GAME OF THE NIGHT: Colorado vs. No. 25 Baylor, 10:00 p.m. (FOX Sports SW)
The nightcap of the Tip-Off Classic at the American Airlines Center in Dallas should end up being the best game of college basketball’s opening night, and while that doesn’t sound like much — the No. 25 team in the country against an unranked team? What? — remember this: people are stupid for not ranking Colorado. Because they at, at worst, the third best team in a very good Pac-12. And Baylor? They’re the third-best team in the Big 12, trailing only two top ten programs.
The Bears have a loaded front line with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, which will give Colorado’s sophomore duo of Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson all they can handle. What will be interesting, however, will be to see how the Bears new point guard Kenny Chery, a promising JuCo transfer, handles being guarded by Spencer Dinwiddie. Stay up for this one. It’ll be worth it.
THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 19 Oregon vs. Georgetown, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Yeah, this game lost some of its luster when Dominic Artis and Ben Carter went and got themselves suspended, but that doesn’t change the intrigue in this matchup. Oregon is a Pac-12 contender when they’re at full strength, and even with the suspensions, we’ll be getting our first look at Mike Moser and Joseph Young in green and yellow. The Hoyas have their own story line, as the always-out-of-shape Josh Smith looks to resurrect his career under John Thompson III.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Oakland at No. 12 North Carolina, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
I’m on record saying that I remain unconvinced of the Tar Heels being a top 15 team this season. I don’t think they have enough point guard play and I don’t trust their big men. They’ll also be without P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. Oakland isn’t exactly a powerhouse mid-major program this season, but they do have a young man by the name of Travis Bader who is on the brink of breaking J.J. Redick’s career three-point mark. Both of these teams LOVE to run the floor, which means that you need to hammer the over. Hammer it. And thank me later.
MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Louisiana Tech at St. Mary’s, 11:30 p.m.
Randy Bennett seems to lose a superstar every year, and the Gaels never miss a beat. So I’m probably not as concerned about the loss of Matthew Dellavedova as I should be. Stephen Holt will get first crack at point guard duties, and his matchup won’t be easy. Louisiana Tech is a pressing team, spending 40 minutes dogging opposing ball-handlers for 94 feet. Think VCU. Good luck, Stephen.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1) No. 3 Louisville is the only top ten team that doesn’t take the court tonight. No. 4 Duke hosting Davidson (7:00 p.m., ESPNU) is probably the only team at risk of getting upset.
2) Maryland and No. 18 UConn square off at 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2) at the Barclays Center on Friday night. The Terps will be without starting point guard Seth Allen, but that may be an advantage. UConn’s one of the smallest teams in the country, with little talent up front and diminutive guards in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Maryland will be bigger and more physical at every position.
3) In the most intriguing clash of styles on opening night, St. John’s will take on No. 20 Wisconsin (Big Ten, 7:00 p.m.) in South Dakota. The Johnnies have a ton of talent and athleticism and some very good guards, but they are young and, frankly, it will be interesting to see if Steve Lavin can coach them. Bo Ryan’s club is typical Wisconsin with one notable exception: Sam Dekker is an all-american caliber talent.
Worth noting: the nightcap on the Big Ten Network will be Florida-Gulf Coast (#DunkCity!!!) tripping to Nebraska to open the Huskers new arena.
4) Two intriguing local battles: At 6:00 p.m., Providence and Boston College square off in a battle of two New England programs looking to make a push for the NCAA tournament. Weber State and BYU square off at 9:05 p.m. (BYUtv). Weber State is the favorite in the Big Sky, sending Davion Berry to matchup with scoring machine Tyler Haws.
5) Belmont visits Lipscomb in the Battle of the Boulevard at 7:00 p.m. Casey Alexander spent two decades as a player and coach at Belmont, Lipscomb’s hated rival. This is the first time he’ll be coaching against former mentor Rick Byrd.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- UNC-Asheville at No. 1 Kentucky, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
- McNeese State at No. 2 Michigan State, 7:00 p.m.
- UL Monroe at No. 5 Kansas, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Cal Poly at No. 6 Arizona, 10:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
- UMass Lowell at No. 7 Michigan, 7:00 p.m.
- Cornell at No. 8 Syracuse, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Mississippi Valley State at No. 8 Oklahoma State, 8:00 p.m.
- North Florida at No. 10 Florida, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Illinois State at No. 14 VCU, 7:00 p.m.
- Southern at No. 17 Marquette, 8:00 p.m.
- Miami (OH) at No. 21 Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Drexel at No. 22 UCLA, 12:00 a.m. (Pac-12)
- James Madison at No. 24 Virginia, 7:00 p.m.
OTHER NOTABLE GAMES
- Alabama vs. Oklahoma, 5:00 p.m. (FOX Sports SW)
- TCU vs. SMU, 7:30 p.m. (FOX Sports SW)
- Mercer at Texas, 8:00 p.m. (Longhorn Network)
- Buffalo at Texas A&M, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)