ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The chance to play on national television in the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout gives the University of Alaska Anchorage a slam dunk when coaches are selling recruits on the men's basketball program.
It lured Kemmy Burgess from San Diego. Burgess, a junior transfer, joined the Seawolves because he wanted to play in the Shootout, and he can remember watching the tournament on ESPN. Now he'll be one of those guys on TV.
"It's a great opportunity," Burgess told the Anchorage Daily News.
The Seawolves open play in the 26th annual Shootout tonight against Seton Hall in a game that will be televised on ESPN2. It's the third straight year and the sixth in the last 10 years the Seawolves have played on national TV thanks to the Shootout.
Texas State plays Purdue in the second game today. Liberty plays Canisius and Pacific takes on No. 2 Duke on Thursday.
The Seawolves have hope of breaking into the win column this year. They own a 4-3 record against the field, with no games played against Duke or Liberty.
The Seawolves lost in overtime to Seton Hall 67-57 in the 1997 Shootout and since then are 4-14 in the tournament with three sixth-place finishes. The Seawolves are led by Peter Bullock, named to the all-tournament team in the last two Shootouts and its leading scorer and rebounder last year.
Seton Hall opened the season with an 89-62 victory over Morgan State. The Pirates - champs in 1988 - return four starters from last season's 17-13 team, which lost in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Guard Andre Barrett averaged 16.7 points and 5.3 assists last year and has scored in double figures in 39 straight games.
The heavy favorite in the tournament and only nationally ranked team is Duke, which struggled Saturday in its opener at home against Detroit. The Blue Devils fell behind 12-0 and did not take the lead until midway through the second half before prevailing 67-56.
Chris Duhon averaged 9.2 points and 6.4 assists last year. He's the only senior on a team that includes sharp-shooting guard J.J. Redick and freshman Luol Deng, one of the most highly touted players in his class after Lebron James.
Duke won the Shootout in 1995 and was runner-up to Cincinnati in 1998.
Duke faces Pacific, which defeated San Jose State 76-65 in overtime in its home opener. Pacific finished 12-16 last year and is led by Swedish import Christian Maraker, who averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 assists and played for his country in the European Championships over the summer.
Purdue won the Shootout in 1993 behind tournament MVP Glenn Robinson. This year they have another big dog - 6-10 forward Chris Booker, who averaged 9.4 points and 5.7 rebounds. He also led the Boilermakers in blocked shots.
Purdue opened the season Sunday with a 66-50 victory over Samford in which Kenneth Lowe, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, scored 20 points.
Purdue faces Texas State, formerly known as Southwest Texas State. The Southland Conference team finished 17-12 last year. Terry Conerway averaged 15 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. The Bobcats cruised by Texas Lutheran 79-39 in their opener Monday.
Canisius of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference finished 10-18 last year. The Golden Griffins nipped crosstown rival Buffalo 60-58 in their opener. Forward Toby Foster returned from a medical redshirt year to score 14 points for the Grifs.
Canisius opens the tournament against Liberty of Lynchburg, Va. The Big South Conference school lost five of its last six games last year to finish 14-15. Guard Gabe Martin was a first-team all-conference selection, averaging 15.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.