Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Preseason Tournaments Galore

It’s that time of the year again. College basketball teams all around the country are trying to get that postseason feel. From New York to Maui, the Virgin Islands to Alaska, champions are being crowned at preseason tournaments. Washington State tries its hand at the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout starting at 8:30 p.m. (Pacific) Wednesday against host Alaska Anchorage. That game will be available on FSN Northwest and Fox College Sports.

It is the Cougars’ first appearance at the Shootout since 1981. That season the Cougars opened the season with a win at the tournament against Alaska Anchorage, before dropping the next two games. Like this season, that squad’s trip to Alaska was followed by a Dec. 2 game in Spokane against Gonzaga.

Before the much-anticipated matchup, WSU will try its hand at a field of less familiar opponents. The Cougars are 3-0 all-time against Alaska Anchorage, and Friday will be the first meeting between WSU and Nicholls State. That game will tip off at 6 p.m. (Pacific) and will also be featured on FSN Northwest and Fox College Sports.

WSU’s third opponent will be determined based on the outcomes of the first two games. Depending on their place in Pool A, Saturday the Cougars will take on the corresponding finisher in Pool B. WSU is a combined 1-3 against the three teams in Pool B, and has never met pool-favorite No. 17 Oklahoma.

The Cougars’ first games away from Pullman will offer a good way for the team to gauge its early season success. One player head coach Ken Bone is hoping the arctic won’t cool down is sophomore guard Klay Thompson. Fresh off his career-high 37 points in the last outing against IPFW, Thompson earned his first Pac-10 Player of the Week honor. Averaging 27 points a game during the first three games, the Ladera Ranch, Calif. native is fourth in the nation in scoring.

While WSU is getting its preseason tournament underway in the 49th state, Gonzaga is trying to wrap up a tournament title in the 50th. At the EA Sports Maui Invitational, the Bulldogs came from behind Monday to beat Colorado 76-72, then knocked off Wisconsin Tuesday in impressive fashion 74-61. Gonzaga will meet up with Cincinnati at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the championship game. The Bearcats reached the title game after upsetting No. 22 Maryland 69-57 Tuesday in the first semifinal.

Elsewhere in the Pacific-10 Conference, a number of young and inexperienced teams are trying to find their identities at tournaments across the continent. Arizona is also participating in the Maui Invitational. After a gritty loss to Wisconsin Monday, the Wildcats pulled out an overtime win against Colorado Tuesday behind 30 points from Nic Wise. They will try for fifth place at 2 p.m. Wednesday against No. 24 Vanderbilt.

Arizona State travels to the Big Apple for the final four of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off. After winning two home games earlier this month to advance to Madison Square Garden, the Sun Devils earned a date with No. 7 Duke at 6 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN2. LSU and No. 13 Connecticut are in the other semifinal.

Stanford is getting more than just a warm holiday in Cancun, Mexico. Something Cougar fans became all too familiar with during the past three seasons, Landry Fields gave Tony Bennett all he could handle Tuesday as the Cardinal knocked off Virginia 57-52. Fields’ 25-point, 13-rebound performance powered Stanford into the final of the Cancun Challenge against No. 5 Kentucky. Fields and the rest of the Cardinal will try to take down John Wall and Patrick Patterson at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in a game that can be seen on CBS College Sports.

UCLA gets to play a little closer to home as a strong field convenes on Anaheim, Calif. for the 76 Classic. The Bruins open the tournament at 10:30 p.m. Thursday against Portland. The three-day tournament features four ranked teams (No. 9 West Virginia, No. 10 Butler, No. 18 Minnesota, and No. 24 Clemson).

Oregon is hosting its own local mid-major invitational of sorts, and right now is losing. The Ducks take on Montana State Saturday, after already suffering losses to Portland and Montana.

The next Cougar home game is Dec. 9 against a very formidable Idaho team.

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