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In 2020, non-conference games are a premium in NCAA basketball. Teams are heading into “bubbles” all across the country in hopes of getting a few games in before their conference schedule begins. Las Vegas will play host to three teams--Cal State Northridge, Air Force, Seattle University--aiming to log some wins before the meat of their schedule in December.
Here’s a closer look at the three teams playing a round-robin set of games on November 28th through November 30th.
Cal State Northridge
2019-2020 Record: 15-17, second in Big West
Vegas Bubble Schedule: November 28th vs. Air Force, November 30th vs. Seattle
2020-2021 Outlook: Though they finished with a losing record overall, the Matadors put together a good season in the Big West, going 10-6. But they will have to replace the gigantic hole left by Lamine Diane, the conference’s two-time Player of the Year. Nobody can make up for Diane’s 25 points and 10 rebounds per game by themselves, but the Matadors hope that their young squad can continue the program’s upswing.
Key Player: Junior point guard Darius Brown II returns to facilitate the offense. Last year, he averaged 10 points and four assists per game. Texas A&M transfer T.J. Starks will pair with Brown in the backcourt. Starks sat out last year, but averaged 12 points per game during his sophomore season for the Aggies.
2019-2020 Record: 12-20, ninth in Mountain West Conference
Vegas Bubble Schedule: November 28th vs. CSUN, November 29th vs. Seattle
2020-2021 Outlook: The Falcons haven’t had a winning record since the 2012-2013 season and they will have to beat expectations to get above .500 this year. Air Force was picked to finish 10th out of 11 teams in the preseason conference poll. Last year’s leading scorer and rebounder Lavelle Scottie has graduated as has Ryan Swan.
Key Player: A.J. Walker led the team in assists last year and scored 11.1 points per game. The junior guard was a good shooter, hitting 45% from the field and 40% from three-point range.
2019-2020 Record: 14-15, fifth in WAC
Vegas Bubble Schedule: November 29th vs. Air Force, November 30th vs. CSUN
2020-2021 Outlook: The Redhawks were picked to finish fifth in the conference, right where they ended last season. They return just one starter from that team in Riley Grigsby. The Vegas Bubble will give them an opportunity to score a non-conference win against two beatable opponents in Air Force and Cal State Northridge.
Key Player: Grigsby was named preseason second-team All-Conference. As a sophomore, Grigsby averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. With last year’s top scorers Terrell Brown and Morgan Means gone, Grigsby's workload will increase.