It’s finally college basketball season. Here’s a primer for this weekend’s best games, bets and what to look forward to next week.
There’s literally only one good thing about the weather becoming colder here in Chicago: It means that college basketball season is getting close. That’s it. Nothing else.
I hate wind. I hate snow. I hate my car turning into a block of ice. I hate having to dress with extra layers. I don’t know why I live here. I need to move. But at least, finally, I can watch some college basketball to help me get over all that impending doom.
Few people can make their wives hate them for staying up late to watch whatever West Coast game is being played on a Tuesday night, but it’s a gift of mine. She hates it and I don’t care. I’m a college basketball junkie, and Friday, Nov. 11 is like Thanksgiving to me (Christmas comes in March).
We’ve got a long way to go before then, and thankfully the Armed Forces Classic provides us basketball fans with a heckuva opening night. So, put on the officially licensed Snuggie of your favorite college basketball team and check out some games you need to watch, wagers you need to make and what to look for next week.
Big Games You Know
College basketball tips off much like college football kicks off. There’s a few high-quality, made-for-TV matchups to go along with blowouts pitting big-name programs against low-level competition. This will never change.
The matchups in Hawaii on Friday night are what the college basketball-loving world will be focused on. The tenth-ranked Arizona Wildcats will face No. 12 Michigan State, followed by No. 3 Kansas taking on No. 11 Indiana. Some top freshmen will be on display, as the Spartans’ Miles Bridges and Josh Langford, Arizona’s Rawle Alkins and Kansas’ Josh Jackson get their first games out of the way.
Sneaky Good Games
Nevada at St. Mary’s (Friday, 11:00 p.m. ET)
St. Mary’s is getting a lot of attention as a potential dark horse to reach the Final Four. Every rotation player returns for a No. 17 Gaels team that won 27 games, shot 40.6 percent from 3-point range and 50.4 percent overall. Emmett Naar and Joe Rahon form one of the nation’s must underrated backcourts.
Opening against Nevada might be a tougher test than the Gaels thought. Coach Eric Musselman turned the Wolf Pack into a 24-win team in his first season after they won nine games in 2014-15, and he has a squad that can compete for a Mountain West title. You’ll hear the name Cameron Oliver mentioned in larger circles before January.
Harvard vs. Stanford (Friday, 11 p.m. ET)
This game is taking place in Shanghai, and I’m sure these two brainiac schools turned the trip into some sort of learning experience. What takes place on the court will be just as intriguing.
Crimson coach Tommy Amaker has a solid group of freshman to complement point guard Siyani Chambers, who missed all of last season because of a torn ACL. He’s started 90 of 92 games in his college career and will be looking to take advantage of Stanford’s weak crop of guards who are going to struggle to shoot the ball.
The Cardinal are favored, but this could be a mild upset.
Chattanooga at North Carolina (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET)
I know, I know. North Carolina at home against a Southern Conference team. I get it. But the Mocs are very, very good and are coming off a 29-win season and NCAA Tournament berth. They did that all without Casey Jones, who injured his ankle and played only eight games after being named last year’s preseason SoCon player of the year.
Tre’ McLean is this season’s conference player of the year, and Chattanooga is poised to surprise some teams come March. Don’t be shocked if the Mocs give the Tar Heels a good game in Chapel Hill on Sunday.
In this section, I’ll pick five games against the spread that I’d put smart money on every Friday. I’ll then keep a running record throughout the season. These picks will consist of games taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here’s what I’ve got for this weekend:
- Kansas (-6) over Indiana
- Nevada (+11.5) over St. Mary’s
- Harvard (+4) over Stanford
- Baylor (-17) over Oral Roberts
- Tulane (+21) over North Carolina
Don’t let the first weekend of college basketball wear you out, because there’s a lot of good action coming up next week. These are some of the best:
- No. 4 Villanova at No. 15 Purdue
- San Diego State at No. 14 Gonzaga
- No. 1 Duke vs. No. 3 Kansas (Champions Classic)
- No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Michigan State (Champions Classic)
- No. 9 Wisconsin at No. 22 Creighton
- No. 5 Oregon at Baylor
- No. 25 Maryland at Georgetown