Last week we took a look at the early season exempt events that the Oregon and Washington schools would be participating in this season. Today we’ll take a look at the Arizona schools and, for lack of a better term, the Rockies’ schools, breaking down where they’re going, who they’ll potentially be facing and what impact their successes or failures in those tournaments can have on the rest of their season.
Colorado – Charleston Classic, November 15-18, TD Arena, Charleston, SC
The fifth annual Charleston Classic is not exactly brimming over with great teams, but Colorado lucked out in the draw with an opening round matchup with one of the better teams in the tourney – Dayton – followed by possible matchups with a pair of other teams – Baylor and Murray State – who could be nice scalps for the Buffs, if they’re able to earn them. Of course, the downside of all that is that CU is a team that features six freshmen alongside a pair of sophomore guards, so if the young squad isn’t ready to go from the time the season tips off, they could dig themselves an early hole. To begin with, they absolutely need to take care of business against a promising and experienced Flyers team in the opener. And that starts with game-planning to slow the Dayton’s excellent senior point guard, Kevin Dillard. Last year Tad Boyle’s club did a solid job of limiting dribble penetration from opposing guards, and they’ll need to do the same in this match-up. If they can take care of that battle, expect Andre Roberson, Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson to out-athlete UD up front on the way to the winner’s bracket. Next up could be a rematch with Baylor, the team that ended the Buffs’ season last year, and another challenge for the CU guards, this time in the form of senior point guard Pierre Jackson. And there are decent odds that if somehow the Buffs get on through that challenge, they’ll have another highly regarded point man to face in the finals, in the form of Isaiah Canaan of Murray State. Of those three potential opponents for the Buffs, Baylor will do the most to challenge them along the front line, but by the time Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone, we should have a pretty good idea what that CU backcourt is made up of.
Utah – Utah Thanksgiving Tournament, November 21-24, Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, UT
In lieu of any of the more traditional exempt events, the Utes will be hosting their own tournament in a round robin format with Central Michigan, Idaho State and Wright State the other participants. To be honest, this is not an appealing event in the slightest. Central Michigan is coming off an 11-21 season that led to a coaching change and three transfers. Idaho State was even worse, finishing last year 9-21 but matching the Chippewas’ coaching change and transfers step for step. Wright State had its worst season in a decade in Billy Donlon’s second year, losing 11 of their last 15 on the way to a 13-19 disappointment. Better yet, the Raiders saw four transfers bail on the program, with a fifth opting for early graduation. So, to put it mildly, Utah is not expecting to be embarrassed in front of its home crowd on this holiday weekend. While it may not make for a ton of compelling basketball, it may be just what a Ute team that is bouncing back from its own nightmare season needs. The home folks can get a chance to get real familiar with all the new faces on their roster over the span of a few days, and better yet, they should get a chance to see those new guys have some success and leave the court smiling.