Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive anywhere to watch a basketball game.
WINNER: College basketball where you’d least expect it
One year after playing North Carolina on the USS Carl Vinson, Michigan State has found an even crazier place to play: Ramstein Air Force Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany. The Spartans will face a UConn team without Jim Calhoun as (full-time) head coach for the first time since Dom Perno led the Huskies in 1985-86. Two other games are copying Michigan State’s lead, as Marquette and Ohio State will play on the deck of the USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, and Georgetown heads to Jacksonville to take on Florida on the USS Bataan amphibious assault ship. Sunday, Syracuse takes on San Diego State on the USS Midway, in the Orange’s first regular-season game in the Pacific Time Zone in more than a decade. As long as there’s a few ingenious ideas about new locations — and some enterprising tournament hosts looking to make some cash — this could become the next scheduling trend to rush through college basketball, much as exempt tournaments have over the last half-decade.
(Related losers: Fans whose home openers get put off a little while longer.)
LOSER: Scotty Wilbekin
The junior at Florida was set to seize a starting role with the departures of Bradley Beal and Erving Walker, but instead managed to land himself in coach Billy Donovan’s doghouse for an undisclosed team rules violation on the eve of the season. In his stead, shooting guard Kenny Boynton will slide over to ballhandling duties — where his shot selection has been spotty in the past — and once-heralded Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario will likely start at off guard. Off the bench, Wilbekin led the Gators with a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio last season on a team that led the Southeastern Conference in the statistic. With significant scoring talent elsewhere on the court, Wilbekin’s distribution skills will be necessary throughout the year, and the Gators are a worse team without him.