Games to Watch: Week 1
SFA @ Kentucky
November 11, 6pm
First day of college basketball and we already have a great game. Kentucky won’t have a cakewalk with their home opener. SFA showed the nation last season that they can hang with the big dogs. Going to the second round of the tournament beating West Virginia 70-56 and losing in one of the most memorable games in a 1-point loss against Norte Dame. SFA did lose Coach Brad Underwood, who left for Oklahoma State, so taking over is Coach Kyle Keller from Texas A&M. This is a big first test for the Lumberjacks as they go against the #2 Wildcats with all eyes on Freshman Malik Monk. This is a game I will definitely have recorded and ready to watch with my popcorn.
Arizona vs Michigan State
November 11, 6pm
If you don’t feel like watching that first game and want to see two heavyweights going at it in Hawaii, then this is the game for you. With Denzel Valentine gone, Tom Izzo will now look for some new guys to go to like Miles Bridges, Kenny Goins and Nick Ward. What worries me for this team is what Tom Izzo and his Spartans are known for defense and toughness. With Deyonta Davis in the NBA now, their replacement for him is graduate transfer Ben Carter from UNLV. They will know to find that new rim protector that they always seem to have. Izzo will gives his bigs chances to prove their worth against Sean Miller and his Wildcats. The Wildcats will be led by sophomore guard Allonzo Trier, who averaged 15 a game last season. The biggest question for this team is: Can they win against top tier teams? They always come with talented recruiting classes but can’t ever seem to pull it together when it counts. I’m excited to see this game.
Indiana vs Kansas
November 11, 8pm
If you’re watching Arizona vs Michigan State, you might as well stick around for this game cause its right after that game in Hawaii. Kansas has some of the best guards in college basketball in Frank Mason and Devonte Graham. I see them just moving the ball a lot and not just feeding the posting and letting him work. For Indiana it’s going to be weird for me to watch them without Yogi Ferrell. They will be looking for that new floor general that Ferrell did so well in his years for the Hoosiers, but Tom Crean did do a good job of recruiting. I think Jay Bilas said it best “There’s not somebody like Yogi Ferrell that you can just give the ball to and that person is going to run everything. Their point guard is going to have to be by committee, where they can pass the ball ahead. The ball can’t just stick in one guy’s hands and have him run everything. It looks like they’re doing a good job of that. Along with that comes issues of turnovers. As simplistic as it sounds, passing and catching is going to be a big deal and making sure they don’t cough the ball up and put their defense in a bad spot.”
Villanova at Purdue
November 14, 6pm
The Reigning champs are back. Now with Arcidiacono gone, Jalen Brunson, who started 39 of Villanova’s 40 games last year will be handed the keys to this offense for Villanova. Along with the loss of guys like Darrun Hilliard, Jayvaughn Pinkston, and Daniel Ochefu, they will need others to step up this year. Starting in the frontcourt, Pinkston and Ochefu dominated the minutes down low averaging 26 and 24 minutes a game.
Purdue’s loss of one of the best rim protectors in college basketball, AJ Hammons, hurts along with the loss of Raphael Davis, an elite defender. However, if Caleb Swanigan becomes the player everyone projected him to be and if Isaac Haas can step up, the front court will be solid. Along with the transfer of Spike Albrecht and if Vince Edwards can produce well as a scorer the Boilermakers could be the dark horse in the Big Ten this year.
Wisconsin @ Creighton
November 15, 7:30
For the Badgers, it’s all eyes on Nigel Hays because he will take Wisconsin as far as he wants them to. I see this team being in the running for the Big 10 championship title with Michigan State as the prime competitor. Also, Ethan Happ is an elite rim protector who averaged 12 points 8 rebounds a game as a freshman. This team is young but still experienced. Very excited to see this team work this season.
Maurice Watson Jr., Isaiah Zierden and Marcus Foster are the main playmakers for this Blue Jay team. After losing Geoffery Groselle and James Milliken, they will need last year’s redshirt freshman Justin Patton to fuel this team and add a dynamic this team needed last season. The key to this team’s success is their backcourt. They are an elite squad in the Big East led by Watson Jr and Foster who averaged nearly 30 points per game. Don’t be surprised to see this team make a big leap into contention when it comes down to it.