• The contract the sports marketing firm Gazelle Group has with Florida International doesn't have much wiggle room. It simply states that "the participant [FIU] will play one away game, on one of the above dates, at either the University of North Carolina or Ohio State University."
Let's take a little deeper look at this.
FIU is getting three home games out of this event -- North Carolina Central (Nov. 20), James Madison (Nov. 22) and Murray State (Nov. 23). The Panthers have to play one road game -- as far as Gazelle is concerned, at North Carolina, not Ohio State.
A year ago, FIU was in the CBE Classic and played three home games (Cleveland State, Toledo and non-Division I West Georgia) and then played at Washington. So in two seasons, FIU -- I repeat, F-I-U -- received six home games and just two road games from the organizers. That's rather generous considering the Panthers haven't really done anything on the court to justify being a relevant figure on the college basketball map.
If FIU athletic director Pete Garcia follows through on his threat to break the contract and play someone else, he'll have a hard time finding three home games. The NCAA allows tournaments like the Coaches vs. Cancer to count four games as two. So FIU would have to find only two games to fill its schedule. But it's hard to believe teams are lining up to play at FIU's 5,000-seat arena, especially in September.
Rick Giles, founder of the Gazelle Group, isn't backing down with the plan that calls for FIU to play at North Carolina to open the college basketball regular season on Nov. 9.
Thomas said late Tuesday night that the Panthers were planning on playing a road game at Monmouth after the trip to Columbus and that it would be made more difficult going from Chapel Hill. He said there is a chance FIU might squeeze in a game at Tulsa, too.
ESPNU was slated to televise the FIU-UNC game, giving the Panthers exposure they don't normally receive. This is a rebuilding season for Florida International, but the exposure would help. Thomas said he knows that switching the Ohio State-UNC sites isn't about competitive imbalance. He said he understands that Carolina returns one of five starters and Ohio State can claim the opposite with a veteran team that has all its major contributors returning, save reserve big man B.J. Mullens.
Sure, Carolina should be more of a contender later than Ohio State and has more NBA-level talent. But for a first game, playing UNC makes more sense for both parties.
Still, the Panthers are irritated by the way they received the news, despite the contractual agreement. If FIU plays hardball, they would lose three home games -- something that most teams in the country wouldn't dare do.
• FIU's second-leading scorer, Freddy Asprilla, isn't expected to show up for school, which started Monday. Thomas said that once the 6-foot-10 Asprilla (13.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last season) didn't show up, he was free to go anywhere. Asprilla was supposed to go home to Colombia and renew his visa so he could attend Miami Dade Junior College.
• Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has won Olympic gold and been around every big name in basketball. But he's still an overall sports fan, and that's why one of his biggest thrills was walking 18 holes Monday with Tiger Woods to play in Notah Begay's charity event at Turning Stone near Syracuse.
"It was unbelievable,'' Boeheim said. "He hit every fairway, every green.'' Asked if Woods would help Boeheim's game, Boeheim said, "No. What he does wouldn't help me."
"It was cool," added Boeheim, who said golf is a close second for him in his love of sports, "one of the coolest things I've done."
• Syracuse starts school next week, and Boeheim continues to pump up the eligibility of Iowa State transfer wing Wesley Johnson. "He's the real deal; he's pretty good,'' Boeheim said. "He'll be a little rusty, but eventually he'll be great. He's so talented. He can shoot. He'll get a lot of shots."
The Orange will also move into a new practice facility adjacent to Manley Field House on Sept. 22. "It's got everything for us; it's a spectacular place,'' Boeheim said. "We're one of the few programs [in the Big East] that has had to share a multipurpose place with everybody. We've needed a place for a while."
• Miami opens the ACC regular season at Boston College on Dec. 6. It sounds incredibly early to start a conference season, but there is precedent. Just three seasons ago, the ACC opened on Dec. 3, with Miami playing host to Georgia Tech and Virginia hosting NC State. In the ACC's first season, in 1953-54, the league opened with games on Dec. 2 (Maryland at South Carolina), Dec. 3 (Maryland at Clemson) and Dec. 5 (Maryland at Wake Forest). In the 1950s and '60s, the ACC opened the conference schedule a number of times in the first week of December.
• February may seem like a lifetime from now, but circle a potential key game for a possible bubble team: Duke hosts Tulsa on Feb. 25. The Golden Hurricane, the favorite in Conference USA, could be in the position of needing a quality power-rating game at that late date.
The BracketBuster is a sound idea that matches two similar mid-major bubble teams. But rarely does a non-BCS league team get a chance to pick up a major win against a top-20 club two weeks before Selection Sunday. Playing the game will certainly help Tulsa; winning could clinch a bid.