The Best Games Of College Basketball’s Opening Weekend

Photo: Daily Camera

College basketball’s opening day is finally here. It should be a great weekend, so here are 11 games you should look out for.

 

1. Colorado @ Baylor, Friday at 10 p.m. ET

Colorado checked in at No. 20 in The Catch and Shoot’s preseason rankings, and Baylor opens at No. 25 in the AP poll. Both teams have the potential to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament in March.

Photo: Daily Camera
Photo: Daily Camera

Colorado has one of the best players in the Pac-12 with Spencer Dinwiddie, and sophomore forwards Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott will turn a lot of heads as they take on larger roles for the Buffaloes.

Baylor has a stacked frontcourt with Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson, Rico Gathers, and Taurean Prince, a group that should carry the Bears to a top three finish in the Big 12.  They graduated star guards Pierre Jackson, though, so this will be the first time we see his replacement, junior college transfer Kenny Chery.

 

2. Georgetown vs. Oregon, Friday at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

Oregon is ranked No. 19 in the AP Top 25 and Georgetown was receiving some votes. Plus, they game will have an additional attractive element as it will be played in South Korea for this year’s Armed Forces Classic.

The Ducks will be without sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter, who are suspended for selling team gear in violation of NCAA rules. Mike Moser, Jason Calliste, and Joseph Young, three high-quality transfers, will carry a larger load until Artis and Carter return.

Georgetown won the Big East last season and returns four starters, but the loss of Otto Porter, a do-it-all small forward, leaves the Hoyas’ with big shoes to fill. Point guard Markel Starks will take on a larger role this year as the team’s star.

 

3. St. John’s vs. Wisconsin, Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET on Big 10 Network

Wisconsin lost three starters, but the Badgers always wind up being one of the best teams in the Big Ten. With Ben Brust, Sam Dekker, and Traevon Jackson returning, Bo Ryan’s club could reasonably be considered a preseason top-15 team.

St. John’s received three votes in the AP Top 25 and has received some hype as a possible NCAA tournament team. The Red Storm returns all of its starters and adds five-star recruit Rysheed Jordan. Wisconsin is one of two top-25 opponents on their schedule, and a win on Friday would be a marquee victory to start off the year.

 

4. Boston College @ Providence, Friday at 6 p.m. ET

Boston College and Providence are in similar positions in the ACC and Big East, respectively. Both are middle-of-the-pack teams in their leagues, and a 2014 NCAA Tournament berth is realistic if things work out this winter.

The Eagles return all their noteworthy players and add Notre Dame transfer Alex Dragicevich, and the Friars return Kris Dunn, Kadeem Batts, and LaDontae Henton. They will be shorthanded against Boston College, though, as freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock were suspended indefinitely on Wednesday.

 

5. Manhattan @ La Salle, Saturday at 2:00 p.m. ET

La Salle is one of the favorites in the Atlantic 10, and Manhattan was picked to the MAAC. The Explorers, who received an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament last season, return six of their top seven scorers. Although leading scorer Ramon Galloway graduated, guards Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland are ready to pick up the slack.

Manhattan returns its top six scorers and adds fifth-year senior George Beamon and Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey. Beamon missed all but four games last season with an injury, and this will be his first time on the court since December 2, 2012. When he is at 100%, he is one of the nation’s best scorers.

 

6. Connecticut vs. Maryland, Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Connecticut opens the season at No. 18 in the AP Top 25 and was one of the first team’s excluded from The Catch and Shoot’s preseason Top 25. The Huskies have the potential player of the year in the American in point guard Shabazz Napier, a senior who averaged 17.1 points and 4.6 assists last season.

Maryland played in the NIT and is still looking for its first NCAA tournament bid since 2010. Dez Wells and Nick Faust are back for the Terrapins, and sophomore Jake Layman is expected to have a breakout season.

 

7. Louisiana Tech @ St. Mary’s, Friday at 11:30 p.m. ET

Louisiana Tech is the favorite to win Conference USA in its first season as members, and St. Mary’s is always a competitive mid-major.

Louisiana Tech returns four starters from a team that spent some time nationally ranked while St. Mary’s needs a new leader after the loss of star point guard Matthew Dellavedova. The Gaels will look to seniors Stephen Holt and Beau Levesque and junior Brad Waldow to keep them in the WCC title race this season.

 

8. Drexel @ UCLA, Saturday at 12:00 a.m. ET

Drexel was one of the more disappointing mid-majors last season, but the Dragons should be back at the top of the CAA this year with three of their top four scorers returning. They also bring back sixth-year senior Chris Fouch, a scoring guard who played in only three games last season and received a medical redshirt.

UCLA cracked The Catch and Shoot’s top 15 teams in the preseason. This will be the Bruins’ first game under new head coach Steve Alford, who compiled a 155-52 record in six seasons at New Mexico.

 

9. New Mexico State vs. Western Michigan, Saturday at 1:30 a.m. ET

New Mexico State begins its quest for a third straight NCAA tournament appearance against Western Michigan in Honolulu. The Aggies return leading scorer Daniel Mullings and 7-5 sophomore Sim Bhullar.

Western Michigan has the pieces to compete for the MAC title this season. The Broncos return their top two scorers in Shayne Whittington and David Brown.

 

10. Florida Gulf Coast @ Nebraska, Friday at 9 p.m. ET on Big 10 Network

The boys from Dunk City return under new head coach Joe Dooley against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Both teams will be shorthanded, as Eagle forward Eric McKnight is suspended, as are Cornhusker guards Ray Gallegos and Deverell Biggs.

If Florida Gulf Coast is the top-10 mid-major that many college basketball experts are predicting, they should spoil the regular season debut of Pinnacle Bank Arena and bring home a victory.

 

11. Marist @ Stony Brook, Friday at 8:00 p.m. ET

Marist is expected to make a jump in the MAAC standings under new head coach Jeff Bower. The Red Foxes return two all-conference players in Chavaughn Lewis and Adam Kemp.

Stony Brook is still searching for its first-ever NCAA tournament berth, and it returns a potential America East Player of the Year in sophomore forward Jameel Warney.

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