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.
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.