College Basketball Tipoff Friday: Top 10 games
College basketball is back! And it’s back in a big way, tonight, with 163 games. Those games include 21 ranked teams, and every team in the AP Top 10, with the exception of No. 8 Florida. Friday’s college basketball tipoff also includes a Top 25 matchup in the ESPN Armed Forces Classic from Germany. Here is my Top 10 list of games to keep an eye on from opening day in college basketball…
Savannah State at #12 Cincinnati (12pm ET)
What’s interesting to keep an eye on this year for the Cincinnati Bearcats is they will not be playing their home games in their home arena. Their on-campus venue, Fifth Third Arena, is getting an $87 million renovation this year. The Bearcats actually won’t even be playing their home games in the state of Ohio. They will temporarily be playing home games this year at Northern Kentucky’s BB&T Arena. Savannah State does return 10 players but will have their hands full with the Bearcats, and sophomore guard Jarron Cumberland.
#25 Texas A&M vs #11 West Virginia (6pm ET)
This is part of the annual ESPN Armed Forces Classic from abroad. This year the game will be broadcast from Ramstein Air Force Base in Ramstein, Germany. These two teams played last season in the BIG12/SEC Challenge, and West Virginia won 81-77, in West Virginia. The Mountaineers will be led by seniors Javon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. Keep an eye on two freshmen that are most likely to start for the Aggies this season, Savion Flagg and JayJay Chandler.
Memphis vs Alabama (6:30pm ET)
This is not a must watch game between highly ranked schools, but it is an intriguing first game of the year for both schools. Memphis is a basketball tradition rich school that is down as far as they’ve been since the Tic Price era of the late 90’s. They now have a Hall-of-Fame coach in Tubby Smith who is trying to turn it around. On the other side, Avery Johnson is finally trying to turn the corner this year and lift his team to the NCAA Tournament, after a disappointing first round NIT loss last season. This game is part of the Veterans Classic from Annapolis, Maryland.
Northern Iowa at #9 North Carolina (7pm ET)
This will be the third straight year these schools have played. The series started off November 21st, 2015, with a 71-67 Northern Iowa upset over then No. 1 Tar Heels. This shows that the Panthers are capable of beating North Carolina. This year will be quite the test however. The good news for Panthers fans is that Roy Williams will be juggling lineups and trying to figure out his team’s chemistry without Joel Berry, who broke his hand in a fierce NBA 2K18 battle last month.
Indiana State at Indiana (7pm ET)
The Archie Miller era officially kicks off with state rival Indiana State. Miller will be earning his pay-check this year trying to find the pieces, then put them together. A new coach, and a new system, for the team that led the BIG10 in turnovers last season. Miller and the Hoosiers will rely heavily on senior guard Robert Johnson, and sophomore guard Devonte Green. The Indiana State Sycamores have had great seasons in the last few years, but last year was not one of them as they finished 11-20. ISU’s head coach Greg Lansing’s success this season may be determined by how well sophomore guard Jordan Barnes steps into the team leader role, and continues to blossom as a scorer.
South Carolina at Wofford (7pm ET)
In case you forgot, the South Carolina Gamecocks were in the Final Four several months ago. The Gamecocks lost a lot of talent, however, off that squad. Sindarius Thornwell, P.J. Dozier, and Duane Notice are all gone. The Gamecocks will have to lean heavily on a couple of four-star recruits to fill that void from last year’s Final Four Squad. David Beatty and Ibrahim Doumbia will both get significant minutes this year. This matchup is intriguing because South Carolina is opening up the season on the road for the first time since 2005. Another reason to watch this matchup is because Wofford has had success the last few years playing tough on the road against bigger schools. Even further, the Terriers open up a brand new 3,400 seat facility, the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium. Better believe that place will be rocking!
Ball State at Dayton (7pm ET)
This matchup intrigues me because both schools are basketball schools, they are ranked roughly in the same tier to start the season, and they are only separated by 90 miles. University of Dayton Arena is one the highest attended arenas in college basketball. They love their college hoops. The Flyers are also riding a four-year NCAA Tournament birth streak. They do however have a brand new head coach, Anthony Grant, who is replacing Archie Miller. Ball State has a lot of guards that shoot the three, while Dayton may use a more interior style against the Cardinals this Friday night. Dayton is 2-0 all-time versus Ball State.
North Florida at #2 Michigan State (8pm ET)
OK, so this may not be a great matchup, or a competitive game. But one of the very best players in the land will be showcased, Miles Bridges. Tom Izzo hit a home run twice with Bridges, once to land him as a recruit, twice to keep him another year at Michigan State. On top of Bridges, the Spartans have one of the best freshmen in the land, 6’11 forward Jaren Jackson, who some believe may end up being a better NBA prospect than Bridges. Not a bad problem to have if you’re Tom Izzo. It’s a Final Four or bust type of season for Michigan State. I’ll tell you now before the first game tips off, you’ll want to have Sparty in your Final Four when filling out your bracket this year.
Iowa State at Missouri (9pm ET)
This is a Top 40 caliber matchup. This is a 8/9 seed opening round NCAA Tournament caliber matchup. It also features two NBA lottery picks in Iowa State’s Lindell Wigginton, and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. Wigginton is a true freshman point guard who is going to be asked to lead the Cyclones from day one, in a hostile environment in Colombia. Porter is a 6’10 power forward that will be a high lottery pick in next year’s NBA Draft. Steve Prohm’s Cyclones are used to success as of late and Missouri’s first year head coach has already turned the Tigers program around with an outstanding recruiting class. It’s going to be fun watching these two high major programs go at it with a couple of future NBA stars on the floor.
Georgia Tech vs #21 UCLA (11:30pm ET)
Well this game just got a lot more interesting. With the news this week of three UCLA players being arrested in China for shoplifting, it’s unsure who exactly might play for the Bruins this Friday night. The middle Ball brother, LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley were arrested for shoplifting in Hangzhou, China, ahead of the teams game against Georgia Tech this Friday night. Those players are facing a house arrest situation, will not be playing in the contest against Georgia Tech, may not be permitted to return to China, and face suspension or dismissal from the UCLA basketball program. In a week that Josh Pastner was named in an improper benefits scandal, the Yellow Jackets may end up with a chance of beating the No. 21 ranked team in the country. What a way to close out the opening day of college hoops.
Brandon Reid covers NCAA Basketball for MyFantasySportsTalk.com | Follow him on Twitter @New_Breid
He is from Memphis and graduated from Arkansas State University with a degree in broadcast journalism. He loves the Memphis Tigers, Grizzlies, Titans, and Arkansas State Red Wolves.
“I promise to bring information, insight, and strong opinion. Let the debate begin.”
You can follow Brandon on Twitter @New_Breid