Summer is coming to a close as many students are heading back to campus this week. While most college campuses are focused on football we're certainly getting ready for tangible basketball news to leak out as practice starts in about a month.
It's been kind of a slow news cycle this summer but there is still some crumbs that our thrown our way.
Many fans this time of year are trying to piece their favorite teams schedule together like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces. Some schools will release little morsels of their schedules, some go full bore, and some are still waiting as their conferences still work their 2015-16 slates.
One team that has released their schedule is Maryland-Eastern Shore and at first glance...O MY GOD! The Hawks always seem to roam around early in the year collecting paychecks but this takes it to another level. The season begins for UMES with 14 of 17 games on the road. If you're a student who wants to catch a game then good luck to you as the Hawks only three early home games come two days before Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, and three days before Christmas.
It's not an easy going on the road for the Hawks either as they head to Kansas State, Missouri, Wofford, Georgetown, Michigan State, Maryland, Old Dominion, St. Joe's, Pittsburgh, and early season mid-major darling Columbia.
Good luck to Bobby Collins and America's Team as they take flight November 13 in Manhattan, Kansas. Hopefully the whole squad hasn't quit by the time you get to the meat of the MEAC schedule in late January.
Early Season Tournaments
Another one of my favorite parts of the summer is seeing the list of early season tournaments from around college hoops. Our pal Chris Dobbertean does an awesome job of keeping track of everything over on Blogging the Bracket. Sure we all know about the Maui Invitational and tournaments like that, but what are some ones that stand out from a mid-major perspective?
The Hall-of-Fame tip-off will be a November event to keep an eye on. Florida, Old Dominion, Purdue, and St. Joe's make up the "upper" division while Buffalo, Niagara, North Carolina A&T, and Vermont make up the others. ODU and Jeff Jones will be looking to build off last year's NIT run and 27 win season that saw the Monarchs fall to Stanford and Madison Square Garden. We'll also get a first look at the Hurley-less Buffalo Bulls and those always pesky Vermont Catamounts as both squads will get shots at teams in the upper division.
Another November tournament to keep an eye on is down in Fort Myers for the Gulf Coast Showcase. It's a mid-major party as the eight team field features Central Michigan, Drake, Duquesne, Murray State, Milwaukee, Pepperdine, Weber State, and Western Kentucky. There are obviously plenty of strorylines in this one but the biggest will be the Murray State Racers who suddenly find themselves without Cameron Payne and Steve Prohm.
The last November tournament to keep an eye on is the
Old Spice Challenge Advocare Invitational down in Disney World. Dayton, Wichita State, and Monmouth will be the mid-major representatives as they face off against Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, Xavier, and Iowa. It'll be a good early gauge for the Shockers and Flyers and of course we're hoping for that early Shockers-Crimson Tide match up after Gregg Marshall told 'Bama to take a hike this summer.
Crossing the Border
Tis the season for foreign tours in college basketball as schools are allowed to head abroad for exhibition games once every four years. Some teams go for pleasure, some go for strictly business, and some go for reasons bigger than basketball like service/mission trips in impoverished countries. Unfortunately the last bit of that is never talked about as much as the basketball portions, but there are plenty of great schools focusing on the "bigger picture" when it comes to these trips.
You can find a complete list of who crossed the borders this summer over at ESPN.
An arms race is in full sports when it comes to sports cable providers that has opened the door for a lot of niche fans like us to see more of their favorite teams. ESPN, Fox Sports 1, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and others are all looking for programming, which is good news for all of us.
One of the nation's best mid-major conferences, the Missouri Valley Conference, made a big announcement this summer in expanding their work with CBS and the CBS Sports Network. The MVC will now get eight regular season games on the CBS Sports Network and the conference semifinals will be aired there as well.
Program packages and the availability of games on ESPN3 continues to expand as well, which is good news for everyone.
NJIT Finds a Home
As most of you know by now the NJIT Highlanders have finally found a home in the Atlantic Sun Conference due to the shrewd move of Northern Kentucky bolting for the Horizon League. Jim Engles will have 13 Division I home games this year compared to just nine in the regular season a year ago. After last year's successful 21 win season it'll be interesting to see how the Highlanders stack up in conference play against some likely tough squads in North Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, and USC Upstate. NJIT will need to have short memories in the winter as their 14 games conference slate is comprised of three road trips with two games in three days.