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Previewing OSU’s Basketball Schedule: Non-Conference Part 2

The Cowboys are headed to the Aloha State.

@mauivisit / Twitter

We’re breaking down every team on OSU’s basketball this season. You can check out part one here.

For part two, break out your grass skirts, leis, and drinks in a coconut! The Cowboys are headed out to Hawaii to participate in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational the week of Thanksgiving.

Joining OSU on their half of the bracket is UConn, North Carolina, and host school Chaminade. The four schools on the other half of the bracket are Tennessee, Wisconsin, Georgetown, and Oregon.

To see how the entire bracket is laid out, times for tip offs, as well as what channel to find the games on, click here.

So, are you ready? Let’s dive into the waters of the Maui Invitational. First up, the teams in OSU’s half of the bracket.

Connecticut Huskies

The #16 Huskies are coming into this season off their AAC championship and NCAA Tournament berth looking to continue in their winning ways. Some of you may remember Jalen Adams for saving the Huskies’ season in the AAC Championship Game last March.

Player to Watch:
Sophomore Jalen Adams is one of 20 players put on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the best point guard in college basketball. (OSU PG Jawun Evans was also added to the same list.) Be on the lookout for him to take over and become the next great point guard to come out of UConn.

Game Outlook:
This is the only game we know exactly who the Cowboys will play in the tournament. It is a stiff first test to start their time in Hawaii. The Huskies lost quite a bit in the offseason. Three of their top four scorers, their top two rebounders, and two of the top three dime droppers are no longer on the team. That being said, they still have talent. A team doesn’t get picked to win their conference if they are out of talent. This is the first real test for Brad Underwood and the Cowboys, and we will see what this new look Cowboy team is made of.

Quote From the Enemy: (source)

North Carolina Tar Heels

Last year’s national runner up will likely be coming into Maui with revenge on their mind. In case you forgot, here’s the video from the National Championship. Even if you remember it, I still suggest watching it to relive how crazy it was. (If you are a UNC fan, you may not want to watch, and I completely understand. That was crazy.)

Player to Watch:
With so many good players on this national runner-up team, it’s hard to pick one player to keep an eye out for.

Joel Berry II:

Even with the duel headed monster of Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, junior guard Joel Berry II was able to make solid contributions to the team. This year, he should step up and lead the team. In 40 games last year, he averaged an impressive stat line, with 12.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game in 30.7 minutes per game. With the two stars gone, it is Berry’s time to step up and shine in the UNC spotlight.

Isaiah Hicks:

Senior Isaiah Hicks is another one to watch out for if the Pokes face the Tar Heels in the second round of the tournament. Hicks is the reigning ACC 6th Man of the Year. In his junior season, Hicks averaged 8.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He shot 61.4% from the field, tying Brice Johnson - the number 25 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft - for the team lead. Hicks was second on the team in free throws made (93) and free throw attempts (123) and third in offensive rebounds (79) and blocks (23). Hicks is also on the preseason watch list for the 2017 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award. With Johnson gone to the NBA, look for Hicks to emerge as not only a starter, but another leader on a scary Tar Heel team.

Game Outlook:
Now we start getting into the uncertainty any tournament has - matchups outside the first round.

If this matchup happens, it’s because of 1 of 2 scenarios. The first (and more likely) scenario is both OSU and UNC won their first round matchups. The second (and far less likely) scenario is both OSU and UNC lose their first game. Anywho... If this game happens, it’s hard to see the Cowboys pulling off the huge upset over the #6 ranked Tar Heels. It is sports, however, and nothing is guaranteed. UNC is always a good team, and they perennially attend the Big Dance in March. In fact, the last time UNC had a losing record was 15 years ago when they went 8-20. That’s right. Fifteen years. It will be interesting to see how the new look Cowboys can match up - both offensively and defensively - with one of the best teams in America.

Quote From the Enemy: (source)

Chaminade Silverswords

Player to Watch:
This offseason, JUCO transfer Austin Pope signed with the Silverswords. The 6’5” guard made a solid contribution for North Idaho College, averaging 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the floor.

Game Outlook:
Chaminade lost four seniors this past year, but they have both Pope and Nate Pollard, a 7’2” center, who transferred in from Rice University, to come help keep the Silverswords from collapsing this year. Last year, the ‘Swords were 0-6 against the top 4 in the PacWest. They are still a DII school, and they appear to have lost more than they gained, so I don’t see the Pokes having any trouble with Chaminade.

Quote From the Enemy: (source)

Next up, let’s take a look at the rest of the teams in the tournament.

Tennessee Volunteers

With only three upperclassmen on the roster, the Vols will be a very young and untested team coming into the season, hence their preseason pick to finish 2nd-to-last in the SEC.

Player to Watch:
As only one of two seniors on the Vols roster, the team will likely look to Robert Hubbs III to be their leader of the very young team. The 6’5” guard averaged 10.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. This young team needs some veteran presence, so look for Hubbs to step into that role.

Game Outlook:
If these two teams meet in the tournament, I think Underwood and Co. take care of business. Tennessee is more of a football school nowadays.

Quote From the Enemy: (source)

Wisconsin Badgers

One of last year’s Elite Eight teams, Wisconsin looks to get back to the Dance and advance further.

Player to Watch:
Yesterday, Wisconsin had their annual Red-White scrimmage, and one player stood out. Senior guard Bronson Koenig appeared quicker and more explosive. Koenig already had an impressive stat line (see above), and is appearing to only be getting better as he prepares for his senior campaign with the Badgers.

Game Outlook:
The #10 Badgers look to continue their success from last season, and seem to have the weapons and are primed for another deep run in the Big Dance. If the Pokes meet up with the Badgers, it will be another very tough test for the 2016-17 Cowboys (as most of these potential matchups will be).

Quote From the Enemy: (source)

Georgetown Hoyas

Player to Watch:
The Hoyas picked up a big graduate transfer in 6’5” guard transfer Rodney Pryor. Pryor, a graduate of Robert Morris, is just the latest addition to a very deep roster for Coach John Thompson III. Last season, Pryor averaged 18.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game for the Colonials, while shooting 43.4% from the field, along with an impressive 86.0% free throw percentage. Put Pryor and Peak in the backcourt together, and the Hoyas have a scary team.

Game Outlook:
With the Hoyas depth, it will be hard for many teams to keep up and compete in both halves. Another fun fact - there are only two players on the roster under 6’4”. So to beat the Hoyas, teams will need depth, height, and a lot of heart. It says a lot about the strength of the Big East that this team is ranked 29th according to KenPom, but only projected to finish fourth in the conference.

Oregon Ducks

Oregon is looking to be a scary, scary team this coming season. This is the first season in school history that the Ducks have been picked to win the conference in preseason polls. Look for the Ducks to fly far into March Madness. Fellow Pac-12 head coach of the Arizona Wildcats Sean Miller had high praise for the Ducks.

Player to Watch:
Just like UNC, it is hard to pick just one player to watch for the Ducks. I think we should keep Junior Forward Jordan Bell under the microscope. Last year, Bell averaged 7.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 0.4 assists in 21.2 minutes per game for Coach Dana Altman. It is assumed that Bell will step up and take a starting forward spot from recently-departed Elgin Cook, who graduated this past year. A big reason I (and a lot of other people) are predicting the Ducks will be so scary is because of the rest of the starters. Cook is the only starter from the 2015-16 season that isn’t returning. The reason to watch Bell is we already know how the other four starters mesh with each other, but adding a different big man in the rotation will be interesting to see how he fits in.

Game Outlook:
I’m predicting that Oregon will come out of their half of the bracket. If they stumble, it will (presumably) be in their second round game (presumably) vs. Wisconsin. While Oregon lost a nice piece to the puzzle in Cook (14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game in his senior season), they retained enough of the puzzle to still be looked at as a team to be reckoned with. If they can mold Bell into a form of Cook, look for the fifth-ranked Ducks to get a number 1 ranking when it comes time to dance in March.

Quote From the Enemy: (source)

After three cupcakes to start the season, Coach Underwood will lead his Cowboys to face some of the best of the best teams (and potentially Chaminade) in the Maui Invitational. It’s hard to predict record, since we don’t have a set-in-stone schedule. However, I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge. I see this tournament going one of two ways for the Cowboys.

1) Win vs. UConn --> Lose to UNC --> Lose to either Wisconsin or Oregon for a final record of 1-2 in Maui.


2) Lose vs UConn --> Win vs Chaminade --> Lose to Georgetown, who is a very good team with a tough first round matchup for a final record of 1-2.

Now, hopefully I’m wrong, and you are all free to rub it in my face when we win the Maui Invitational, but being objective, this is how I see the tournament playing itself out.

Record: 1-2
Overall: 4-2