ALASKA IS COLLEGE BASKETBALLI've never understood the Great Alaska Shootout. I'm down with the Maui Invitational - makes perfect sense as the weather begins to turn in parts of the mainland. Preseason NIT - logical enough. But Alaska in late November?
Your daily Anchorage forecast - a high of 11 degrees, with an overnight low of 2!
Perhaps others have gotten the hint, because this year's GAS is devoid of big names from big conferences, giving Cal an actual shot to win the thing. Let's look at the opposition:
Cal opens Thursday night with Marshall. Marshall is a school famous for two things, neither of which have much to do with college basketball: the tragic plane crash that killed its entire football team in 1970 and has been made into a probably awful movie, and Randy Moss. The Herd are 1-1 on the young season (win v UNC Greensboro in OT and a four-point loss to Robert Morris at home).
They're small - their tallest starter is 6'9" Ivory Coast import Jean Francois Bro Grebe, who has a great name but not much offensive game. Best player is swingman Travis Aikens, who has hit for 22 and 18 in the Herd's first two games. They like to run, but they haven't shot well against middling opposition at home. I don't expect Cal will let them sniff 60 points, which should translate into the W (call it 70-58)
Should Cal win, they would face the winner of Hofstra-Hawaii. Hofstra is the fashionable choice to take the Colonial conference, though they've started the season 0-2 (losses to Charlotte and Manhattan). They're a guard-driven team - Loren Stokes (17.4 ppg), Antoine Agudio (17.2 ppg) and Carlos Rivera (11.7 ppg) are the highest-scoring returning backcourt in the nation. They also have the ugliest uniforms in the Shootout.
Hawaii lost its season opener to a middling UNLV team by 14 points, but then whipped Oregon State by 44 last week. Matt Lojeski is averaging 18.7 at SG, and Ahmet Guye is a viable scoring threat inside. The Warriors are guard-driven and would seem to be a good matchup for Cal's style and personnel. However, if they shoot anything like they did against OSU (20-29 from 3) they would be tough for any team in the 8-team field.
In the other bracket, Loyola Marymount is battling the host Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City takes on Pacific. LMU is a consensus preseason #2 pick to Gonzaga in the WCC behind returning point Brandon Worthy and PF Matthew Knight. The UMKC Kangaroos are led by a very good backcourt featuring returning PG Quinton Day (20.3 ppg). UOP lost Christian Maraker and 57.8% of its scoring, but is still well-coached by Bob Thomason. These four teams play Wednesday night.