HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — The 2018-19 season is just around the corner, and the anticipation continues to build with each passing day.
Teams are finalizing their non-conference slates for the upcoming season, and plenty of teams across the country are taking part in multi-team events. These events provide match-ups that fans may not see on a regular basis, and it helps to strengthen the level of competition that teams face before conference play gets rolling.
On Wednesday, the Northern Kentucky Norse took to social media to announce that they were hosting a multi-team event on their home court in Highland Heights. All four teams in the event, including the Norse, have played in the NCAA Tournament in recent years.
Joining Northern Kentucky inside the BB&T Arena for the three-day event will be the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, and the Manhattan Jaspers. The event will take place from November 16-18, 2018.
Here’s the tweet that the Norse sent out to announce the new multi-team event for this season.
The schedule for the event will be as follows (all times TBD):
November 16th, 2018:
UNC Asheville at Northern Kentucky
Coastal Carolina v. Manhattan
November 17th, 2018:
Manhattan at Northern Kentucky
UNC Asheville v. Coastal Carolina
November 18th, 2018:
Coastal Carolina at Northern Kentucky
Manhattan v. UNC Asheville
All four teams in the event will look considerably different than they did a season ago, as several key contributors are gone from the mix for each program. Whether it was due to graduation or transfers, all four teams have holes to fill in 2018-19.
The host Norse will be without two of their top three scorers from a season ago, as Lavone Holland II graduated and Carson Williams transferred to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
Still, head coach John Brannen has forward Drew McDonald back in the fold to lead the way. McDonald led the Norse in both scoring and rebounding a season ago, averaging 17.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Junior Tyler Sharpe and sophomore Jalen Tate should both take on expanded roles this season for Northern Kentucky. They also add a talented player in Zaynah Robinson, who transferred from the Norfolk State Spartans. Robinson should play a significant role with the program from the start of the season.
Northern Kentucky advanced to the 2017 NCAA Tournament as a 15-seed, losing to the Kentucky Wildcats in the First Round, 79-70.
Like the Norse, Coastal Carolina will be without its fair share of production from a season ago. Jaylen Shaw and Demario Beck have graduated from the program, and they were two of the top four scorers for the Chanticleers last season. Add in the transfer of senior Jaylan Robertson to the Nicholls Colonels, and Coastal Carolina has some big holes to fill.
Leading the way this season will be forward Zac Cuthbertson and guard Artur Labinowicz. Cuthbertson is the team’s top returning scorer from 2017-18, where he averaged 14.7 points to go along with 6.8 rebounds per game in his first Division I season. Labinowicz put together a strong sophomore season, averaging 10.8 points per game and shooting 76.9% from the free throw line. Look for Canadian junior Amidou Bamba to take on a bigger role with the program this season to help fill some of the voids left by the departures.
UPDATE: Artur Labinowicz has transferred from Coastal Carolina.
The Chanticleers last made the NCAA Tournament back in 2015, which was the second consecutive trip that the program made to the Big Dance.
Manhattan will have several holes to fill this season, especially on offense. Due to graduation, the Jaspers will be without Rich Williams, Zane Waterman, and Zavier Turner, who were the team’s top three scorers a season ago. The trio combined to average 37.1 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per contest, while they all shot at least 42% from the field.
Guys like Pauly Paulicap and Aaron Walker Jr. will be looked upon to carry the team during a transition year for the program. Paulicap is the team’s top returning scorer from a season ago, as he averaged 10.0 points per contest. He also led the team with 6.9 rebounds per game in 2017-18. The addition of transfer Ibrahima Diallo will surely help the program up front. The 6’10” forward comes to Manhattan from the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and while he was used sparingly over his tenure at Rutgers, his size and presence will help Manhattan.
Like Coastal Carolina, the Jaspers advanced to consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 2014 and 2015. Manhattan fell to the Hampton Pirates in the First Four in 2015.
Rounding out the four-team field is the team who lost the most from last year’s team. The Bulldogs will be without their top seven scorers from a season ago. Leading scorer MaCio Teague transferred to the Baylor Bears, while the likes of Ahmad Thomas and Kevin Vannatta both graduated. Add in another two transfers and another pair of graduates, and UNC Asheville will be a shadow of the team they were a season ago.
Their top returning scorer is Donovan Gilmore, a transfer from the College of Charleston Cougars. In his first season with the Bulldogs, Gilmore averaged 3.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in just over 10 minutes of court time per night out. Grant Townsend only played in four games before missing the rest of the season due to injury, so his return could provide some help for the Bulldogs, at least by way of experience. The Bulldogs have a total of eight freshmen on their roster for the upcoming season, which will make things tough for head coach Mike Morrell.
UNC Asheville last made the NCAA Tournament back in 2016, where they well to the eventual national champions in the First Round, the Villanova Wildcats.
– T. Bennett