It's been nearly half-a-year since we've had college basketball or really any basketball at all for that matter. Well, no worries NBA, the NCAA college basketball season tips off with six teams in action in the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. We get a fresh look at the newly formed Pac-12 favorites, the Arizona Wildcats, without last season's star in Derrick Williams as they take on first-year head coach Bryce Drew at Valparaiso. After some early-season struggles a year ago with a seemingly all-senior led team, Steve Lavin and the St. John's Red Storm have just nine players on their roster, including seven faces (five freshmen and two junior college transfers). They will have their hands full with a William & Mary squad with four starters returning, including Quinn McDowell a pre-season first-team CAA pick. The final game of the first day of college basketball brings forth the Mississippi State Bulldogs, featuring a troubled, yet talented duo in forward Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost, but also the team-debut of UTEP-transfer Arnett Moultrie. Let's see if Coach Rick Stansbury can keep him team in like this year.
Two of the same teams are in action again on Wednesday as Arizona takes on Duquesne and St. John's has Lehigh at home. Under a new head coach Billy Kennedy (and due to Kennedy being diagnosed with Parkinson's associate head coach Glynn Cyprien will coach the team), the Texas A&M Aggies and forward Khris Middleton tip-off against Liberty.
But where it all gets started, the main course after two nights of appetizer games is Friday. The end of the week brings 19 of the country's Top 25 teams, including the showcase Carrier Classic of No. 1 North Carolina against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, not just on a neutral court, but on the USS Carl Vinson docked in the San Diego Bay with a temporary basketball arena on its flight deck.
With 51 more games schedules for the Saturday slate, there are 183 contests to sit down on the couch, order another beer at the bar and scout the next great player.
Games of the Week
Oregon at No. 7 Vanderbilt
Saturday, November 12 at 10 PM
It seemed like a dead-lock for North Carolina-Michigan State Carrier Classic to be the Game of the Week, but in the inaugural week of the season, with so many warm-up games, we figured it couldn't hurt to have two games to watch. Out of the SEC, Vanderbilt has earned some votes for a Final Four favorite with five starters returning from a 23-win team, including three all-league caliber players- John Jenkins, Jeff Taylor and Festus Ezeli. However, big man Ezeli was suspended the first six games of the season and will miss additional weeks with a knee injury. Oregon, a surprise by many to finish with 21 wins and a CBI championship a year ago under Dana Altman, feature freshman scoring sensation Jabari Brown, wing E.J. Singler and two frontcourt transfers (Olu Ashaolu, Tony Woods) to give this Ducks team a chance of upsetting the Commodores.
No. 1 North Carolina at Michigan State
Saturday, November 12 at 7 PM
No matter where this game was played, it would have been one of the must-watch games of the first week, but the fact that it's being played on the USS Carl Vinson makes it that much more necessary to watch. North Carolina, the top team in all of the land has a scary-good frontcourt with three potential All-Americans and a backcourt that has seemingly flown under the radar, overshadowed by their forwards. Kendall Marshall will push the pace against his Michigan State counterpart Keith Appling who also loves to get out in transition.
Matchup To Watch:
Draymond Green (Michigan State) vs. Harrison Barnes (North Carolina)
In Game of the Week Part II, North Carolina against Michigan State, the matchup to watch is at the small forward position when likely top two or three pick Harrison Barnes takes on Draymond Green from the Spartans. Long and athletic, Barnes came into college with as much hype as anyone before, was a surprise to return to the Tar Heels after pulling together everything down the stretch (20 points, 6.7 rebounds, 37 percent from 3 in the final 12 games). On the other side of the floor, Green uses his body as much as Barnes relies on his athleticism. At 6'7", 230 pounds of muscle, Green is as versatile as they come, averaging 12.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per game last season. Both will be the keys to the offense in this up-tempo game.