from vacation in Hawaii when we spoke, is returning a loaded team -- minus All-America two-guard Arron Afflalo, who was a first-round draft pick of the Pistons -- that should contend for a national title in 2007-08. The following is an edited transcript of our phone conversation from Thursday.
Luke Winn: With super-recruit Kevin Love on the way in, and Arron gone to the draft, how will your lineup be restructured next season? Is it as easy as putting Love at center, and shifting Lorenzo Mata, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Josh Shipp [last year's five, four and three, respectively] down a position?
Ben Howland: Actually, when Kevin plays alongside Lorenzo, [Love] will probably end up playing the four on defense as opposed to the five. And we're definitely going to be playing Lorenzo and Kevin together at times. On offense, though, Kevin will be able to play both the four and the five. He works [at the five] because he'll probably be our best rebounder, if not one of our top two. He has very good low-post moves, plus he can step out and shoot the three, and he's good from the foul line. But the biggest thing is what Kevin can do around the basket. We haven't had a great low-post scorer since I've been here.
LW: Kevin is also the biggest recruit you've ever signed at UCLA. What is his immediate potential for this season? Can he make an impact anywhere near what Kevin Durant did at Texas as a freshman?
BH: I hope so. That would be great. I think Kevin is going to be very good. He'll be one of the best freshmen in the country. There are a lot of good big men in our conference -- and the Pac-10 is the best league in the country -- so it's going to be a good challenge for Kevin.
LW: Love has been on campus for a while now. What has he been up to this summer?
BH: He's been to summer school in both sessions, and he actually went down with Darren Collison and played in a camp [the Adidas Nations Basketball Experience] in New Orleans. All reports out of there were that Kevin was one of the best players in the whole thing. He's working real hard. On campus they play regular pickup at the Men's Gym [in the Student Activities Center]. Kevin Garnett was there this week. Emeka Okafor's been there; he played against [Love]. Baron Davis has been there, so has Earl Watson and Sam Cassell. The list goes on and on. It's great competition.
LW: It seems like a large number of foreign-born college players are having big summers in international competition. We recently ran a story on the Ohio State guy, Kosta Koufos, starring for Greece's Under-18 team, and also mentioned how one of your reserves, Nikola Dragovic, was the third-leading scorer on a Serbian gold-medal team in the European Under-20s. Were you able to keep tabs on your guys overseas?
BH: Absolutely. In fact, Luc is over in Africa now, playing qualifiers in an Olympic tournament for Cameroon. They have a game today against Egypt in Angola, and if they win they're in the Olympics. Alfred Aboya played in the first qualifying tournament in Algeria, and Luc's playing well in this one.
As for Nikola, we're going to need him because we're down to 10 guys on scholarship after what happened to [forward] James Keefe; he's going to be out for the first couple of months because of shoulder surgery, which is sad because he had such a great spring and summer. Last season, Nikola had to miss the first 12 games because of an NCAA ruling [over playing for a professional team in Serbia], so that set him back. He's going to start out fine this year.
LW: You had an international experience of your own a long while back -- your one year of playing pro ball in Uruguay, in 1980. How did that come about?
BH: Someone just got ahold of me about the opportunity [after finishing at Weber State in '79]. We were really the first group of Americans to play down there. It was a great experience culturally; it made you appreciate being American. No one was starving to death, but TVs and cars were real luxury items. A washer and dryer for your clothes, those were like luxury items. We take that stuff for granted in this country.
LW: What was it like playing-wise -- and did you consider staying there for more than a year?
BH: There were times when we would play on cement floors … or find ourselves in a situation where everybody in the arena was smoking. I made about $1,000 a month, and I had a chance to stay, but I wanted to go into coaching. The best thing for me was to get back and start [as a graduate assistant] at Gonzaga.
LW: You have a lot of talent returning this year, but how do you expect to pick up the defensive slack from Arron's departure? He was regarded as a great lock-down guy on the perimeter.
BH: We're going to play Luc at the three this year, and the biggest difference from that move will come on defense. He's so versatile that he can guard a point guard all the way up to a five, and there are very few players you can say that about. Luc will definitely end up guarding some of the other team's best wings.
LW: Josh Shipp is going to have to play a huge role this year. How is his rehab work coming after that left-hip surgery?
BH: Josh actually played five-on-five yesterday for the first time since he had the surgery on April 20, and he apparently played well. He's going to play again tomorrow, which means he's ahead of schedule now from where I expected him to be. It looks like he'll be ready to go once practice starts in October. Initially I thought he wouldn't start playing five-on-five until mid-September.
LW: I usually ask this question of players in Q&As, but since we're in the middle of the U.S. senior team's qualifying, and [Villanova's] Jay Wright and [DePaul's] Jerry Wainwright had the chance to coach younger U.S. all-star teams this summer, I think it's timely. If you had to fill a starting five with current college players not from UCLA, whom would you pick?
BH: I would love to have [Tyler] Hansbrough from North Carolina. I think Brook Lopez at Stanford is a very good big kid, and I could probably just pick a lineup from the Pac-10, since our league is so good. Outside [of the conference], I love Darrell Arthur and Brandon Rush at Kansas, too -- and the two freshmen coming in at Indiana and Memphis, Eric Gordon and Derrick Rose. There are so many good players out there.
If I had to settle on a starting five, though, I'd start Hansbrough at the four; I just love his toughness, and how relentless he is as a rebounder and scorer. Lopez would be at the five. Rush would be at the two. For a point guard, I'd take D.J. Augustin from Texas. And then the three … I'd probably choose a guy like Kyle Weaver from Washington State. He's so versatile that he can play the one, two or three. He's got a future in the NBA.
After an impressive performance in the European U-19 Championships, Ohio State freshman Kosta Koufus could find himself playing for Greece in Beijing.
AJ Mast/Icon SMI
Kosta Koufos returned home on Sunday from the European Under-18 Championships in Madrid, and by Monday the 18-year-old had slipped back into the anonymity of pickup games in his hometown of Canton, Ohio. Soon he'll make the 128-mile trip to Columbus to begin fall classes at Ohio State and, in the winter, inevitably become known to casual college basketball fans as "The Greek Guy who Replaced Greg Oden". Koufos, Rivals.com's No. 16-rated player in the Class of '07, is talented enough to start for nearly any program in the nation as a freshman. But it will take a while -- certainly much longer than it did for Oden -- for the 7-foot-1 big man to become a household name in the NCAA.
There is one place where Koufos is already quite popular, though: Greece. So much so that a ripple of Kosta-mania spread over the country's countless sports papers -- and even non-sports, national TV networks such as MEGA -- in the past few weeks. "The European media coverage was nuts ... almost out of hand," Koufos said of the scene in Spain, as well as what occurred when he arrived in Greece after the tournament. "After games, in the locker room, they were everywhere; I'd get pictures taken of me stretching. In Greece I was on TV every day."
What was the reason for the overseas media assault on a guy who, stateside, is only familiar to recruitniks and Ohio State fans? When you see Koufos' per-game averages from the U-18s, where he led Greece to a silver medal and was named the tournament MVP, the attention seems warranted: 26.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 1.4 steals, according to a gushing report from DraftExpress, which called it perhaps the best performance by a European junior this decade. It was promising enough for Koufos to get attention from the Greek men's senior national team, whom you'll recall were the savvy bunch that upset the U.S. team in the Athens games in '04. "I have to stay focused and work for it, but I have a real good chance to play in the 2008 Olympics now," Koufos said. One doubts there are other any other incoming college freshmen with the potential of playing such a sizable role in Beijing.
The Canton-born Koufos' connection to Greece is his mother, Kathy, who lived in Messini until the age of six, when her family emigrated to Australia and eventually the U.S., settling in Ohio. Kosta was able to obtain dual citizenship through a year-long, paperwork-heavy process, clearing him to follow what he called a "dream" and play for the Hellas. (The Greek media was already following Koufos before he was officially Greek: At the Jordan Classic in April, I sat next to a reporter who, I was somewhat stunned to learn, had traveled from Athens to see Koufos -- as well as investigate into whether Florida-bound guard Nick Calathes, who has Greek relatives, might also be a potential Hellas convert.)
Once in Spain, Koufos was forced to quickly acclimate himself with the Greeks' playing style. He speaks the language well enough to communicate with teammates, but had just over a week between when he arrived in Europe and the tournament's championship rounds began. "Kosta basically got off the plane and started playing," said Kathy. "Considering he had barely any practice with the guys, it worked out really well."
Well, indeed, and despite there being little-to-no U.S. media coverage of Koufos' performance (not a single newspaper article about it pops up in Google News), he kept Ohio State assistant Dan Peters informed on the Greek team's silver-medal run through regular phone calls. While no one expects the Buckeyes to be back in the Final Four, Koufos' summer abroad was a promising indication of how they might re-tool and remain Big Ten contenders in the year after Greg. Incumbent power forward Othello Hunter can handle more of the dirty work in the paint, and Koufos is a versatile big man who can provide offense at either the 4 or 5 positions. The adjective most frequently found in recruiting services' reviews of Koufos' game was "Euro-style." Now he has the passport to match.
MORE INTERNATIONAL BOOSTS
The top seven performances by current NCAA players on international teams over the summer:
1. Aron Baynes, Jr. C, Washington State (AUSTRALIA, World University Games): 18.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 blocks
The Aussies finished in 17th place at the WUG, but it wasn't Baynes' fault: He scored in double figures in every game and shot 67.1 percent from the field.
2. Gerald Lee, Soph. F, Old Dominion (FINLAND, U-20 Europe): 17.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists in Division B
U.S. fans last saw Lee posting a stellar, 10-point, 11-rebound performance off the bench in ODU's first-round NCAA tournament loss to Butler. Finnish fans saw him dominating second-division competition this summer the Euro U-20s.
3. Theo Davis, Fr. F, Gonzaga (CANADA, World University Games)
Team Canada has yet to release full stats from the Universiade in Bangkok, but game reports for the bronze medalists included a few beastly Davis stat lines, including double-doubles against both Korea and Japan.
4. Nikola Dragovic, Soph. F, UCLA (SERBIA, U-20 Europe): 12.1 points, 5.4 rpg, 29.3 mpg
A pine-rider for the Bruins during their latest Final Four run, Dragovic was the third-leading scorer for gold medalist Serbia, hitting 45.2 percent of his 3s.
5. Daniel Hackett, Soph. PG, USC (ITALY, U-20 Europe): 9.1 points, 2.0 assists, 3.9 reb, 1.8 steals, 22.6 minutes
Hackett, who will team up with O.J. Mayo in the Trojans' backcourt this fall, was the third-leading scorer for the bronze-medalist Italians.
6. Jevohn Shepherd, Jr. F, Michigan (CANADA, World University Games): 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals
Only a bit player on the Wolverines, Shepherd was a stud for Canada in the WUG, dropping 28 points on New Zealand and 19 on Israel for the bronze medalists.
7. Gal Mekel, Soph. PG, Wichita State (ISRAEL, U-20 Europe): 7.9 points, 3.1 assists, 26.5 mpg
Mekel, who played backup point for the Shockers as a freshman last season, led the sixth-place Israelis in assists and shot 41.2 percent from beyond the arc.
UPDATE: SI.com's Bill Trocchi, a Vandy man, alerted me to the stellar showing of incoming Commodores freshman Andrew Ogilvy, who was a surprise force in the Under-19 World Championships. Ogilvy averaged 22.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks for Australia -- and made Vandy coach Kevin Stallings look like a genius for quietly plucking the 6-11 center off the international recruiting market. The addition of the big Aussie might just make up for the loss of Ted Skuchas.
See if O.J. Mayo is all he's hyped up to be at the Jimmy V. Classic on Dec. 4 at Madison Square Garden.
Howie McCormick/Icon SMI
New York is not necessarily the best place for a college basketball writer (like myself) to live during January, February and March. Given that none of the city-area teams (St. John's, Seton Hall, Columbia, Manhattan and even Rutgers) is particularly relevant on a national scale, everything requires travel. Trains to D.C. for Georgetown games. Flights to RDU for North Carolina and Duke. Five-hour, cross-country jaunts to LAX for UCLA and USC.
In November and December, however, a wonderful phenomenon occurs: the best of college hoops simply comes to us in Manhattan. I spent this morning -- once I finished my last college football preview piece, that is -- looking through hoops schedules with the intention of returning to regular blogging. And I've come to the pleasant realization that the top three early-season events are all at Madison Square Garden, just a short subway ride away. There's an absurd number of these tournaments/invites/classics in '07-08 -- 23, by my last count, not including the Big Ten/ACC, SEC/Big East and Big 12/Pac-10 jamborees -- and I've ranked them in order of quality:
1. JIMMY V CLASSIC, Dec. 4, Madison Square Garden Games: Kansas State vs. Notre Dame, USC vs. Memphis
This is the premier freshmen showcase -- basically, the '07-08 equivalent of putting Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and Brandan Wright on the same bill in the first month of the season. In forward Michael Beasley (of K-State), O.J. Mayo (of USC) and Derrick Rose (of Memphis), the Jimmy V will boast three top-five picks for '08. The headlining matchup between the Trojans and Tigers, who are both rather freewheeling on offense, could be one of the top games of the non-conference slate.
2. COACHES VS. CANCER CLASSIC, Nov. 15-16, Madison Square Garden Final Four picks: Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma, UConn
The CvC is the closest thing we have to an opening day in college hoops. And this year it'll offer us a number of important, early looks at the following: - Billy Gillispie's impact on UK, plus super-recruit Patrick Patterson - Memphis' chances for a title run, as well as if Rose's skills live up to Joey Dorsey's billing - Oklahoma's freshman savior, Blake (little bro of Tyler) Griffin- The progress of UConn center Hasheem Thabeet, who could be a lottery pick if he develops even a minimal offensive repertoire.
3. NIT SEASON TIP-OFF, Nov. 21 and 23, Madison Square Garden Final Four picks: Syracuse, Ohio State, Washington, Texas A&M
The preseason NIT was memorable as the stage for Butler's coming-out party in '06. But this time around, rather than a mid-major surprise, we're more likely to get an idea of whether Syracuse, with its talented underclassmen trio of Johnny Flynn, Paul Harris and Donte Greene, is ready to contend in the Big East or is still another year away.
4. CBE CLASSIC, Nov. 19-20, Kansas City, Sprint Center Final Four picks: UCLA, Maryland, Michigan State, Missouri
At this summer's Pan American Games trials, I had hoped to see UCLA's Darren Collison square off against MSU's Drew Neitzel in a battle of All-America-caliber point guards. Alas, Neitzel was the only one of the two invited to camp, and he, Villanova's Scottie Reynolds and Washington State's Derrick Low handled floor-general duties in Brazil. We'll have to settle for a Darren-vs.-Drew battle in KC, with both teams likely ranked in the top 10 of the polls.
5. LEGENDS CLASSIC, Nov. 23-24, Newark, N.J., Prudential Center Final Four picks: New Mexico State, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia
The title game of this first-year tourney should pit the Vols against the Longhorns, and considering what happened the last time they met -- a 111-105 win by Tennessee in overtime, with Chris Lofton scoring 35 -- it will be a must-watch game. Even with Kevin Durant gone to the NBA.
This is a far cry from the Maui field of 2005, which was won by a loaded UConn team and included an epic battle between Adam Morrison and Michigan State. While it could still provide a decent finale between the Dukies and Golden Eagles, it's tough to see anyone knocking off Marquette. The Blue Devils' perimeter posse of Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler will be decent -- but can they really play enough D to stop Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews, who took down Coach K's boys last season in Kansas City?
7. LAS VEGAS INVITATIONAL, Nov. 17-24, Las Vegas Field: BYU, Hartford, Iona, Jackson State, Louisville, North Carolina, Old Dominion, South Carolina State
The overall strength (or lack thereof) of the Vegas field is irrelevant: the whole point is to generate a UNC-vs.-Louisville title game on Thanksgiving weekend. Most of us pundits have been speculating, based on their late-season surge and near-upset of Texas A&M in the NCAA tournament, that Edgar Sosa and the Cards could be a Final Four team. But can they run with a Carolina squad that has all the pieces in place to win a national title? This could be a near-equivalent of the Florida-Kansas bout in Vegas last November -- and Louisville's prime opportunity to jump into the top five of the polls.
8. OLD SPICE CLASSIC, Nov. 22-25, Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Field: Villanova, Central Florida, George Mason, Kansas State, N.C. State, Penn State, Rider, South Carolina
The deodorant/aftershave invitational does not have a real headliner, but some intriguing storylines may develop. There's a chance N.C. State could emerge looking like the favorite to finish second -- ahead of Duke, Virginia or Virginia Tech -- in the ACC. And this would also be a nice stage for South Carolina's backcourt transfer duo of Devan Downey (Cincinnati) and Zam Frederick (Georgia Tech) to remind the nation of their talents, and establish the Gamecocks as a darkhorse in the SEC.
9. HALL OF FAME CLASSIC, Dec. 1, Boston Games: UConn vs. Gonzaga, Providence vs. Boston College
Gonzaga consistently has more cojones than any other team when it comes to non-conference scheduling, last year taking on Duke, Washington State, Texas and North Carolina out of conference, to name a few. Throttling UConn on the Huskies' home coast -- something the Zags are capable of doing with Josh Heytvelt in the lineup -- would go a long way in justifying their return to the top 25 after a turbulent down year.
10. GREAT ALASKA SHOOTOUT, Nov. 20-24, Anchorage, Alaska (Alaska-Anchorage, Butler, Eastern Washington, Gonzaga, Michigan, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky)
11. WOODEN TRADITION, Dec. 15, Indianapolis (Purdue vs. Louisville, Butler vs. Florida State)
17. BLUE RIBBON CHALLENGE, Nov. 9-22, Gainesville, Fla., and New Brunswick, N.J. (Florida, North Carolina Central, North Dakota State, Rutgers, Tennessee Tech)
18. SOUTH PADRE INVITATIONAL, South Padre Island, Texas, Nov. 23-24 (Vanderbilt, Iowa, Austin Peay, Bradley, Valparaiso, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Florida Gulf Coast, Utah State)
19. RAINBOW CLASSIC, Dec. 19-22, Honolulu (East Tennessee State, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana-Lafayette, Ohio, St. John's, St. Mary's, Tulane)
20. TOP OF THE WORLD CLASSIC, Nov. 15-18, Fairbanks, Alaska (Alaska-Fairbanks, Akron, Colorado State, IUPUI, Oregon State, Tennessee State, South Carolina Upstate, Portland State)
Check back to see if these yet-to-be-filled-out events are worth roadtripping (or turning on the tube) for: PUERTO RICO CLASSIC (Arkansas, College of Charleston, Marist, Miami, Providence, Temple, Virginia Commonwealth, eighth team TBA), BB&T CLASSIC (Maryland, George Washington, George Mason, plus three more TBA), WOODEN CLASSIC (UCLA vs. Davidson, other game TBA)