Basketball opens season in Canada

The players of the men’s basketball team will be spending their fall break north of the border, as the Jackets have scheduled three October preseason exhibition games in Canada to prepare for the upcoming season.

Head Coach Paul Hewitt looks at the trip as a good way for the team to prepare for the season by taking on new competition.

“This is a good opportunity for [the new players] to gain experience, not only through games, but the extra practices,” Hewitt said, also mentioning that the older players could build on the momentum from 2008.

Tech will travel north to Ontario on Oct. 2 and return Oct. 6. In between those days, Tech will play three games versus two different Canadian opponents. On Oct. 3 and 5, Tech will go up against the University of Windsor, and on October 4 the Jackets will play the University of Western Ontario. All three games will be played at Windsor’s St. Denis Centre.

Although the scheduling of these games may seem strange, it is not unprecedented. In fact, Tech is not the only American college basketball team to visit Canada this season. Before playing the Jackets, the University of Windsor will host the Ohio State Buckeyes on Aug. 28 and 29.

Towson University, a conference rival of Georgia State in the Colonial Athletic Association, will also travel north of the border to play five games against Canadian teams.

The University of Windsor will host the Jackets first. Unfortunately, the Jackets will not get a chance to face off against Greg Surmacz, a 6-foot-8 power forward who emerged as one of the best junior players in Canada, even earning All-Canadian honors. Surmacz recently graduated and has signed to play professional basketball with the Polish club AZS Koszalin; still, the Jackets will take on a Lancers roster that returns several other key players and, like Tech, will welcome a large incoming freshman class this year.

Tech’s second opponent, the University of Western Ontario, will be struggling to find a leader after losing its two best players from last year. Point guard Matt Curtis and power forward Brad Smith both graduated from the team last spring. The duo helped lead the Mustangs to a 19-3 regular season finish and a tie for third in the conference. Smith broke the Mustangs’ all-time scoring record last season and recently signed a contract to play professionally with the Kent Crusaders of the English Basketball League (EBL).

The Jackets will have to play a number of quality non-conference foes before the ACC schedule begins. Tech’s first official game is against Florida A&M on November 14. After that, the Jackets will travel to Puerto Rico for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

There they will take on a 2009 NCAA tournament team in the Dayton Flyers and, with a win, would move on to face either Villanova or George Mason, both of which have reached the NCAA Final Four in recent years.

When the team returns from Puerto Rico, the Jackets will play host to Mercer (Nov. 27), Siena (Dec. 2), and Southern California (Dec. 5). After those three tough games, the schedule sets up nicely for the Jackets including three games against smaller North Carolina schools, and home games against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Kennesaw State. Tech travels to Athens on Jan. 5 to take on the Bulldogs. The Jackets will finish the non-conference schedule at home against Kentucky State on January 31.

One team missing from the schedule is an opponent from the Big Ten Conference. Since 1999, ACC teams have played against Big Ten teams in a series known as the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. In this series, all eleven of the Big Ten teams will play eleven teams from the ACC. This year, Tech is the ACC team left out of the series for the first time since 1999.