Men's Basketball Preseason Tournament Game Breakdowns - November 12

Preseason Breakdown: November 12
The Mid-Card (5-7):
Alabama State vs. Western Kentucky-8 PM ET ( Global Sports Classic
Following an opening day that can only be described in one, simple term: epic, today promises some decent, but not superb action as a follow-up. The game of the day is happening at 8 PM ET, with Alabama State facing the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Alabama State, ranked 128th to begin the season, should once again challenge for the SWAC title. Of course, with a team as good as Texas Southern around, a win seems like a lost cause. Regardless, ASU has always been a fighting team and have a chance to make a huge statement in its opener against a solid WKU team. The big news for WKU has to be their impressive hiring of Rick Stansbury; the longtime coach of a successful Mississippi State program from the late 90’s to early 2010’s. After a five year hiatus, Stansbury is back and has a talented team to work with. The squad is currently ranked 51st in the nation after a few teams ahead of them fell on opening day. It’s a golden opportunity for a team that has as much excitement surrounding it as any Conference USA team I can think of in recent memory. With a slew of returners including Justin Johnson, Que Johnson and Jabari McGhee; paired with stud transfer Pancake Thomas (Hartford), this is a team that could do some damage in the solid C-USA this season. Whatever happens, we’ll learn a heck of a lot about WKU for better or for worse in its season opener against a tough opponent.
Akron vs. Youngstown State-7:30 PM ET (ESPN3) Northeast Ohio Doubleheader Benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer
Taking the number two spot we got Akron against Youngstown State, the second game of the doubleheader happening in Northeast Ohio tonight. Now, if this game was being played at a truly neutral location, there really wouldn’t be much to see here. Akron figures to challenge for the MAC title, while Youngstown State is improved in the sturdy Horizon League, but still has a few years to go before they can be seen as true competitors. Akron is currently ranked 87th in my rankings, while Youngstown State is at 255th. However, this game isn’t at a neutral site. It’s taking place at the Beeghly Center; the home court for Youngstown State. Now, will zero Akron fans show up? Absolutely not. The distance between the two schools is only 50 minutes. But, home court advantage is real in college basketball, quite possibly more than any other sport in the United States. For Youngstown to win this game, they’re going to have to defend at an elite level. This team can score, no one is doubting that. The Penguins are returning their top four scorers from a year ago, and that includes 20.3 ppg scorer Cameron Morse, a rising junior. But Akron, coached by Keith Dambrot (13th year), simply don’t allow a ton of points on the defensive end. They never have, and likely never will. So if the Penguins aren’t ready to play some defense against the likes of Isaiah Johnson (13.6 ppg) and Antino Jackson (11.8 ppg), it could be a long night for YSU. It doesn’t feature as much overall talent as the game above, but this early night clash shouldn’t be overlooked.
Cleveland State vs. Kent State-5 PM ET (ESPN3) Northeast Ohio Doubleheader Benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer
Next up we got the opening of the Northeast Ohio Doubleheader between Cleveland State and Kent State. While Kent State was a popular pick last year in the MAC, 2016-17 figures to be a different kind of year for the Golden Flashes. Jimmy Hall, the team’s best player, returns; but the loss of Kellon Thomas (12.3 ppg), and Xavier Pollard (11.6 ppg) in the backcourt certainly doesn’t help the cause. Hall proved to the world a season ago that he’s a player to be feared (16.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg), but he also proved that he can’t do it alone. Cleveland State, on the other hand, is a team on the rise. The young Vikings are returning a ton of talent from last year’s solid squad, and could very well compete in the Horizon League as soon as this season. With a coach as experienced and talented as Gary Waters, I doubt the potential solid season is much of a surprise to anyone. This game shouldn’t be nearly as competitive as the first two matchups, but this late afternoon clash has the potential to be a nice appetizer for the two better games happening later on. Kent State could move into the top 200 with a win (221st currently), and Cleveland State could only fuel the hype train (currently 103rd) if they put forth an honest effort. Not anywhere close to an elite matchup, but plenty to like here.
Northern Arizona vs. Tennessee State (6:30 PM ET, streaming online) Cable Car Classic
The second night of the round robin known as the Cable Car Classic doesn’t figure to boast as much talent as the first night, but this early game (there are two) should be an interesting one. NAU put up a great effort against a good Santa Clara team yesterday, and should be able to pick up its first win against a TSU team that surprised me in a win over UC Davis last night as well. Tahjere McCall was non-surprisingly the reason they won the game (20 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds), but the player that surprised me the most had to be Wayne Martin. The big man was solid a year ago (11.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg), but if yesterday (19 points, 15 rebounds) was any indication as to what kind of season it’ll be for the Brooklyn native; well, watch out college basketball world. Depth is an issue with this team, but considering NAU has never been particularly strong in stopping bigs, Martin may be able to go off once again. For the Lumberjacks, it was Jaleni Neely (18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) leading the way in a close 67-64 loss to Santa Clara. Neely didn’t show the kind of passing prowess that graduated guard Kris Yanku showed throughout his career, but saying this guy is anything more than a small step back in production would be highly offensive to his skillset. Jordyn Martin (14 points, 13 rebounds) did his thing down low, but will draw a tougher matchup with Martin coming in. This game should be competitive, but again, doesn’t boast quite the talent that the games above do. Still, a win here by Tennessee State would be very telling as to what kind of season these Tigers are ready to produce.
Grand Canyon vs. (1) Duke-5:30 PM ET (ACC Network/ESPN3) Hall of Fame Tip Off
A night after manhandling a poor Marist team, Duke gets a little stiffer competition in the Grand Canyon Antelopes. Coached by retired-NBAer Dan Majerle; this team is not to be overlooked. Of course, even predicting a single-digit victory for the Blue Devils would be a poor prediction. This team, manned with returners and star freshman galore, should and will be the favorite to win the NCAA Tournament for the vast majority (if not all) of the season. In the opener, it was the usual suspects who came to play. Grayson Allen got his buckets (16 points, 4 rebounds), Luke Kennard lit it up from deep (16 points), and Amile Jefferson did the dirty work (9 rebounds, 3 blocks). As for the newcomers, Frank Jackson (18 points, 4 assists) impressed, along with rising sophomore Chase Jeter (11 points, 8 rebounds). Once Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles eventually join this lineup, you may as well hand over the trophy. I’d be surprised if a well-coached Grand Canyon team got blown out of the gym, but for those looking for an actually competitive game, I suggest looking elsewhere. Still, watching Duke is always entertaining.
Slate by Time:
5 PM ET: Cleveland State vs. Kent State (ESPN3)
5:30 PM ET: Grand Canyon vs. (1) Duke (ACCN/ESPN3)
6:30 PM ET: NAU vs. Tennessee State (online)
7:30 PM ET: Akron vs. Youngstown State (ESPN3)
8 PM ET: Alabama State vs. Western Kentucky (
Recommended Watch Schedule:
Cleveland State vs. Kent State-(beginning of) Akron vs. Youngstown State-Alabama State vs. Western Kentucky