We're in full football mode around here lately but basketball will be back just two short months after the kickoff of the 2015 season. While we don't have the full CU schedule yet we now know the field for the Buffaloes trip to Vegas to participate in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.
Who wants to go to Vegas for Christmas? I do!
LAS VEGAS - The Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic announced Thursday morning the tournament field for this year's event to be held December 22 and 23, 2015 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The 2015 field includes Colorado, SMU, Penn State, Kent State, Canisius, Hampton, Louisiana Monroe, and Nicholls State.
Tickets for the final rounds in Las Vegas are available at the Orleans Arena box office beginning on Friday, June 19 (1.888.234.2334 or 702.284.7777) and via the internet at www.orleansarena.com.
The holiday tournament is the ninth straight year the Buffaloes will be participating in a mid-season neutral court showcase during the non-conference portion of the season.
Entering his sixth year at the helm of the CU men's program, head coach Tad Boyle and the Buffaloes will be making their third trip to Las Vegas during non-conference play.
Back in 2010-11, the Buffaloes participated in the iBN Sports Classic at the Orleans Arena (falling to New Mexico; defeating Indiana) and during the 2013-14 season, played Oklahoma State at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The then-No. 7 nationally ranked Cowboys edged the No. 20/24 Buffs, 78-73.
Las Vegas is also the host city of the Pac-12 Tournament since 2012-13, played at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
CU enters the 2015-16 campaign with a school-record five consecutive seasons of post-season tournament play under Boyle. He has led the Buffaloes to 108 victories, an average of 22 wins per season. With five straight post-season tournaments, three of which are NCAA Tournaments from 2012-2014, also a school-first, the Buffs are striving for a return trip to the Big Dance in March 2016.
The Buffaloes are led by a strong frontline in 2015-16, three-year senior starter Josh Scott (12.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.2 blk.) and junior forward Wesley Gordon (6.3 ppg., 6.5 rpg, 1.4 blk.). With 88 blocked shots during his first two seasons in Boulder, Gordon along with Scott (23 career double-doubles), are the only returning players to shoot over 54 percent from the field last year.
The SMU Mustangs are entering their fourth season under Larry Brown. The Mustangs claimed the 2014-15 AAC regular season and tournament titles en route to reaching the NCAA Tournament. SMU finished the season 27-7 overall, winning 27 games for the second straight year. The Mustangs spent nine weeks in the AP and USA Today Top 25, finishing the season No. 18 in the AP and receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
SMU has seven returnees from last season including seniors Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy. Moore was named The American Player of the Year and an Honorable Mention All-American after making the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy preseason watch lists. Kennedy, an All-AAC second team honoree, was named the Most Outstanding Player of The American Championship as SMU claimed the league's automatic NCAA bid.
Under the guidance of fifth-year head coach Rob Senderoff, Kent State is coming off a 23-win season it which captured a share of the Mid-American Conference regular season championship. The Golden Flashes return five letterwinners, including the entire starting frontcourt that is led by an All-MAC First Team performer in redshirt junior Jimmy Hall (15.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg). Seniors Chris Ortiz (6.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Khaliq Spicer (5.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg) join Hall on the frontline.
While the backcourt will feature several new faces, it does not lack experience at the Division I level. Redshirt junior point guard Kellon Thomas will return after an orbital bone injury forced him to miss all but eight games this past season. Additionally, transfers Xavier Pollard (Maine) and Deon Edwin (Southern Mississippi/Laramie County [Wyo.]) will make their on-court debuts for the Flashes after being limited to practices this past year and will be joined by graduate transfer Galal Cancer (Cornell).
The Nittany Lions return three starters from the 2014-15 squad, which made a run to the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals before finishing with 18 wins and the most non-conference victories in program history. The highest-rated recruiting class in PSU history also comes on board in 2015-16, joining seven returning letterwinners led by starters Brandon Taylor, Jordan Dickerson and Shep Garner. Garner and was the second-leading scorer down the stretch this season, while Taylor, Dickerson and Donovon Jack all moved into the Top 10 in career blocks while upping the team's defensive presence.
Past champions of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic include Kansas State (2008), Alabama (2009), New Mexico (2010), Baylor (2011), Colorado State (2012), UNLV (2013) and Loyola, IL (2014).
FOX Sports 1 televises the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic third-place and championship games on Wednesday, Dec. 23, at 7:00 and 9:30 p.m. (MT). Effective this season, FOX Sports assumes control of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic and Las Vegas Invitational, running all aspects of the tournaments, ranging from ticket sales, sponsorships and television production.
Each team will play four games in the Classic - the first two at on-campus sites and the final two rounds at the Orleans Arena, December 22 and 23.
Hosting more than 200 events each year, the Orleans Arena is located just west of the Las Vegas strip and was recently named the No. 1 mid-size arena in the USA by Venues Today magazine.