Quick hitters on Wednesday:
A number of teams are practicing this week in advance of foreign trips this month. Here's the scoop on some of the teams heading out of the country:
Iowa State: The Cyclones are off to Italy from Aug. 9-19 for their first trip abroad since 2005. The Cyclones desperately need this trip for second-year coach Fred Hoiberg to get the host of newcomers/transfers ready for the upcoming season. Royce White, Chris Allen and Korie Lucious are three of the headline players who need to be prepped for the rigors of the Big 12.
Baylor: The Bears are off to Toronto from Aug. 11-16. Baylor got Perry Jones III to return but must incorporate a few key newcomers like Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello. This will be a critical trip for the Bears to discover where those two players fit in the rotation.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are off to Switzerland and France from Aug. 8-17. The timing of this trip is perfect for new coach Billy Kennedy. He's taking over a Texas A&M team that should compete for the Big 12 title. Khris Middleton didn't make the World University Games team, but that's OK since he can now go on this trip and lead his team.
BYU: The Cougars head to Greece on Aug. 15. BYU couldn't have asked for a more appropriate time to go abroad.The Cougars need to find someone not just to replace Jimmer Fredette's scoring in the backcourt but also Jackson Emery's. The frontcourt is still in flux as the Cougars wait to see if Brandon Davies is accepted back into school in September. So this is a critical trip for the rest of the role players and to see if there is a star in the making.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers go to Italy from Aug. 8-22. West Virginia desperately needs to find its new core group of players.The Mountaineers have a host of newcomers. This trip should provide some answers heading into the fall.
Fairfield: The Stags are going to Italy from Aug. 15-25. Fairfield's new coach Sydney Johnson wanted to squeeze in this tour once he got the job. He has to make sure that guard Derek Needham and Boston College transfer wing Rakim Sanders can coexist. This is the perfect trip to do so for a team that should challenge Iona for the MAAC title.
Georgetown: The Hoyas are off to China from Aug. 13-27. Georgetown lost plenty in the backcourt with the departures of Austin Freeman and Chris Wright. Georgetown will likely be more inside-centric in 2011-12. But it must find a quality rotation of guards -- on this trip.
Duke: The Blue Devils are off to China and Dubai, beginning on Aug. 14. Duke lost its primary trio of Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving. Austin Rivers will be the go-to player on the Blue Devils this season. But he's part of a deep backcourt that needs to be developed. That should happen on this trip as the Blue Devils look for a number of different combinations.
Cal: The Bears are going to Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen from Aug. 13-22. They have one of the top talents in the country in Allen Crabbe. He was out for the U-19 team after he suffered a broken nose and a concussion during the tryouts in Colorado Springs in June. If he's good to go on this trip, then he'll get the necessary court time to jump start his sophomore season. Coach Mike Montgomery can use the 10 practices and tour to further grind his philosophy into this team that should compete for a Pac-12 title.
Murray State: New Murray State coach Steve Prohm scheduled the Racers trip to Toronto from Aug. 4-9. Prohm was the top assistant to Billy Kennedy before Kennedy took the Texas A&M job. But why wait until October to establish that you're the one in charge? This is a great example of getting ahead of other teams in the OVC in the summer, especially for a new coach.
Villanova: The Wildcats are off to France and the Netherlands from Aug. 8-15. Villanova coach Jay Wright said the Wildcats will be a different team, much more inside-oriented. JayVaughn Pinkston, who was suspended from the team last year for an assault on another student, is back and will need to be a force this season. Mouphtaou Yarou, Dominic Cheek, James Bell and Maalik Wayns can show plenty of leadership on this trip, too.
Illinois: The Illini are off to Italy from Aug. 10-20. Illinois lost Jereme Richmond to the NBA early (mistake), and seniors Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale. So this trip comes at a perfect time for Bruce Weber to reconfigure this team. Meyers Leonard was a big hit at the U-19 tournament for Team USA. If he can duplicate his Latvian performance in Italy, then it could bode well for Illinois this season.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are going to the Netherlands, Belgium and France from Aug. 5-15. Renardo Sidney is not going on the trip, opting to stay and work out in Houston with John Lucas instead. That could hurt the chemistry of this team. But it doesn't dismiss the importance for Dee Bost to get a comfort level with UTEP transfer Arnett Moultrie. The two could form a special inside-out bond on this trip. Moultrie has the potential to be a star in the SEC.
Stanford: The Cardinal are off to Spain from Sept. 3-14, so they won't start practicing yet in advance of this tour. Stanford can go on a foreign trip in September because the Cardinal are on the quarter system and don't start school in August. Stanford needs this trip under Johnny Dawkins after Jeremy Green decided to stay in the NBA draft. The Cardinal are looking for a new star. Josh Owens can fill that void. But this will be critical for newcomer Chasson Randle, too.
Dayton: The Flyers are going to the Netherlands, Belgium and Paris from Aug. 8-18. New coach Archie Miller can use this trip to get used to his new players. He'll want to play faster, which means Matt Kavanaugh will get a good look on this trip. Having Alex Gavrilovic on the court will be key since he didn't play last year. Kevin Dillard, who will be the point, also didn't play last year so this will be a great chance for him to get quality runs. Sophomores Ralph Hill (stress fracture) and Devin Oliver (mono) are out for the trip.
DePaul: The Blue Demons are off to France from Aug. 11-21. DePaul must have something positive occur in Oliver Purnell's second season. That's why taking this trip was a necessity. Cleveland Melvin is the star of this squad, but someone else has to emerge.
Saint Louis: The Billikens go to Canada for five games Aug. 22-27. SLU coach Rick Majerus is recovering from a stent procedure and the hope is that he will join the team for the tour. This is a critical year for SLU as the Billikens have a realistic shot to climb the standings in the A-10. Kwamain Mitchell will be the star and needs to show even more leadership on this trip.
Louisville: The Cardinals are off to the Bahamas from Aug. 10-13. Louisville is considered one of the favorites for the Big East in the fall in large part because of the return of Peyton Siva and Kyle Kuric, and the addition of Rakeem Buckles. This trip should get the Cards the jump start they need to figure out the rest of the key players.
USC: The Trojans are off to Brazil from Aug. 14-18. This will be the essential debut for the much-hyped big man for USC -- Antelope Valley JC transfer DeWayne Dedmon. USC coach Kevin O'Neill is pumping up Dedmon as one of the top centers in college basketball and a likely one-and-done player. Jio Fontan could use this trip to fine tune his guard skills, too, in advance of what needs to be a breakout season.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies head to Windsor, Ontario, from Aug. 17-18. Virginia Tech was riddled with injuries last season in missing the NCAA tournament. Getting back key players from last season's team gives it hope. This trip is much-needed for the Hokies to get back into a competitive situation.