On November 9th the ball goes in the air popping the top on yet another glorious season of college basketball. The first couple of weeks are usually littered with lopsided mismatches without a lot of intrigue. This opening night however is a little different with a handful of games that should pique the interest of many:
Lehigh vs. Baylor: This is not only a marquee battle of perspective conference favorites; Lehigh in the Patriot League and Baylor looking to finally unseat Kansas in the Big 12. It is a battle of senior point guards, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum who scored 30 points in a second round upset of #2 seed Duke last March and then decided against the NBA draft and Baylor’s Pierre Jackson whose floor leadership brought the Bears within a game of the Final Four, falling to National Champion Kentucky. Watching these two go head-to-head is certainly an opening night treat.
Alabama vs. South Dakota State: Alabama returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2012 but ran into Doug McDermott and Creighton in the second round falling 58-57. The Crimson Tide and its junior guard Trevor Releford open the 2012-13 campaign against another potent scorer in South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters who finished 9th in the country and scoring (21.3ppg). Wolters , who caught the nation’s eye in a nationally televised 22 point, 6 rebound, 8 assist effort in a 21-point win over Buffalo on Bracket Buster Saturday. With the graduation of Alabama’s JaMychal Green and South Dakota State’s Griffin Callahan you can look for Releford and Wolters to shoulder even more of the load for their respective teams this season.
Maryland vs. Kentucky: Not only is this opening night for the defending National Champs, it is also the debut of John Calipari’s latest crop of Kentucky Blue Bloods headed by Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress. They face a Maryland team looking to continue its resurgence in the ACC thanks to sophomore guard Nick Faust and the hopeful return of Junior forward Pe’Shon Howard who missed much of last season after tearing an ACL. While an upset may not be in the cards for Mark Turgeon’s young Terrapins, it will be a good early litmus test.
North Texas vs. Creighton: Some are touting Creighton as a preseason top 25 team and they start off with a tough test. A match up of star 6-8 forwards; North Texas’s dynamic Tony Mitchell and Creighton’s National Player of the Year Doug McDermott who finished 3rd in the country in scoring (23.1 ppg). Mitchell averaged a double-double in his freshman campaign, the only freshman in the country to do so. McDermott is hoping to lead the Bluejays to a better finish in the NCAA Tournament than the 3rd round defeat to North Carolina they suffered last season.
The next three games all have something in common; they will take place on the decks of really big boats.
Ohio State vs. Marquette: On a ship docked off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, DeShaun Thomas and Aaron Craft will lead the Buckeyes in an opening night battle against Marquette’s own guard/forward combo of Vander Blue and Davante Gardner.
Georgetown vs. Florida: This game will take place off the coast of Jacksonville, FL and will feature an interesting matchup of power forwards. Georgetown’s young emerging star Sophomore Otto Porter who becomes the face of the 2012 Hoyas and Florida’s Will Yeguete who missed the SEC Tournament and the NCAA due to a concussion. Yeguete should add to a solid Gator frontcourt that boasts Patric Young and Erik Murphy.
San Diego State vs. Syracuse:* (Postponed due to weather) On the deck of the retired USS Midway in San Diego Syracuse, coming off an Elite 8 run takes the court with Brandon Triche and his young sophomore backcourt mate the 6’5 smooth-passing Michael Carter-Williams to take on a San Diego State team that despite a 2nd round loss to NC State in the NCAA Tournament finished last season with 26 wins and a 6 seed. The Aztecs return everyone of significance from that team including a backcourt of Senior Chase Tapley and Junior star Jamal Franklin.
There are some opening night duds as there always will be, but there are also a few games that are if shined right could be gems on the first night of college hoops in 2012-13.