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End of Great Alaska Shootout sad day for college hoops

by - Published August 25, 2017 in Columns

As much fun as bucket lists are, the cold reality is that sometimes we don’t get to fill them. Such will be the case with what we’d suggest is the ultimate college basketball bucket list, which will shrink by one after this upcoming season.

The University of Alaska-Anchorage announced Thursday that this year’s Great Alaska Shootout, the 40th edition of the granddaddy of all early season tournaments, will be the last one. School budget cuts and the loss of the big name schools that once dominated the event contributed to its downfall, meaning a Thanksgiving weekend tradition will soon disappear.

Its loss is nothing less than a sad day for the sport. Nostalgia for what was once a highlight of the sport’s regular season says as much, but so does the loss of the flavor the Shootout contributed to the sport, one that college basketball will miss badly, even as the event had notably slipped in recent years.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Sunday, December 25, 2016

by - Published December 25, 2016 in The Morning Dish

A blessed, Merry Christmas to all today. Wish all blessings on this special day during a truly wonderful time of the year.

The University of San Francisco are one of just eight teams in action this Christmas Day. The Dons will be playing much later in the day than just about anyone expected, though, as they will face San Diego State in the title game of the Diamond Head Classic (8 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2).

USF’s play in Hawaii reminds us of one of the many things that makes tournament play so great in this sport: teams can get hot and make a run when least expected. In the Dons’ case, a finish of fifth in Hawaii would’ve been considered an accomplishment coming into this event, with their opener against one of the event’s favorites in Utah, but San Francisco has progressed far more in Kyle Smith’s first season than anyone could’ve expected. Its sweet shooting combined with just enough scrappiness inside have made for a memorable trip to the finals of an event where USF now gets a chance to play for its first in-season tournament title since winning its own USF Invitational in 2005. … Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Sunday, November 27, 2016

by - Published November 27, 2016 in The Morning Dish

Fairly hidden from the national conscious in the Mountain Time Zone, Utah is hardly the first place most think of as a hotbed for college basketball. Tobacco Road it is not-in so many ways-but when it comes to consistent quality among its NCAA Division I programs, few can match The Beehive State’s record over the last two decades.

Brigham Young, Utah, Utah State and Weber State are all respected programs that annually win 20-plus games and regularly compete for trips to the NCAA Tournament. For a state that has just six Division I members, it’s a very deep group, and doubly so considering Utah has few benefits of major media markets or sizable populations that many other areas that come to mind might have (see: New York, North Carolina, and even Indiana’s population is more than double that of Utah). … Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Saturday, November 26, 2016

by - Published November 26, 2016 in The Morning Dish

The novelty of each program wore off long ago, but Baylor and Butler remain remarkable stories in their own way. They reminded the college basketball world of that on Friday in distinctively different ways.

Both teams took home championships on Friday. The games were very different, but the end result was the main thing in common.

… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Friday, November 25, 2016

by - Published November 25, 2016 in The Morning Dish

Hoping all had a very happy Thanksgiving yesterday.

If you’re a college basketball fan that grew up watching the sport in the 1980s or even the 1990s, when you thought of Thanksgiving in college hoops, most likely the very first thing you thought of was the Great Alaska Shootout.

The Shootout, hosted by NCAA Division II member Alaska-Anchorage, became a holiday tradition in the 80s and a lynchpin of the early season, as good a place as any in the non-conference season to find quality teams en masse. It regularly brought in top teams, top players and top coaches, and the number of memorable moments from it have been literally enough to write a book about. Before the Maui Invitational, before the ACC/Big Ten Challenge-before the ACC/Big East Challenge even-there was the Great Alaska Shootout.
… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Thursday, November 24, 2016

by - Published November 24, 2016 in The Morning Dish

Wishing a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving to all today…

A pair of top 10 ACC teams faced similar opponents on Wednesday, with dramatically different-but ultimately successful-results.

North Carolina matched up with Wisconsin in a highly anticipated Maui Invitational final, considered even a possible Final Four preview by some. About a half hour later, Louisville tipped off with Old Dominion in a Battle 4 Atlantis quarterfinal in a game considerably less anticipated, but on that, as it went on, took the distinct feeling of a 4-vs.-13 game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, with the lower seed a significant thorn in the higher seed’s side. … Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Wednesday, November 23, 2016

by - Published November 23, 2016 in The Morning Dish

Now the season has arrived. The 2016-17 college basketball season has its first real splash moment of the season in its biggest signature upset of the year so far.

Indiana coach Tom Crean did what most would call him insane to do, scheduling a game this year on the home court of Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne (that’s the real name of the school, contrary to what some are trying to tell you this morning). The game was done with some risk, as the Mastodons are a defending Summit League co-champion, won 25 games just three years ago and 24 a year ago, and have been on the uptick ever since former Hoosier Dane Fife coached there from 2005-11. … Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Friday, December 25, 2015

by - Published December 25, 2015 in The Morning Dish

First off, wishing a blessed and Merry Christmas to all.

The holidays once belonged to college basketball, and in particular tournament play.

Here’s hoping what has gone around comes back around again.

Like most sports, college basketball has traditionally played only sparsely on Christmas Day-the Diamond Head Classic currently finishes up on Dec. 25, and most notably in the past the Chaminade Christmas Classic tourney did the same in the 1980s. That’s perfectly acceptable-the holiday is special and holds great meaning for so many, and it goes without saying that, with limited exceptions, sports fans’ entertainment should not supersede that.
… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Sunday, November 29, 2015

by - Published November 29, 2015 in The Morning Dish

Once upon a time, Thanksgiving weekend in college basketball meant Alaska. The Great Alaska Shootout.

Long before the Battle 4 Atlantis or before ESPN got in the tournament business for itself, the Shootout was the neutral court event of choice, where the big names went when looking for an early tournament challenge. Just a brief glance at the history of champions and tournament MVPs tells one all they need to know.

Kentucky. Louisville. North Carolina. Arizona. Duke. Brad Daugherty. Sean Elliott. Glenn Robinson. Ray Allen. Dwyane Wade. And for anyone who watched even a couple of those tourneys, they know that list only scratches the surface of the quality of fields Anchorage brought in every year. Every year the Shootout was top-notch.
… Continue Reading

The Morning Dish – Saturday, November 28, 2015

by - Published November 28, 2015 in The Morning Dish

When the current ACC configuration came into being, there were lofty expectations. Indeed, the idea was that it would be out of this world. It would have a firing squad of elite programs – Duke and North Carolina joined by the likes of Louisville and Syracuse – along with many programs just a notch below them. The more recent Big East – the one that one year sent 11 of its 16 teams to the NCAA Tournament – would have nothing on this ACC.

But those expectations were slow to materialize. The conference’s first two years with this look has produced good, not great results. There have been unforgettable games, like both of the Duke-Syracuse games in the first year, and the talent has been undeniable. Still, the ACC hasn’t looked like the clear class of college basketball. The Big 12 and Big Ten have shined more brightly thus far.

… Continue Reading

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