Well, now that the snooze fest that is college basketball’s opening weekend is now over, the real fun can begin. Some of the opening weekend “highlights” included Utah Valley and Vermont both giving Kentucky scares, Coach K winning his 1,000th game, and Boeheim coaching against his son. It can be hard to get college basketball fans to tune in before March with this type of opening weekend but fear not, this week is sizing up to be a good one. Let’s start with the matchups of all matchups.
Champions Classic, Tuesday, 7 ET
-Four of the top five teams in the country go head to head in Chicago as #1 Duke faces #2 Michigan State and #4 Kansas faces #5 Kentucky. Duke and Michigan State will get things started and it will be interesting to see if Duke can matchup with the depth of Michigan State. The Spartans can go two deep at nearly every position while Duke’s bench is somewhat of a question mark heading into the season. However, Duke’s starting five is the best in the country as they have the ability to hurt you on the inside and outside. Grayson Allen is off to a hot start to the season as he hit 10 of his 15 three-point attempts in his first two games. And on the inside freshman Marvin Bagley is looking dominant in his first two games, averaging 24.5 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. He’ll face his first true test in the season in Michigan State’s big men Jaren Jackson and Nick Ward. As for the Spartans, they’re led by superstar sophomore Miles Bridges who put up 20 points and 10 rebounds in his first game of the year. He should be a matchup problem for the Blue Devils with his size and speed. In the second game, the Kansas Jayhawks square off against a shaky and unproven Kentucky team. The Wildcats are still trying to find their identity as they once again play seven freshmen in their rotation. As for the Jayhawks, they will look to exploit the young team with their experience led by senior DeVonte Graham, who in his first game as a true point guard for Kansas, dished out 12 assists. Both of these games feature a lot of talent and should be fun.
College of Charleston at #7 Wichita State, Monday, 9 ET
-Wichita State is a team that has enough talent that could get them to the Final Four. Unfortunately for them, not all of that talent is healthy right now. Junior guard Marcus McDuffie was the team’s leading scorer last season but he is out for the forseeable future with a foot injury. They still return plenty of talent including NBA prospect sophomore guard Landry Shamet. As for College of Charleston, they return their entire rotation from last season including senior guard Joe Chealey who averaged 17.8 points per game last season. This is a team that can lock you up on the defensive end, they allowed just 64.6 points per game last season which was good for 27th in the nation. If Chealey can get going, this could be a tough matchup for Wichita State.
Creighton at #19 Northwestern, Wednesday, 9 ET
-This game features two phenomenal backcourts going head to head. For the road team, Creighton is led by senior guard Marcus Foster and junior guard Khyri Thomas. Both of these guards can fill up the scoring sheet in a hurry and score in a variety of ways. Northwestern has two very difference guards in seniors Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey. McIntosh is a pure point guard who runs the offense for the Wildcats while Lindsey is the off-ball guard who looks to score first. Neither guard is a huge threat from the perimeter but both can score a plenty. The x-factor in this one will be Northwestern junior forward Vic Law. Law is a versatile wing who will create matchup problems for Creighton.
Early Season Tournaments, Thursday through Sunday
-A few early season tournaments get underway on Thursday. While none of these tournaments features more than one team currently ranked in the Top 25, there are still some good teams and some potentially intriguing matchups. In the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which was actually moved to South Carolina due to the Summer hurricanes, Boise State is coming off a 20 win season and they return their top two leading scorers. They could face a South Carolina team in the semi-finals who is still trying to find their identity after their trip to the Final Four last season. In the Charleston Classic, this tournament features an Indiana State team that defeated Indiana in Bloomington in their opener and a Temple squad that returns four of their top five scorers from last season and is a dark horse pick in the AAC. In the 2k Classic, a potential Virginia Tech-Providence matchup in the finals awaits, two teams right on the verge of the top 25. And in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, a potential matchup between the aforementioned Northwestern Wildcats and a solid Texas Tech team that returns four of its top six leading scorers including one of the best big men in the Big 12 in senior forward Zach Smith. While none of these tournaments feature headline grabbing matchups or teams like next week’s tournaments do, it does give you an excuse to watch college basketball at 1:00 on a Thursday which is never a bad thing.