Special assistant to the head coach Bobby Lutz mentioned last week when he met with the media that Nebraska was close to finishing off its nonconference schedule for 2019-20, and on Sunday night, a part of that schedule leaked out.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Jon Rothstein, Nebraska will take part in the 2019 Cayman Islands Classic.
Sources: Nebraska is the eighth team in 2019 Cayman Islands Classic. Rest of field includes South Florida, Loyola-Chicago, New Mexico State, Colorado State, Old Dominion, George Mason, and Washington State.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 22, 2019
The 2018 Classic was held Nov. 19-21 at the John Gray Gym in George Town, Grand Cayman. Creighton took down Clemson in the final to win the tournament.
The 2019 field includes two NCAA Tournament teams from 2018, two NIT teams, the CBI champion and two teams under .500.
The brackets have yet to be determined, so Nebraska could end up playing any of the other seven teams. With that in mind, here’s a look at all seven of Nebraska’s potential opponents.
The Rams went 12-20 last season under head coach Niko Medved. They had a few players transfer and lost their second-leading scorer to graduation, but their best player, 6-foot-11, 240-pound double-double machine Nico Carvacho, is set to return.
Former Nebraska graduate assistant and Director of Player Relations and Development — and college basketball cult hero — Ali Farokhmanesh is an assistant coach on Nedved’s staff. John Tonje, a 6-foot-4 senior at Omaha Central who led Class A in scoring at 23.8 points per game, recently signed with Colorado State and will join the team this summer.
With each passing season, the Patriots are farther and farther removed from their miraculous cinderella run to the Final Four in 2006. Mason went 18-15 last season under Dave Paulsen but return most of its rotation from last year including leading scorer Justin Kier, a 6-foot-4 guard who averaged nearly 15 points and seven rebounds.
Loyola’s Final Four run is much more recent than George Mason’s as it came just two seasons ago. Coach Porter Moser flirted with St. John’s before turning them down and sticking with the Ramblers.
Loyola went 20-14 last season, winning a share of the Missouri Valley Conference title but falling in the conference tournament, sending the Ramblers to the NIT instead of the NCAA Tournament where they fell to Creighton in the first round.
Loyola lost the past two MVC Players of the Year in point guard Clayton Custer (2018) and wing Marques Townes (2019) but returns a key piece in center Cameron Krutwig who scored early 15 points per game as a sophomore.
New Mexico State
New Mexico State went 30-5 last season and won the WAC Tournament and qualified for the Big Dance for the third straight season and second straight under Chris Jans. The Aggies were one of the more balanced teams in college basketball last season with 10 players averaging between four and 12 points. They had just one senior among their top five scorers last season.
Junub Char, a former Omaha Burke Bulldog, is set to join the program next season after a year getting his academics in order.
Old Dominion went 26-9 last season under coach Jeff Jones, winning Conference USA and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The Monarchs lose their top two scorers — and nearly 34 points per game between them — as their top returning scorer, guard Xavier Green, averaged 9.6 points.
Old Dominion has offered 2019 guard Jaylin Hunter, the son of former Nebraska assistant Kenya Hunter who started high school at Lincoln High, transferred to Creighton Prep and won a state title as a junior then moved with his father when he joined the UConn coaching staff. Hunter won another state title with East Catholic High School in Manchester, Connecticut.
South Florida went 24-14 last season and defeated DePaul in a three-game series to capture the 2019 CBI title. The Bulls only had one senior in their rotation.
South Florida’s second-leading scorer this ast season was Laquincy Rideau. If that name sounds familiar, he started for the Gardner-Webb team that beat Nebraska in Pinnacle Bank Arena back in December of 2016. He transferred to South Florida after his sophomore year and will be a senior next season.
Like Nebraska, Washington State will be working in a new coach next season after the school parted ways with Bill Moos’ favorite, Ernie Kent. Wazzu went 11-21 last season, marking the program’s seventh straight season with 13 or fewer wins. Kent went 58-95 in five seasons in Pullman.
The Cougars will lose a 20-point scorer in senior Robert Franks. Their second-leading scorer, freshman CJ Elleby, is testing the NBA Draft waters.
The 2019 field doesn’t necessarily include any college basketball blue bloods, which Fred Hoiberg is likely just fine with in year one. Nebraska should still have a few opportunities for quality nonconference wins — like Creighton and whatever crossover games Nebraska gets with other high-major leagues (Gavitt Games, Big Ten/ACC Challenge). That being said, a lot of the teams in the field bring a good deal back from last season and most of those teams had success in one form or another this past season.
Nebraska officially announced that it will be participating in the Cayman Islands Classic on May 7. The tournament will take place Nov. 25-27 and each team will play three games in three days.
“The Cayman Islands Classic will provide us a good early-season test,” Hoiberg said in the release. “With so many newcomers, having the opportunity to play three games over three days will help us learn about our team before Big Ten play begins. It also provides our players an opportunity to experience the culture and hospitality of the Cayman Islands.”
The rest of the nonconference schedule will be released this summer.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.