Fantastic First Day Games

7 Nov

Once again in what seems to be a recurring pattern every November, the first day of the college basketball slate is loaded with intriguing games.  Tomorrow the ball goes in the air for real and in addition to the debuts of Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and yet another heralded freshmen class at Kentucky, here are ten first-day games to watch:

Connecticut vs. Maryland 6:30pm

Now eligible for the post-season Kevin Ollie and his Huskies look to start the 2013-14 campaign with a win over Maryland.  All-American candidate Shabazz Napier leads a team with plenty of athleticism including the likes of Ryan Boatright, Omar Calhoun and DeAndre Daniels battle a Maryland team looking to replace NBA lottery pick Alex Len.  The Terrapins are young and should be led by guard Dez Wells and Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz.

Oregon vs. Georgetown 8:00pm

Like Maryland, Georgetown has to replace a lottery pick of its own in Otto Porter, Jr., the guard tandem of Markel Starks and sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera should make that transition easier.  In the middle the Hoyas have senior Nate Lubick and UCLA transfer Josh Smith should be a big boost provided he can stay on the floor.  The Ducks have a guard tandem of their own in sophomores Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson.  For a 2nd year in a row coach Dana Altman welcomes an impact graduate student transfer, this time UNLV’s Mike Moser joins the Ducks.

Wisconsin vs. St. John’s 7:00pm

Wisconsin rarely seems to have what people consider elite talent, but if there is a coach that gets more out of his players than Bo Ryan, point him out and expect it to happen again in Madison.  Seniors Ben Brust and Zach Bohannon join juniors Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson who got a ton of experience last year when Josh Gasser was lost for the season before it even started.  Gasser returns to man the point and sophomore Sam Dekker should get better and better.  The Redstorm are a team to keep an eye on in the new Big East.  Steve Lavin may have the most talent he has had in his stint at the school. With just one freshman on the roster and senior God’sgift Achiuwa and juniors Sir’Dominic Pointer, D’Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene leading the way for talented sophomores Jakarr Sampson and Chris Obekpa, the Johnies are looking for a return to the NCAA Tournament and face a stiff first test.

UCLA vs. Drexel 12:00am

Shabazz Muhammad is gone, but a shiny new coach in New Mexico’s Steve Alford arrives to lead the Bruins.  The Wear twins (David and Travis) enter their senior seasons manning the middle but look for sophomore Tony Parker to see an increased role on the interior.  Sophomores Jordan Adams and point-forward Kyle Anderson should lead the way offensively.    Drexel had high expectations in the Colonial last season but fell flat on them,  those expectations were renewed somewhat when senior guard Chris Fouch was granted a 6th year of eligibility.  Fouch returns to team with fellow senior Frantz Massenat and leading scorer Damion Lee for a lethal three-guard attack.  On the inside senior big man Dartaye Ruffin is the team’s best returning rebounder at 6.8 per game.

Virginia vs. James Madison 7:00pm

The Cavaliers are looking to make the jump to the upper levels of the ACC, a jump that has a few more hurdles with the additions of Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh to the conference.  Virginia returns a couple of potential All-Conference candidates, led by Joe Harris who should be a first-team lock and don’t be surprised if fellow senior Akil Mitchell becomes a double-double machine.  Sophomore big man Mike Tobey had a solid first season and could become even more of a force this year.  James Madison returns two of the pieces that helped the school score its first NCAA Tournament win in over 30 years in sophomore guards Charles Cooke and Andre Nation who combined for 29 pts, 12 rebs and six assists in a win over Long Island.

Baylor vs. Colorado 10:00pm

Baylor must replace point guard Pierre Jackson and bring in junior college transfer Kenny Chery to take the reins.  Chery will have plenty of experience to help ease the transition, both senior guards Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin return.  In the frontcourt Cory Jefferson and sophomore standout Isaiah Austin return and coach Scott Drew got an early Christmas present when Denver transfer Royce O’Neale was ruled eligible for this season.  Colorado may not get some of the pub other teams in the Pac-12 get, but they sure are one of the conference’s better teams.  Juniors Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie man the back court while sophomores Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson should get plenty of help from incoming freshmen Wesley Gordon, Chris Jenkins and George King.

Providence vs. Boston College 6:00pm

This is a battle between former Big Easy foes that are good bets to improve, and perhaps a lot this year.  The Eagles return their two best players and two of the more underrated players on the east coast in sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan and junior forward Ryan Anderson who combined for 30.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.  A lot of people are impressed with the work Ed Cooley has done at Providence and rightly so.  The Friars return four of their top five scorers Kris Dunn and Bryce Cotton  return to handle the ball for the Friars and Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton will be two anchors in the frontcourt for a Providence team hoping to make the jump to the NCAA Tournament after a trip to the NIT Quarterfinals last year.

Nebraska vs. Florida Gulf Coast 8:00pm

The Cornhuskers may struggle to compete again in the Big Ten only returning two of their top six scorers from last season.  The darlings of the last March have a new coach in former Kansas assistant Joe Dooley.  They also return four of their top five scorers from their magical run, senior forward Chase Fieler is joined by three juniors, Eric McKnight, Bernard Thompson and Brett Comer.  Will the Eagles still be flying high?

Utah State vs. USC 9:00pm

The architect of Dunk City at Florida Gulf Coast Andy Enfield has moved his high flying act to USC but he may find out that at least to start things won’t be as hunky dory as they were for him in the Sunshine State.  The Trojans return just three of their top eight producers from last year’s 14-win team, the good news for Enfield is two of them are seniors; J.T. Terrell and Omar Oraby.  Also available to help the Trojans will be Maryland transfer Pe’Shon Howard who is eligible to play right away.  Coach Stew Morrill and his Utah State Aggies arrive in the Mountain West after a 21 win swan song in the WAC.  They also arrive with six of their top seven scorers from that team, four of which are seniors led by guard Preston Medlin.  Sophomore Marcel Davis and junior Danny Berger also bring their 14.7 pts, 5.7 rebs and 5.5 asts from last season to the Aggies’ attack.

St. Mary’s vs. Louisiana Tech 11:30pm

Life without Matthew Dellavedova begins for Randy Bennett and the Gaels.  Forwards Beau Levesque and Brad Waldow and guard Stephen Holt do return to give St. Mary’s a foundation on which they can compete with in the West Coast Conference.  Louisiana Tech had a mini collapse at the end of last season, after starting 26-3 they lost four of their last five, missed the NCAAs and fell in the 2nd round of the NIT to now conference foe Southern Mississippi despite winning a school-record 27 games, the Bulldogs have a foul taste in their mouths.  La Tech was 44th in the country in scoring last season despite having just one player in double figures, guard Raheem Appleby.  Appleby returns along with eight of his team mates who averaged at least 9.5 minutes per game last season.



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