The official start to the college basketball season is still months away. While lots of current and former Pac-12 athletes are participating in the London 2012 Olympics, several Pac-12 basketball teams are preparing for some international competition of their own. More than half of the men's basketball teams in the Pac-12 Conference will be making international trips where they will play several exhibition games this month.
NCAA rules allow teams to take these trips once every four years and to have 10 bonus practices prior to the trips. In addition to the added practices and exhibition games, these trips provide a cultural experience for the players and can create a great bonding experience for teams.
Here’s a breakdown of the summer 2012 Pac-12 men's basketball trips, including: Arizona Wildcats, Colorado Buffaloes, Oregon State Beavers, UCLA Bruins, Utah Utes, Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars.
Arizona Wildcats Basketball: Bahamas
The Wildcats will play a few exhibition games in the Bahamas this month. For a tentative schedule posted back in April, click here.
ESPN's Andy Katz pointed out earlier this summer that this trip will prove to be a test for Xavier transfer Mark Lyons. Arizona brought in a top recruiting class this year, but was lacking in the point guard position. It’s expected that Lyons will fill that role.
Arizona coach Sean Miller recently spoke of the added advantage of having 10 additional practices associated with the trip. The entire interview can be viewed on YouTube.
Colorado Buffaloes Basketball: Netherlands, France and Belgium
The Buffaloes ended the 2011-12 season on a high note by winning the Pac-12 basketball tournament and the conference's automatic NCAA bid. In the NCAA tournament, Colorado beat AP ranked No. 23 UNLV in the second round before losing to Baylor.
The Buffs will make a trip to Europe, where some talented incoming recruits will get an early jump on the season with the extra practices and exhibition play time.
Oregon State University Beavers Basketball: Spain and France
This should be an interesting season for the Beavers, who will return most of last year’s squad with the notable exception of Jared Cunningham, who went to the NBA. It is also an election year for the brother-in-law (President Obama) of OSU’s head coach Craig Robinson.
Before the season starts, Oregon State will head to Europe for some exhibition play, with four games scheduled over an 11-day trip.
Robinson is taking this trip seriously as a chance to test his team. The Oregon State official athletic website posted this gem of a quote from the Beavers coach regarding the trip: “This isn't about pussyfooting around. We are not going on a vacation. We are trying to get some work done, so every day is going to be like an in-season practice."
UCLA Bruins Basketball: China
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has been very open about his intentions of expanding the Pac-12 presence across the Pacific and into Asia. The Bruins will do just that on a trip to China toward the end of this month.
ESPN quoted UCLA coach Ben Howland regarding the trip: “We're promoting our brand, basketball and the conference.”
This trip will also provide an early opportunity for Howland to work in some of the players he recruited this year along with the returning UCLA team members. With players like Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, the Bruins had the ESPN No. 1 ranked 2012 recruitment class, and China will be the perfect opportunity to test out the new recruits.
For the full UCLA Beijing and Shanghai tour schedule, including game ticket and meet and greet information, click here.
Utah Utes Basketball: Brazil
Last season, Utah finished at the bottom of the Pac-12 along with the USC Trojans. Following a large exodus of players, Utah will be largely composed of an entirely new team for the second year in a row.
What this means for Utah is uncertain, as it could end up being a good thing for a team that won only six games last season. With a light non-conference schedule, it may be hard to tell where Utah stands this season until conference play.
The Utes will play five games during their 12-day trip to Brazil.
The Utah athletic website quoted Utah Coach Larry Krystkowiak as having this to say about the trip:
We have a unique chance to visit a place where most of us have never been. Our primary focus will be on the 10 days of practice and games as well as the team building that comes from an extended road trip together. I think it's a great way to kick-start our program again and put us in a really good position to be ahead of the game when the new school year starts.
Washington Huskies Basketball: Spain, France, Monaco and Senegal
Washington won the Pac-12 regular-season title last season, failed to get an NCAA tournament bid and lost in the semifinals of the postseason NIT. The Huskies' top two players (Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten) left early, going in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft.
While Washington has lots of returning players, along with some redshirts and a transfer eligible to play this season, it is difficult to judge how the Huskies will perform with the loss of Ross and Wroten.
The trip will hopefully provide some insight.
Regarding the trip, Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar was quoted as saying:
With the new rule that allows freshmen and new players to practice with you, it gives you another great opportunity to acclimate your new players early. We’re going to play seven games so everyone is going to get quality minutes. It’s going to be an overall great experience for all and a great chance for the team to bond.
Washington State University Cougars Basketball: Australia
The WSU Cougars made it to the CBI finals last postseason, where they lost to Pittsburgh. The Cougars are currently heading “down under” on a trip to Australia. Regarding the trip, Washington State Coach Ken Bone released the following statement:
We are very excited, as a team, to make this trip to Australia. Not only will we have a great opportunity to compete against elite international competition, but we will also have the chance to really experience Australia and different cultures.