The Great Alaska Shootout is the oldest early season tournament in the country, but it is not the most prestigious. Nonetheless, it is one of the great traditions of the early season and the winners bracket will be televised in its entirety on CBS Sports Network.
Mercer is the SoCon representative in this tournament. The Bears will be trying to prove their worth to their new conference mates. There are some quality teams in this tournament, but Mercer can certainly win a few games in Anchorage and help the SoCon perception in the process.
Thursday, November 27
Game 1- Pacific at Alaska-Anchorage 1:30 AM
Game 2- Missouri State vs. Colorado State 4:00 AM
Game 3- Rice vs. Mercer 11:30 PM
Friday, November 28
Game 4- Washington State vs. UC-Santa Barbara 2:00 AM
Game 5- Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser 6:00 PM
Game 6- Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser 8:00 PM
Game 7- Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner 11:30 PM
Saturday, November 29
Game 8- Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner 2:00 AM
Game 9- Game 5 Loser vs. Game 6 Loser 6:00 PM
Game 10- Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner 8:00 PM
Game 11- Game 7 Loser vs. Game 8 Loser 11:00 PM
Sunday, November 30
Game 12- Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner 1:30 AM
Yes, that schedule looks funny. That's because the six hour time difference between Alaska and the Eastern Time Zone (which is what the times are listed in) creates different days that the games are played on than what they are played on in Alaska. I hope that the above schedule makes sense to everyone.
Alaska-Anchorage is the host and almost always keeps a game or two close in the far distant time zone. The odds of them winning a game of course depends on their match-ups, but they will be outmatched in each game. More than likely the Sea Wolves do not win a game in this bracket.
The Pacific Tigers went 18-16 a year ago, but lost their top five scorers and return just four players who saw any action at all. One of those, Thomas Peters, saw just seven minutes of action. TJ Wallace is the leading returning scorer. He is averaging 7.0 points per game. The team will be relying on junior college transfers like Alec Kobre and Eric Thompson.
Missouri State is one of the favorites in the Missouri Valley Conference. More than likely, they won't win it with Wichita State and Northern Iowa in the conference, but they well may be next in line. Last year, there were lots of injuries. That has led to a deeper roster this season. Marcus Marshall looked like one of the best players in the MVC before a knee injury a year ago ended his season early. If he can stay on the floor, he could be the best player in this tournament. Tyler McCullough is big and his improvement could determine the course of the season for the Bears.
Colorado State will rely heavily on scorers JJ Avila and Daniel Bejarano. They each averaged over 16 points per game a season ago. Stanton Kidd and Marcus Holt are each big and can make major contributions in the frontcourt. Antwan Scott could also be a big addition at point guard. This team struggled last year to be consistent, but they should be much improved this year. This Rams team has the capability to be a very good team and a contender in the Mountain West.
The team that this tournament may be the most important for is Washington State. The Cougars are beginning a new era with Ernie Kent as the head coach and he is promising a fast paced offense and excitement on the court. Winning this tournament would convince the fan base that change is truly on the horizon for this program. This is a huge early season opportunity for the Cougars. Davonte Lacy is a very good player and he averaged 19.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game a season ago. Lacy is a 6-4 guard and will be an exciting player in this tournament.
For those making the trip to the tournament, they get to see up close and personal UC-Santa Barbara's star player, Alan Williams, a favorite of Ken Pomeroy. Pomeroy talks about Williams all the time. He had sixteen double doubles last year and averaged 21.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per contest. He is 6-8, 280 pounds. I honestly hope that UCSB makes the NCAA Tournament so that the nation gets introduced to this guy, because he is fun to watch. The backcourt is very good as well. The Gauchos are one of the favorites in the Big West yet again.
Rice went 7-23 a year ago, and fired Ben Braun. They replaced him with Mike Rhoades, one of the hottest young assistant coaches in the country. He was an assistant under Shaka Smart at VCU (and if you are reading this as a Mocs fan, you know what that might mean). This team will be better this year. But early season struggles should not be too surprising. The top player on the roster is probably Max Guercy.
Mercer must replace all five starters from last year's team that made it to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears did play a lot of players, so they are not as inexperienced as they might be otherwise. Ike Nwamu is the player that probably the most is expected of. The Bears have talent, and coach Bob Hoffman has done a great job. The Bears are hoping to contend a bit in the SoCon this year.
Missouri State and Colorado State might be the two best teams in the tournament. They play in the first round. OK. Pacific will beat Alaska-Anchorage. I'll take Colorado State to win the battle against Missouri State. I think Mercer is better than Rice and that UCSB beats Washington State in the final first round game.
The semifinals will feature Pacific against Colorado State, which the Rams should win with ease. UCSB will also take care of Mercer in the other semifinal. In the consolation bracket, Missouri State will hammer Alaska-Anchorage and Washington State will take care of Rice.
In the placement games, I'll take Alaska-Anchorage in the upset of Rice, and Missouri State over Washington State. I'll also take Mercer over Pacific. Finally, in the championship game, I'll take Colorado State over UCSB.
1) Colorado State
4) Missouri State
6) Washington State