College basketball: Hurricanes leave hoop fans seeking a new paradise in Lynchburg
South Carolina coach Frank Martin had envisioned basking in the sun by the pool while studying film during the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. And Wake Forest coach Danny Manning was eager to take his team to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam.
Hurricanes Maria and Irma changed those plans.
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"Nothing against (nearby) Myrtle Beach, but I don't think I'm going to be sitting next to the pool in 50-degree weather — at least I'm not," Martin said. "When you play in these tournaments, the biggest thing is playing away from home. So learning how to ... co-exist in a hotel, how to remain focused on the game at hand on a foreign court, not the place you practice at every day."
The Puerto Rico Tip-Off — which begins Thursday — was set for the coastal city of Fajardo, but damage from Hurricane Maria forced it to Coastal Carolina in Conway. That will keep the Gamecocks (2-0) in their home state instead of traveling more than 1,400 miles for the tournament.
The Gamecocks will be joined in Conway by out-of-state guests Iowa State, Appalachian State, Boise State, Illinois State, Tulsa, UTEP and Western Michigan.
The Paradise Jam, which starts Friday, was set to return to St. Thomas for the 18th straight year. But damage from hurricanes Maria and Irma forced the relocation to Lynchburg — home to tournament participant Liberty.
Wake Forest (0-2) and Colorado are the power-conference teams headlining the Paradise Jam, joining Liberty, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Mercer and Quinnipiac.
The Demon Deacons will now take a roughly 140-mile bus ride instead of a trip of more than 1,500 miles to St. Thomas. While going to the Virgin Islands would've been "a bucket-list destination spot" for players, Manning said he was more focused on a revamped schedule that eliminated an off day and will have teams playing three straight days.
"You've still got to deal with that aspect of, 'Hey guys, we're here to play a tournament, we want you to enjoy it but you can't go out and lounge by the pool all day because the sun zaps you or dehydrates you,'" Manning said. "So you still have things to navigate regardless of where the tournament is at."
Here are four things to know about the power-conference teams in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and Paradise Jam:
1. IOWA STATE'S STRUGGLES
The Cyclones lost four starters after reaching their sixth straight NCAA Tournament, so some bumps were expected. But they're 0-2 and coming off their first loss in a home opener in 20 years. They could get a boost with Princeton graduate transfer Hans Brase (knee injury) and sophomore Cameron Lard (coach's decision) expected to make their season debut Thursday against Appalachian State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. "You're going to go through tough moments in seasons," coach Steve Prohm said. "And this is one of those tough moments."
Jeff Beverly finished with 11 points last night against Milwaukee, his first game in double figures as a Cyclone. pic.twitter.com/FA3b6gYCkd— Cyclone Basketball (@CycloneMBB) November 14, 2017
2. WINLESS WAKE FOREST
The Demon Deacons are coming off their first NCAA trip since 2010, but they lost at home Friday to Georgia Southern then Tuesday against possible Paradise Jam opponent Liberty. Wake Forest, which faces Drake on Friday, is 0-2 for the first time since the 1979-80 season.
3. NEW SCORERS
South Carolina returns roughly a quarter of its scoring from last year's surprising run to its first Final Four, so the Gamecocks are still figuring out where the points will come from this season. Florida Atlantic graduate transfer Frank Booker (13.0 points) and Maik Kotsar (11.5) are the only players to score in double figures in both of the first two games — including Monday's win against fellow tournament team Western Michigan — entering Thursday's matchup with Illinois State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
We have our dried rice, dried beans, baby diapers, and baby wipes for @paradisejam hurricane relief this weekend! If you are in college (with your ID) or younger bring one of these to gain admission to ONE SESSION. @LibertyMBB @libertyflames pic.twitter.com/ne60gmaHUx— Liberty Tickets (@LibertyTix) November 16, 2017
4. BUFFALOES' DEPTH
Colorado coach Tad Boyle figures he'll eventually have to shorten the Buffaloes' rotation, but don't expect that to happen in the three-games-in-three-days Paradise Jam. Colorado (2-0) played nine players at least 13 minutes against Northern Colorado, then played 11 players at least 12 minutes in Tuesday's win against Denver. "We're not playing guys heavy minutes," Boyle said, "so we should be able to stay fresh through this thing."