Normally the annual All-College Classic in Oklahoma City features Oklahoma and Oklahoma State’s men’s basketball teams taking on non-conference opposition. This season’s event however will be an all-Cowboy affair that will make history, with the men’s and women’s programs taking the Chesapeake Energy Arena floor on Saturday, December 14.
This is the first time that the doubleheader has been of the men’s/women’s variety, with the Oklahoma State women’s team leading things off with a game against USF. Following that will be Travis Ford’s Cowboys playing reigning WAC regular season co-champion Louisiana Tech.
“We are thrilled to be a part of the All-College Classic once again this season,” Ford said in the release. “We have a large alumni base in Oklahoma City, and Chesapeake Energy Arena is a first-class facility. It’s a great opportunity for the OSU fans in OKC that don’t have season tickets to get an up-close look at this year’s squad.”
While the matchup of Oklahoma State and Louisiana Tech may not make waves nationally from a “name brand” standpoint, this is a game that features one team that will be expected to enjoy some NCAA tournament success in March (Oklahoma State) and another capable of earning a spot in the 68-team field.
Michael White’s Bulldogs won 26 regular season games (27-7 overall), but an upset loss to UTSA in the WAC tournament relegated Louisiana Tech to the Postseason NIT (where they beat Florida State before losing to Southern Miss).
Louisiana Tech will face stiffer conference competition this season now that they’re in Conference USA, but with guard Raheem Appleby (14.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg) leading the way for a group that returns six of its top seven scorers they’ll be a factor in the C-USA race.
As for Oklahoma State, the return of guards Marcus Smart and Markel Brown and forward Le’Bryan Nash makes Travis Ford’s team one of the early favorites to win the Big 12. This matchup offers them a solid non-conference test, and it’s a game that in theory shouldn’t kill them when it comes to the computer numbers that can impact a team’s NCAA tournament seeding.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.