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BG hopes to heat Alaska chill

With the wind blowing in December, Bowling Green only seems like it’s close to the North Pole. Within several hundred miles of the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks, Alaska actually is close.

Fairbanks is where the BG men’s basketball team will be playing this weekend, at the Top of the World Classic.

Ironically, they played a team from the South, Ole Miss, to start the tourney last night. Due to the six-hour time difference, the game didn’t start until 2 a.m. this morning local time.

Ole Miss is, in all likelihood, the best team in the tournament. They advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in March, and despite not being ranked, have received 13 top-25 votes in the ESPN/USA Today Preseason Coaches’ Poll.

The Rebels finished third in the SEC’s Western Division last year with a 20-13 overall record. They are coached by Rod Barnes, who is entering his second season. He has a rebuilding job ahead of him. The Rebels are without last year’s starting backcourt of Keith Carter and Michael White, who averaged 16.4 and 5.2 points per game respectively. They have also lost small forward Jason Smith and his 12.9 points per game.

Replacing Barnes and White are Jason Flanigan and Jason Harrison. At 6 feet 1 inch and 5 feet 4 inches respectively, BG gets some size advantage with Brandon Pardon, Keith McLeod or Jabari Mattox running the point.

Marcus Hicks is the centerpiece of the Ole Miss attack, providing them with their best balance of speed and scoring ability at 6-6 and averaging 11.7 points per game last year. Josh Almanson, Len Matela or Brent Klassen most likely draws him on defense. All are taller, but might give up a little in speed.

Also a factor for Ole Miss is 6-8 forward Justin Reed, the SEC Freshman of the Year.

BG is 1-1 all time against Ole Miss. The last time the two teams played was in a 79-76 win for the Falcons during the 1980-81 season.

Notes

The rest of the Top of the World field is comprised of Butler, Radford, Delaware, Wichita State, Washington and the host school, Alaska-Fairbanks.

Butler is the only other school in the tourney to go to the NCAA Tournament in March. They have Thomas Jackson, the Horizon Conference (formerly the Midwestern Collegiate Conference) preseason Player of the Year.

BG has never played Alaska-Fairbanks, Radford or Delaware. The Falcons are 4-1 all-time against Butler, 3-1 against Wichita State and 0-1 against Washington.

This is the second time in three years BG has opened the season in a tournament. It won the Nextel Challenge in Honolulu to start the 1999-2000 season.

The tournament will allow players from all eight team to experience life in Alaska. The tournament is held by the community of Fairbanks, and as part of their stay, players will be allowed to ride a snowmobile, ride a dog sled or play some curling.

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