In mid-April it was announced that beginning in November 2017, there would be an in-season tournament played on the Cayman Islands. Wednesday half of the field for the eight-team event was revealed, as Global Sports Management announced that Cincinnati, Iowa, UAB and Wyoming have committed to making the trip.
All four of those teams participated in the NCAA tournament last season, with Cincinnati, Iowa and UAB each picking up a win once there. Entering the 2015-16 season Cincinnati is viewed by many as a contender in the American Athletic Conference and the same goes for UAB in Conference USA. Iowa has some key personnel losses to address but returns seniors Mike Gesell, Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury, and Wyoming lost four starters from last season’s Mountain West tournament champion team.
Of course November 2017 is a long way off, so it remains to be seen what each of these teams will look like from a personnel standpoint when the time comes.
No specific timeframe was given in regards to when the other four teams participating in the inaugural Cayman Islands Classic would be announced.
With four starters from last season’s NCAA tournament team having exhausted their eligibility, there’s a lot of playing time up for grabs for the Wyoming Cowboys as they approach the start of practices. One player looking to earn minutes for Larry Shyatt is redshirt sophomore guard Trey Washington III, who sat out all of last season due to a lingering foot injury.
Unfortunately for Washington his return to the court hit a bump in the road, as it was reported Friday that he’s been sidelined with a knee injury. The good news is that the MRI on Washington’s knee showed that there was no major damage, and he’s been declared to be “day-to-day” by team trainer Lance Schuemann. Washington suffered the injury during individual workouts.
Wyoming returns Josh Adams (12.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.6 apg), who led the team in assists and was second in scoring behind Los Angeles Lakers draft pick Larry Nance Jr. as a junior. But after him, no returning Cowboy averaged more than 3.7 points per game (guard Jason McMenamen).
As a freshman in 2013-14 the 5-foot-11 Washington played in 29 games as Wyoming’s backup point guard, averaging 3.0 points in just under ten minutes per game.
The Dome of Doom is one of the most difficult places to play in all of college sports. Located at 7,220 feet above sea level the elevation of Wyoming’s home arena — and 15,000-plus screaming fans — makes it nearly impossible to win games on the road there. Head coach Larry Shyatt is 60-15 at home the past four years as Wyoming’s head coach and power conference programs seem to want no part of playing a non-conference game there.
In a story from the Associated Press late this week, Shyatt revealed how he’s tried to do everything he can to schedule major conference opponents to come and play in Wyoming. The Cowboys will draw Cal at the Dome of Doom this season, but it was a deal in which Wyoming had to play two road games to make the one home game happen. The school hasn’t had a true home-and-home arrangement with a power conference program since Washington State over a decade ago.
Only four power conference programs have played a road game at Wyoming since 1997 and none since the 2004-05 season. Having been a member of staffs at bigger basketball programs like Clemson and Florida, Shyatt understands the scheduling conundrum, but he’d still like to draw some big-name opponents in his home arena.
“They’re not playing us, and quite honestly, if I was the head coach at Colorado or Florida, I don’t know if I would come to Laramie unless they’d play in October, September, August, July or June,” Shyatt said to the AP. “If I’m thinking selfishly of my university, what am I getting? What are we getting? What’s our league getting? Tough call.”
As the AP story notes, Wyoming has entered some in-season tournaments to try to beef up the schedule the next few seasons, but this is just another example of a program from a non-power league having a tough time getting major teams to play them at home. If Wyoming and other Mountain West programs hope to continue to make at-large NCAA tournament appearances, they need to try to get some kind of scheduling bump at home if they can. Coming off of four consecutive postseason appearances, it’s doubtful any power conference team wants to travel to Wyoming but it will be interesting to see if these sorts of things change in the next couple of years.