The college basketball season gets under way today with a game at a Europe military base, two more aboard Navy war ships and another featuring a reshaped national champion playing in a brand new building.
No. 14 Michigan State plays Connecticut, in its first game since the retirement of coach Jim Calhoun, at Ramstein Air Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany. It’s the first game between Division I teams held in Europe.
Then it’s on to the decks for No. 4 Ohio State against Marquette on the USS Yorktown in Charleston, S.C., and Georgetown facing No. 10 Florida on the USS Battan in Jacksonville, Fla.
No. 3 Kentucky, the defending national champion with a heralded freshman class, plays Maryland in the first college doubleheader at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Having started last season on an aircraft carrier, the Spartans have gone abroad this year and will play the Armed Forces Classic against the Huskies in an Air Base hangar that usually houses fighter jets.
After arriving in Germany on Thursday on separate overnight flights, both teams visited a military medical facility that treats servicemen and servicewomen wounded in places such as Afghanistan.
Early today, the military gave the teams separate tours aboard two C-130 cargo planes, which circled low over the area on 45-minute flights.
Both teams also found time to practice and give basketball clinics to kids.
The military experience could be valuable, as Michigan State found out last year.
Going into the season unranked, the Spartans lost to No. 1 North Carolina in the Carrier Classic aboard the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego. But the Spartans then won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships to earn a No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament.
Tom Izzo, entering his 18th year as the Spartans’ coach, said he believes being close to the military discipline will help his players pay attention to details.
“I think it will give (our players) a different perspective on how attention to details is important to them,” he said. “It’s a way of life. They (soldiers) have to be that way. It’s not an option. I think those kinds of things will help and team time is important too.”
NCAA UPS PENALTY
The NCAA has ruled that Eastern Michigan didn’t monitor its women’s basketball team under former coach AnnMarie Gilbert and has put the program on an additional two years of probation.
The NCAA announced that its committee on infractions determined Eastern Michigan practiced too much and violated rules regarding workouts with recruits while Gilbert was leading the Eagles.
“The committee was particularly troubled by comments on the record,” the NCAA report states. “For example, the former head coach told student-athletes who complained about excessive practices or sought to leave early to study that they were ‘soft,’ and that they had ‘the rest of (their lives) to retake a class.”
Eastern Michigan had self-imposed two years of probation, which expired at the end of September.
Texas point guard Myck Kabongo will miss the Longhorns’ season opener tonight against Fresno State while the NCAA investigates his relationship with an agent. Forward Jaylen Bond, Texas’ top rebounder, also won’t play against the Bulldogs after injuring his right ankle in practice this week.… Florida suspended starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin indefinitely for an undisclosed reason.