With the majority of the team that reached the national title game returning to campus, not to mention the arrival of one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, Kentucky has been pegged by many as the early favorite to win the national title next season. John Calipari’s program will get a head start of sorts in preparing for the 2014-15 season, with the team taking a trip to the Bahamas in mid-August.
Friday morning the team’s plans for the trip, which will run from August 10-17, were revealed with the Wildcats playing six games during their stay in the Bahamas. Kentucky will play two games apiece against the Dominican Republic national team, Puerto Rico’s national team reserves and the French professional club Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket.
“We are excited to make the trip to the Bahamas for our foreign tour,” Calipari said in the release. “Working with Lea and Mason Miller [of Complete Sports Management] has been a pleasure. My goal is for our team to grow together, to learn about one another, to have fun and to compete against teams that will stretch us out.
“These teams should be a challenge that will let us really see where we are at this point. But again, learning and having fun will be the emphasis of the trip. It’s another opportunity for us to fail fast.”
Kentucky will have to account for the departures of Julius Randle and James Young, with both leaving Lexington after one season for the NBA Draft where both are expected to be first-round selections with Randle likely going in the lottery. But the Harrison twins are back on the perimeter, and front court contributors such as Willie Cauley-Stein (he’s unlikely to play after undergoing offseason surgery), Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress return as well.
The practices and games in the Bahamas will help the Wildcats as they look to strengthen the chemistry between the newcomers and a freshman class that features guards Devon Booker and Tyler Ulis and big men Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns.
After winning the Big Ten regular season title and reaching the Sweet 16 in 2012-13 Indiana’s relative lack of experience proved to be an issue last season, as the Hoosiers finished with a record of 17-15 and did not play in a postseason event after not being selected for the Postseason NIT. Obviously with that being the case the expectation is that Tom Crean’s program will take a step forward in 2014-15, and the Hoosiers will get in some early game action this summer.
Wednesday afternoon the school made official its plans to play five exhibition games over a six-day span in Montreal. The Hoosiers will leave for Montreal on August 7, and they’ll play five games from August 8-13.
Not only does this give a team that will once again be led by point guard Yogi Ferrell valuable game action, they’ll also have the ten practices that a team is allowed to use before leaving the country for a summer trip per NCAA rules. Indiana has just three upperclassmen on its 2014-15 roster at present time: Ferrell, power forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea and center Peter Jurkin.
With the instructional time (two hours per week), practices and games, Indiana will have a “head start” of sorts in strengthening the on-court chemistry of its young roster.
“The ten practices in the past used to be a much bigger deal until they put in the new rule where we will get two hours to work with our players and ten practices,” Crean said in the release. “This trip will give us a chance to do a lot of things in a short period of time and I think that is really good.”
Among the five games are contests against Carleton and Ottawa University, with Carleton having won ten of the last 12 Canadian national titles and Ottawa falling to the Ravens in last year’s title game. It should also be noted that Carleton has been a difficult opponent for NCAA opponents in the past. Just last season Carleton beat Wisconsin and took Syracuse to overtime in exhibition games last summer.
The 2013-14 season is one filled with new beginning for Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse basketball program.
There’s the move from the Big East to the ACC, but there’s also the need to account for the departures of guards Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche and forward James Southerland.
Luckily for Syracuse, which won 30 games and reached the Final Four last season, the NCAA allows programs to take one offseason trip every four years.
The Orange will take advantage of this rule by trekking to Canada in August, leaving the States on August 20 and returning on the 25th.
Syracuse will play four games during its stay in Canada: two in Montreal (August 21 vs. Bishops University and August 22 vs. McGill University) and two in Ottawa (August 23 vs. Carleton University and August 24 vs. Ottawa University).
The game against Carleton will be played at ScotiaBank Place, which is the home arena of the Ottawa Senators.
Four players with starting experience return for the Orange, most notably senior forward C.J. Fair. This offseason is an important one for both Fair and rising sophomore Jerami Grant, as both will be asked to do even more offensively given the production lost from last season’s team.
In addition to the returnees Boeheim can use the four games (and ten practices before leaving) to work in a highly-regarded recruiting class led by point guard Tyler Ennis. With both Carter-Williams and Triche gone, Syracuse will need the St. Benedict’s Prep product (and Toronto native) to hit the ground running in their debut season in the ACC.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.