Posted on: September 9, 2011 4:10 pm
Edited on: September 9, 2011 4:14 pm

Trippin': Belmont looks to continue success

In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Jeff Borzello

Only nine teams won at least 30 games last season.

Easily the most surprising of that group was Belmont, which rolled through the Atlantic Sun at a 19-1 clip en route to a 30-5 overall record. With four starters back, the Bruins could be even better.

To some, though, a potential worry could be the team becomes complacent and no longer has the same motivation. On the Bruins’ trip to Italy in August, head coach Rick Byrd was pleased with what he saw.

“Our biggest concern is we can’t lose the edge that we had and held throughout last season,” Byrd said. “There was not a game that our guys weren’t ready to play and weren’t excited about playing. There wasn’t a drop-off. The things that made us good a year ago were still there, in terms of attitude and unselfishness. We saw those same characteristics.”

That should be scary to the rest of the conference – and country.

What Byrd learned: “We need to play with more discipline on both ends of the floor. We played with almost too much emotion; we needed to back off and be a little more solid. We were trying to make things happen, and some of that, offensively, is the 24-second shot clock. It doesn’t give us time to run a motion offense and make things happen. You’ve got to make adjustments, just like you do during the season.”

What impressed him: Motivation – “I was really pleased from the first practice on about the enthusiasm, energy and work ethic. That was the most positive thing our staff saw – there was no drop off.”

What concerned him: Conditioning – “It’s no different than playing games one week into practice. I think conditioning accounts for a lot of the mistakes that you make. It’s just very hard to get into game condition in a short period of time. We found that when we were tired, we made mistakes. We have to fight through fatigue better. We can talk about the Italy trip all year long: how loose we played in Italy when we played tired, now we have get in better shape and fight through it.”

- J.J. Mann, who was a member of the all-freshman team last season, impressed Byrd on the trip. “He stood out here in practice and in the games over there,” Byrd said. Mann came off the bench a year ago, averaging 6.0 points.

- What separates Belmont from most mid-major teams is its inside duo of Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders. Both players earned second-team all-conference honors last season, and Byrd pointed to them as two players who continued their stellar play.

- If Byrd could have planned when he took a trip, he likely would have taken it with a younger team. This year’s group has three seniors and five juniors, including seven players with starting experience. “We only had one guy on the trip that was an incoming freshman,” Byrd said.

- The team had quite the voyage around Italy, going to Florence, Rome, Milan, Pisa, Lake Como, Lucca, Siena, Bellagio and other cities. Byrd planned it that way, wanting to play only three games while there. “It was much less about basketball than about the whole the trip,” he said.

- The whole team took guided tours of the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basillica and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

CBSSports.com’s list of teams taking preseason trips

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 9, 2011 12:39 pm

Trippin': American preparing for different look

In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Jeff Borzello

After finishing second in the Patriot League title race last season, American head coach Jeff Jones knew he would be losing all-conference big man Vlad Moldoveanu.

What he didn’t prepare for, however, was leading rebounder and No. 2 scorer Stephen Lumpkins leaving early after being drafted by the Kansas City Royals in June.

“We basically spent the spring thinking on how to play with Lumpkins as the center of attention,” Jones said. “Playing big with Tony Wroblicky next to him. We went from being a fairly large team to being a smallish team, and we’re going to have to figure out other ways. I’m not sure we have any choice.”

The Eagles tried to work out the kinks on a preseason trip to Prague, Vienna and Budapest – but the lack of size didn’t change. Jones isn’t concerned about it, though.

“If you compete, once we get into conference play, that’s not going to be a huge factor,” Jones said. “I don’t anticipate that being a huge issue.”

What Jones learned: “We were figuring it out, essentially playing small ball. I learned a lot about how we are going to need to play this year to be competitive. Troy Brewer had a good year last year, and he picked up where he left off. He’s going to be out offensive focal point. Charles Hinkle was our second-leading scorer, he showed he could be that complementary scorer.”

What impressed him: Toughness – “We’ve got a scrappy group. We have two seniors, Simon McCormack and Joe Hill, that are competitive and team-first. They’re great leaders. I think our team, we can already see that they’re adopting their mentality. If we can do that, that would be a very positive development. If we can get in their heads and be able to emulate them, I think that would be positive.”

What concerned him: Offensive production – “Graduating Vlad, losing Lumpkins and Nick Hendra, we lost a lot of offensive firepower. How do we replace those points? Troy can pick it up a little; Charles is going to be a secondary threat. But we’re going to have multiple ways to score. We’re going to have to be opportunistic, find non-traditional ways of scoring: offensive rebounds, transition baskets here and there.”

- Although former Georgia guard Brewer looks like he will be the top option, Charles Hinkle is also expected to carry his weight offensively. The former Vanderbilt transfer looks like he is ready to provide what was expected heading into last season. “I think it was a really positive experience for Charles, to get out there, to get lots of minutes,” Jones said. “He has to shoulder some responsibility, and we need him to score.”

- Freshman John Schoof impressed on the trip. “He’s the kind of kid who’s going to fit in, he does a lot of the little things,” Jones said. “He was a quick learner; we started him every game overseas. As he gains experience, he’s going to be one of those guys you want out there on the floor, regardless of stats.”

- Aside from Schoof experiencing soreness in one of his knees, there were no injuries on the trip.

- The entire team was able to go on the trip, which enabled Jones to mix-and-match different players in the lineup. “We started different guys every game for the most part,” Jones said. “It was good in that regard, getting everybody’s feet wet. Gave us a little bit of a jump start.”

- The Eagles went to three different cities, and spent at least one full day of sightseeing in each one. According to Jones, one of the funniest moments was when Australia native Daniel Fisher bought a pair of pants. “Let’s just say he looked very European,” he said. “But he’s from Australia, so his sense of fashion might be a little bit different.”

CBSSports.com’s list of teams taking preseason trips

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 8, 2011 3:43 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 4:06 pm

Trippin': Cal Poly speeds things up in Costa Rica

In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Jeff Borzello

Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero had three goals for his team before the Mustangs’ went on their preseason trip to Costa Rica.

First, he wanted to make sure everyone stayed healthy. The Mustangs had zero injuries in their 10 practices and three games. Check.

Two, he wanted his team to have a great social development experience. Cal Poly’s athletic director set up activities for the team, and boosters hosted luncheons and dinners. Check.

Three – and perhaps most importantly – Callero wanted his team to get better at basketball. The Mustangs worked on their pressure defense, played against more physical teams and were able try different things. Check.

“From my extent, we had an A trip,” Callero said. “What will make it an A-plus trip is if they all come back excited.”

What Callero learned: “We have great depth. We have 10 players that can compete for a starting position. We had three fresh faces in the lineup, and only lost one starter. We have six guys that are seniors, added some firepower in Reese Morgan and we have some sophomore point guards. We have a couple of juniors that can play. We can go a lot of directions. We have tremendously bright kids, unselfish kids, up and down on the bench. They were shuttling in and out, enthusiastically.”

What impressed him: Unselfishness – “We have guys that came to Cal Poly to win games, turn us into a Big West contender. We didn’t promise playing time or points to anyone, we want to take Cal Poly to its first NCAA tournament. We don’t have the luxury to sit around and worry about our personal goals. What stood out the most was how much everyone has bought into the team. Our guys could care less about honors or stats. It’s team, team, team. Petty jealousy has not reared its head.”

What concerned him: Lack of spurtability – “I don’t think we’re natural playing fast. I was really hoping we could push the team to pick up the pace in transition, but we’re not a real natural fast-playing team. We spent two years really controlling the tempo with a more methodical offense. I want our team to have a little more spurtability, be more explosive in the full court.”

- Despite bringing back four starters, Callero used three newcomers in the starting lineup. Redshirts Amaurys Fermin (injury) and Chris Eversley (transfer from Rice) were starters, as was freshman guard Reese Morgan. David Hanson and Wil Donahue return down low for Poly.

- Eversley, who sat out last season after transferring from Rice, could be the key factor in replacing all-conference guard Shawn Lewis. “He had a few double-double games for us,” Callero said. “He showed an ability to play above the rim, hit 3s. A lot of things that Shawn brought.”

- Callero wants his team to press more this season. After using a half-court matchup zone for much of the past two seasons, he wants to speed the game up. However, the Mustangs weren’t consistent. “One game it was average, one game it was effective, one game it wasn’t effective,” he said. “The jury is still out.”

- All 14 players on the roster came on the trip, including Morgan, who went to school early in order to be eligible to travel. There were no academic liabilities, as Callero said no player on the team scored below a C in any class.

- Cal Poly added a late signee for the fall in recent weeks. Joel Awich, a big man from Minnesota, committed to the Mustangs in August and was officially admitted to the team earlier this week. He will redshirt this season.

CBSSports.com’s list of teams taking preseason trips

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: September 8, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 2:21 pm

Trippin': Revamped, Jimmer-Less BYU post-Greece

In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Jeff Goodman

The Jimmer is gone and so is his backcourt mate, three-year starter Jackson Emery. BYU associate head coach Dave Rice got the head job at his alma mater, UNLV, and the Cougars will make their debut in a new league, the WCC, this season.

"I had a few things come my way this past offseason," Rose admitted in terms of new job opportunities. "And I felt this was almost like a new job."

Rose recently returned from a trip to Greece, where he brought nine guys with him and said that just about every game was one-sided - one way or the other.

"We were either way better or the team was better than us," Rose said. "But it was a great experience. We learned a lot - and a couple of guys stepped up."

What he learned from his trip: "How different we'll be as far as scoring the ball is concerned. You don't truly realize it until you play without those two guys. We were backcourt dominated and over the years it hasn't been that way. We'll go back to relying on our frontcourt."

Who stood out on the trip: "Brock Zylstra was our leading scorer. He's a guy who redshirted as a freshman, went on a mission and has been Jackson's back-up the last two years. We played him at the point and he was pretty effective at that position."

What concerns you: "The point guard position. I'm comfortable with the frontcourt, where we've got experience, depth and leadership. Our two-guards will be able to score, but point guard is a question. We've got four guys who have a chance - maybe even five." The five are Matt Carlino, junior Nick Martineau, walk-on Craig Cusick, freshman walk-on Austin Nelson and Zylstra.

- Recently reinstated big man Brandon Davies was one of five players who did not play on the trip. Davies' season ended early last year when he was suspended for breaking the school's honor code. "He enrolled in school a little more than a week ago and went through individual workouts this week," Rose said. "It's nice to see him back. He looks good; a little out of shape." Rose said that the 6-foot-9 junior could be the focal point of the offense. "I think so. I hope to use him like we did Trent (Plaisted) and throw him the ball in the post. He needs to make positive plays in the post and that doesn't always mean scoring the ball."

- Carlino, who transferred in last year from UCLA, did not play on the trip. He was allowed to practice and will be eligible in mid-December. "I like him. He's got a lot of qualities that are really good for us in a point guard. He advances the ball, sees the floor, can create and can shoot."

- A pair of big guys who returned from missions - Nate Austin and Ian Harward - didn't go on the trip. "Both are really big inside guys who can run. Nate is skilled on the perimeter and can shoot it from 17 to 19 feet while Ian is more of an inside player - a rugged type who is a good defensive rebounder. I don't know how big of a scorer he'll be."

- Chris Collinsworth, who underwent a microfracture knee surgery, didn't play on the trip. However, Rose is optimistic that the 6-foot-9 sophomore forward will be ready for the start of practice in mid-October. "From the conversations I've had with the doctors, I'm optimistic. He's going to be a really good player for us."

- Rose confirmed he'll coach an exhibition game in Provo on Sept. 22 involving what he's told could wind up being as many as a dozen first-round picks. Rose will lead a team with Jimmer Fredette, who has been working out at BYU throughout the lockout, while San Diego State coach Steve Fisher will coach a group led by ex-Aztecs star Kawhi Leonard. Kemba Walker and Nolan Smith have also been confirmed participants.

- Emery has opted to go into the business world instead of playing overseas. "He had a couple of offers overseas," Rose said. "But he was a business major and had an offer in the private sector, with ownership in the business. It was hard for him, but it was a terrific offer."

- Rose spoke highly of freshman wing Demarcus Harrison and the job he did on the trip.

- Rose also said the trip was beneficial with the staff change. Former Kentucky forward and Wake Forest assistant Mark Pope replaced Rice and will work with the big men.

Posted on: September 7, 2011 5:17 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 5:24 pm

Trippin' : Duke's Kelly shines the brightest

In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Jeff Goodman

Jeff Capel got his first up-close look at his alma mater in Duke's recent trip to China and Dubai, so I figured the former Oklahoma head coach would be the ideal choice for insight on the Blue Devils.

OK, fine. I'll admit it. Coach K big-timed me, but Capel was perfect for the task and shared some of his thoughts - including gushing about the trio of Ryan Kelly, Miles Plumlee and Seth Curry.

What he learned from the trip: "How good Ryan Kelly is. He was our best player on the trip - and was pretty consistent in practice, too. His body has changed, he's more mature and his confidence continues to increase. This trip should provide him with even more confidence heading into the season. The second thing that stood out to me was how Seth Curry has expanded his game. I also thought of him as a shooter, but he's really worked on his ballhandling and decision-making and has put himself in a position when we put the ball in his hands and are comfortable with him running the team. He's better than I thought."

Who/What stood out on the trip: "How big and long we are. We have three guys in the frontcourt who are at least 6-foot-10 - Ryan, Miles and Mason. The strength of our team was in our frontcourt. The three main guys who stood out on the trip were Ryan, Seth and Miles (Plumlee)."

What concerns you following the trip: "The two areas we didn't play as well as we'd have liked were defense and rebounding. We need to rebound the ball at a higher rate, especially with the size we have. But we didn't implement a lot of our defensive stuff in the 10 practices prior to the trip."

- Nolan Smith told me a few months ago he expected sophomore Tyler Thornton to win the job as the starting point guard, but it was Seth Curry who started each game at the point. "I think he'll see time at both backcourt spots," Capel said.

- Freshman point guard Quinn Cook did not play on the trip as he continues to rehab from an injury he suffered last season at Oak Hill Academy. "He participated in the first three or four practices, but it was obvious he wasn't ready," Capel said. The Duke staff expects Cook to be ready for the start of practice on Oct. 15.

- Highly touted freshman Austin Rivers is really the one guy on the team that can break down an opposing defense. "The best thing he does is penetrate and create offense," Capel said. "He didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but that's not something we're worried about." Capel said that the area where Rivers needs to improve is on the defensive end, but he knows Rivers is capable since he did it when Capel was coaching the U-18 team last summer. "He can be a heck of a defensive player, but has never really been asked to do it."

- Rivers' father, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, went with his family on the entire trip. Nolan Smith also spent the entire time with the team while Kyrie Irving and Grant Hill were with the team in Shanghai.

- Capel said the highlight of the trip was climbing the Great Wall with the entire team. "It was pretty cool how the guys came together," Capel said. "You don't realize how high it is. I was exhausted. Everyone was."

- On freshman Marshall Plumlee, the youngest of the Plumlee Brothers: "He probably got knocked back more than anyone. He's going to be a really good player for us, but he's playing behind the strength of our team - Mason, Miles and Ryan. His time will come." Capel said that the youngest Plumlee can really run and plays hard, but just needs experience and strength.

- On freshman Alex Murphy: "He played better each game. If he makes his free throws and a couple of 3's, then you're talking about him playing great. The big thing for Alex is he has to develop the ego that he's a really good player. He's a legit 6-8, is athletic, can run and is versatile. He can't worry about stepping on anyone's toes. I think he came in thinking he might redshirt, but now he sees that he can play this year."

- On freshman Michael Gbinijie: "He struggled a little bit, but had been good in practice. He has to understand who he is - a defender, rebounder and a kid who can bring us toughness. Like so many freshman, he feels as though his worth is determined by scoring - while what he needs to provide us is as a big, athletic wing."

- Andrew Dawkins did what he does - make shots. Capel said the staff talked about it was the best defense they had ever seen him play.

- Mason Plumlee came off the bench each game as his brother, Miles and Kelly started up front. "Those other two guys played better in practice," Capel said. "Mason played well, and I think that may have lit a fire in him. Now he knows, with those two guys improving so much, that he has to step up. We need him to be a great rebounder and defend our paint. He played well, but those other two guys just played better. Miles was tremendous on the trip - he looked like a pro. He was dunking on guys, blocking shots and finishing through traffic. He was a beast."
Posted on: September 7, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 1:03 pm

Trippin': Staying healthy is paramount for Albany

In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Matt Norlander

First things first: Longtime Albany head coach Will Brown was thrilled he was getting a call from me, and not Goodman.

“I got the A team writing about us,” he said with an enthusiasm that nearly matched the thrill he must have had upon making the NCAA tournament in 2006.

You know it. And above anything else he shared with me, he wanted it in the post that he was delighted Goodman wasn’t taking up his time with a phone call. So I’m coming through on a promise here.

Now, to business. UAlbany took its summer trip to Ottawa and Montreal at the end of August. The team averaged 89 points per game playing “pretty good” competition, going 4-1 against the University of Quebec at Montreal; McGill University, in Montreal; lost its third game to an all-star team of European pros; defeated the University of Ottawa; and won over Carleton, who has won six of the last seven Canadian University national titles.

Brown, who can talk with the best of them, was positive about the trip (so few coaches actually admit to feeling down about these, though), but said there was some concern because the team played without its starting frontcourt, due to injuries. Six-foot, 8-inch Luke Devlin is one of the hampered. He had a nerve issue in his back that required surgery earlier this year. The 6-8 Australian will be key for Albany this year, as the group will often go to a four-guard look. The other player coming back to the team is 6-11 John Puk, who is overcoming Achilles tendinosis. Both men will have their first on-court individual workout on Friday, contact and all.

“It’s nothing to worry about — we just don’t want to work them too much too soon,” Brown said, adding that Puk’s been out of his walking boot for a month. Brown expects both to be ready for the start of the season, 100 percent.

What Brown learned: “Our new guys are pretty darned good, and that the group is unselfish. If this team has any interest in defending and rebounding, we’ve got a good chance to win the league. And as good as Mike Black is, there is another player who can play the point.”

Who impressed him: The new guy Brown was alluding to is Peter Hooley, a 6-4 freshman. Black actually got knocked out of the third game with a concussion and didn’t play the rest of the trip. Hooley, a known scorer, stepped in at the point in games four and five and put up a combined 44 points. In the team’s final game, Hooley had seven assists and zero turnovers against Carleton. The other freshman who stood out: Gerardo Suero, who was hurt most of the summer. Suero averaged 19 points per game in 19 minutes. He also got to the free throw line 32 times in five games and averaged five rebounds.

What concerned him: The low-post defense and the glass were issues, but the team was without Puk and Devlin, so Brown shrugged some of that off. His primary other concern right now is health. Brown’s hoping this team isn’t cursed. You’ve seen the injuries listed above. On top of that, Jacob Iati didn’t play the final three games after he took a shot to the ribs. They’re not broken, but very bruised, and that can sometimes be worse.

--Brown tried to start seven guys when I asked for five. After some pushing, he narrowed it down: Black (an all-conference player last season), junior Logan Aronhalt, Devlin, Puk, and he’d give the nod, right now, to Suero due to his potent offensive ability.

--The Great Danes have no seniors this season.

--The team went small, and it could even go five guards at points this year. Brown’s liking the look that much, and if some teams aren’t big, he’s not concerned about post plays.

“We’ve always been big and physical and found ways to score, and now we have to play differently based on the personnel available.”

Photo via Albany athletics is of the team in front of Ottawa Parliament
Posted on: September 7, 2011 9:26 am
Edited on: September 7, 2011 9:28 am

Trippin': Wright St. truly tests itself in Italy

By Matt Norlander

Second-year Wright State coach Billy Donlon didn’t want his team’s trip to Italy to be a joyride. He wanted a grind. He wanted to widen the kids’ perspective. The group went 1-3, and head coach was more than satisfied.

In the previous decade, the 34-year-old Donlon played overseas for a year and a half (in France and Germany), so he had a sense of what his team could go up against. He intentionally scheduled some of the best teams Italy had to offer. They went against Lucca, who also beat Belmont this summer, as well as Pallacanestro San Maruno and Fulgor Forli -- teams that were even better than Lucca, according to Donlon.

This is a young team, with nine freshmen and sophomores.

“When we’re talking 18- and 19-year-olds playing against 25-year-old pros,” Donlon said of the trip. “You can get (schedule) teams over there to play and win, if that’s what you wanted to do, but I wanted to see how our guys handled adversity in games. And some of these were second and third division Italian teams. It’s still guys who make basketball their careers. We have guys who want to play at the next level, and I wanted our guys to see just how hard it is now to do.”

Former Villanova guard Mike Nardi and recent Georgetown grad Austin Freeman play for Forli. Not bad, right? Nardi used to be such a problem (for opponents) during his Wildcat days.

What Donlon learned: “Basketball-wise, what I appreciated and learned was how the FIBA rules take the coaching rules within the game out of the game.” What Donlon means by that, primarily, is the timeout situation. There are no media timeouts. Each team gets two breathers in the first half and three in the second. The other thing Donlon said he learned: just how advanced so many European players are when it comes to ball movement and passing. Said it was an incredible step up in ability and execution.

Who impressed him: Tavares Sledge, a 6-9, 230-pound post player, and 5-8 point guard Reggie Arceneaux were the freshmen that stood out. Cole Darling, a 6-8 sophomore, played the best for the Raiders.

What concerned him: The team lost 78 percent of its scoring from last season, so Donlon is still concerned about who can and will score in the last five minutes of games. He’s concerned because he saw it first-hand in Italy.

“We have a couple of guys that might want to go make the play, but maybe not enough sometimes. And there are times in the games when we need a basket, and it’s about who wants to go make a basket.”

--With such a young team, the only chance they have of winning a championship is to have a defensive-minded identity, the coach said.

-- Strength in numbers is a motto Donlon will go back to a lot this season. “Sometimes you coach a team and you’ve got seven or eight guys and that’s who you play,” he said. “I think we have to wear people down in order to win our league. That will be a big goal of ours every game. I think what the Italian trip was give us some game experience right away. “

-- If he had to put a starting five on the floor tonight it would be: Arceneaux, sophomore Matt Vest at the 2, Darling at the 3, senior Johann Mpondo at the 4 and Sledge at the 5.

-- N.C. State transfer Julius Mays will have to work into getting some playing time. I’m guessing he’ll get there. Mays has the ability to steal minutes at WSU.

-- Injuries: No one is injured, but the entire team did not make the trip. Junior forward Armond Battle did not go, per Donlon’s decision (he did not expound on why). And incoming JuCo recruit John Balwigaire, who needed to complete summer work in August, was not available.

Photo via Wright Statee athletics
Posted on: September 2, 2011 3:21 pm

Trippin': UNH aims to cure offensive woes

In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Matt Norlander

With transfers in two, New Hampshire's hoping its offensive issues aren't existent in 2011-12.

The team took to Montreal for its summer trip. It was the first such adventure for Wildcats head coach Bill Herrion, despite 20 years as a D-I head coach. He loved it. He loved it so much, he tried to do what we do.

“It turned me into a blogger," Herrion said. "I’m one of you guys now!”

Herrion went full-bore on those blog posts linked above, by the way. The school’s budget prohibited it from taking a European trip. So Montreal for three days it was. The team played McGill University, the University of Quebec, LaVal University and Bishop’s University. It went 3-1.

What Herrion learned: “This is my 20th year as a head coach as the Divisional I level, and I’ve never done one of these foreign trips. Now that I’ve done it, I wish the rule wasn’t once every four years; I wish it was once every two or three years. Any time you get a chance to get your team together this early, it’s better. Some negative things came out of the gate the first night we played, and it’s better to know those things in August, than practice in October.”

What impressed him: “Alvin Abreu impressed me because he’s our guy. He’s a senior, and any time you come of an injury, you wonder if they’re ready to go. And he is. He’s a Second Team all-conference guy.” Herrio said Chandler Rhoads (left), a junior who was a point guard his freshman year but is now off the ball, was very effective in his scoring on the trip.

What concerned him: It was the rebounding, and Herrion said it’s “going to be an issue.” The post defense wasn’t great because the group is undersized.

“The trip served exactly the purpose that we wanted to get out of it,” he said. “Any time you can get your team together in August and get the extra practice and go play games, it’s positive.”

-- The offense has to get better. The Wildcats were one of the worst-scoring teams in the country last year, a lot of that due to injuries. But, to be fair, it’s been weak offensively for the past two season, and UNH hasn’t ever been relatively potent with the ball since Herrion came on board. The team is 25-35 the past two years and has never been above .500 in six seasons under Herrion.

“It’s no secret: We have to score easier baskets,” Herrion said. “We’ve relied so much on our perimeter game the past three years, and we haven’t had a true, bona fide post game. This year, we’re more versatile and can open up the court. … Now we know there’s certain things we’re going to have to play closer attention to.”

-- Injuries: The team is healthy right now, save for a concussion suffered by big man Brian Benson during the team’s first game of the trip. It’s a big turnaround from a year ago, when Abreu, the leading scorer going into last season (1,100 points), tore his ACL in the second game of year, at Dartmouth. Then, halfway through the season, Ferg Myryck -- another offensive necessity -- ruptured his patella tendon. Starting inside guy senior Brian Benson, suffered a concussion and sat out the final three games.

-- The team will have transfers Patrick Konan (coming in from Liberty) and Jeron Trotman (Centenary) eligible this season. Konan is a projected starter. And speaking of that …

-- If Herrion had to put a starting five on the floor tonight, he said it would be Jordon Bronner at point, Abreu at the 2, Rhoads also at guard, Konan at the 4 and Benson at the 5.

Photo via UNH athletics
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com