Friday, November 9, 2012

TBI's College Basketball Opening Weekend Viewers' Guide

My job sometimes conflicts with my passion for hoops. During this opening weekend, there are a lot of fun games that I'd like to take in, but I'll be restricted by a need to focus on the football games I'm broadcasting Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Still, there will be a lot of excellent games to check out over the next three days, and it will take a quick remote with fresh batteries to keep up with all of it. Not all are televised, but all should be.

A ranking of the top 10 games this weekend can be found here.

TBI's examination of the best basketball from Friday to Sunday tips off after the jump. (All times Central, since that's the zone in which I live.)

4:00 PM--Lehigh at Baylor (Fox College Sports Central)
Gimme a superb guard matchup any day of the week, especially on opening day. Pierre Jackson and C.J. McCollum won't match up against each other that often, but both are going to put in work to make sure their team gets a resume win.

Baylor's got a major size advantage with bigs like Cory Jefferson, J'mison Morgan and the freshman duo of Isaiah Austin and Ricardo Gathers. Lehigh may actually have the experience advantage, since it returns 80% of the production that took down Duke last March. As we've seen in college ball, though, experience isn't always paramount.

4:30 PM--Michigan State vs. Connecticut (ESPN)
If Lehigh-Baylor stays close, I'll be joining this one in progress. If UConn-Sparty gets out of hand, the visit may be quick. It very well could if the Huskies can't find a way to counteract Michigan State's post duo of Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne. Best of luck to the homecoming Enosch Wolf.

Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright need to avoid bad shots and turnovers. Against a team as talented as Michigan State, that's easier said than done. The Huskies have nothing to look forward to as far as the postseason goes, but if new coach Kevin Ollie can get them to play like they have nothing to lose, perhaps he wins enough games to keep the job.

6:00 PM--Ohio State vs. Marquette (NBC Sports Network)
If the European theater isn't a close enough battle, there's always a naval encounter stateside between the Buckeyes and Golden Eagles on the USS Yorktown. Both teams have something to prove after heavy personnel losses.

Deshaun Thomas is more than willing to replace the scoring lost with the departures of Jared Sullinger and William Buford, and he'd surely be happy doing it by himself. He'll need some help, though. The Buckeye defense will need to help the offense, and if Marquette's guards slip up under the pressure from Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, lots of easy points could be available.

MU's scoring will have to come from previously unheralded sources like Vander Blue, Davante Gardner and Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett. Lockett's at least been a proven producer, with two straight 13-PPG seasons in Tempe.

MISSING at 6:00 PM--Bucknell at Purdue
Perhaps it's better I don't get to see this one live, since I'm highly concerned about the center matchup between the Bison's Mike Muscala and Purdue freshman A.J. Hammons (or the two-headed scrub monster of Sandi Marcius and Travis Carroll).

Muscala's not the kind of talentless ogre that you can just smack around and bank on him missing half his free throws, since he made 85% at the line last season. Both teams have veterans returning, but Purdue's aren't used to being prime-time scorers.

The Boiler freshmen will have to be major keys from the opening tip. Here's hoping Raphael Davis puts a big stamp on this game.

7:05 PM--North Texas at Creighton (not televised)
Points will be scored in this game. Sadly, we won't get to see it unless we pony up straight cash, homie, to

Shame. Tony Mitchell vs. Doug McDermott may be the single best one-on-one matchup we see all year. If both men finish with double-doubles, it should surprise no one. Both guys also have plenty of support, with North Texas packing a loaded backcourt and Creighton bringing McDermott's frontcourt mates Gregory Echenique and Grant Gibbs.

Time to move on before I get too sad about missing this one.

7:15 PM--Denver at Iona (ESPN3)
Iona likes to run your balls off, while Denver's Princeton offense is designed to do anything but. These two teams shot a combined 55% from the floor in their matchup last season.

This one will be on the laptop while one of the others fills the TV.

7:30 PM--Maryland vs. Kentucky (ESPN)
Ever see the '80s teen movie "Secret Admirer"?

Kentucky's recruiting class is Kelly Preston in this movie, the prototypical hot, self-absorbed blonde dreamgirl that was ever-present in those flicks. Maryland's recruiting class may end up like Lori Loughlin, the smart, soulful brunette who's just as cute and a better person in the bargain.

Maryland has better returning talent, but once again, if experience was paramount, we wouldn't have seen Anthony Davis picking confetti out of his unibrow last March (see above). Alex Len and Shaquille Cleare vs. Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein should be a serious heavyweight tag team bout.

Highly doubtful, though, that Maryland has answers for guys like Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin.

8:00 PM--South Dakota State at Alabama (ESPNU)
Florida vs. Georgetown (NBCSN)
Seriously. SDSU is the home of stat-sheet-stuffing stud Nate Wolters and a host of mad bombers. Bama's perimeter defense was one of the best in America last year, and all the Tide's guards and wings are back.

The Jackrabbits took down Washington on the road last season, so if Alabama's crowd takes this one lightly, they may be in for equally rude company.

The alternative is a boat game between another Princeton offense and a team that lives and dies by the jumpshot. Florida could struggle with that, between the outdoor elements and the odd shooting backdrop. Kenny Boynton is usually counted on to score, but for these first few games, he'll be expected to handle a lot of the point guard role.

10:00 PM--Indiana State at UCLA (Fox Sports Net)
The remodeled Pauley Pavilion will be the star of the show, since no one's quite sure if the Bruins will be allowed to suit up Shabazz Muhammad and if Kyle Anderson can lead UCLA. Surely, the Bruins have the talent to defeat the Sycamores, but the tests will get harder. I'm not likely to tune this one in until all the others are over.

1:00 PM--Evansville at Notre Dame (ESPN3)
A shout-out to the wife's alma mater and the Aces' mad gunner, Colt Ryan. He'll drop 40 on someone this season, but it's not likely to be the Irish. Notre Dame's backcourt should be able to control the game with some ease.

2:00 PM--Delaware at LaSalle (not televised)
LaSalle's got a loaded backcourt. Delaware has a strong inside-outside pair in Jamelle Hagins and Devon Saddler. If Explorer forward Jerrell Wright is still hobbled by injury, Hagins could have a strong game and the Blue Hens could take a resume win.

The major hoop schools didn't schedule a lot of great opponents on Saturday, because God forbid anything conflict with the football tailgaters getting 'faced.

Noon--Marshall at Villanova (ESPN3)
Marshall's duo of big man Dennis Tinnon and guard DeAndre Kane are the two best players in this game. Honestly, I'm marking this one down as an upset if Villanova wins.

3:00 PM--Syracuse vs. San Diego State (Fox Sports Net)
Similar to Florida-Georgetown, we have a perimeter-oriented team trying to grapple with the variables inherent to playing on an aircraft carrier. Syracuse's 2-3 zone is hard to shoot over indoors, never mind on a boat.

Unlike Florida, SDSU doesn't have an inside operator the caliber of Patric Young to lean on. The Orange have a trio of big guys to control the paint, and State's experienced returnees haven't had much time in this type of setting.

6:00 PM--Loyola Marymount at SMU (not televised)
SMU's first game under Larry Brown. It'll take time for the rebuilt Mustangs to gel, so Loyola should be able to pull a road win here. It may be one that stands out at season's end if the Lions are competitive in the WCC and SMU gets their act together.

7:00 PM--Loyola (Md.) at Washington (Pac-12 Networks)
I don't have the Pac-12 Network, but of all the games listed here, this may be the least interesting anyway. Washington needs to rebound from getting snubbed hard by the NCAA tournament and replace Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross in the process. Loyola should be favored to make another tournament, and dare we mention again how South Dakota State pissed on the carpets and drank all the beer at the Hec last season?


For once, the NCAA and its member institutions have gotten it right, with everyone hitting the ground the same weekend. Several of these schools also got it right, scheduling interesting games against quality opponents.

Of course, there's also the occasional Indiana vs. Bryant, but that's their problem. Even those pussified Hoosiers will make up for it eventually.

Sorry, what's football again?

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