Best Match Ups During Opening Week of College Basketball


College Basketball begins tonight, but the first week can often be over-hyped, as it consists of many lopsided affairs. A lot of fans look forward to seeing new talent beat up on lesser opponents, but outside that the excitement begins with the championship games of the more prominent preseason tournaments. Don’t sleep on the first week this year however. There are a lot of good games between teams who should be playing come March. Here are eleven games to check out during week one.

Texas A&M vs West Virginia – Friday, November 10th

The season starts off with a Top 25 match up between the SEC and Big 12. Neither team will be at full strength due to suspensions. A&M will be missing future pro Robert Williams and JJ Caldwell and the Mountaineers will be without Esa Ahmad. West Virginia does have Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jevon Carter and Bob Huggins’s defense is always fun to watch. For A&M, you will see a lot of Admon Gilder, DJ Hogg and Paul Davis – their top three scorers from last year. Williams and Ahmad will be huge pieces for their teams this season, but there is plenty of talent without them.

Georgia Tech vs UCLA – Friday, November 10th

This game gained a little traction with the news of three UCLA players caught shoplifting while in China. This game would be great if Josh Okogie wasn’t suspended for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets still have All-ACC second team Ben Lammers, who should have another strong year. For UCLA, you will get your first look at new freshman Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes. Both players are replacing pretty highly touted freshman in their own right. This is a chance for Georgia Tech to get a resume boosting win on day one.

Yale vs Wisconsin – Sunday, November 12th

Yes, I’m including Yale in a best match up blog. Yale will be talented this year. The Bulldogs were a tournament team just two years ago, and could have been one last year if Makai Mason had not injured his foot early in the year. Yale now returns Mason, and three of their top four scorers from last year. Wisconsin will struggle some, but they still have All-American Ethan Happ. Expect this to be close and don’t be surprised if Yale wins.

Minnesota vs Providence – Monday, November 13th

Two of the most under-appreciated coaches in the country. Ed Cooley and Richard Pitino have built two strong teams. Minnesota, ranked 15th in the country, broke onto the scene last season, and return their two best players, Nate Mason and Amir Coffey. The addition of good recruiting class has the Gopher’s sights set on another NCAA tournament bid. The same can be said for Providence. The Friars return All-Big East player Rodney Bullock and are a seasoned club. Just like Minnesota, they have a very talented freshman to add to a deep team in Makai Ashton-Langford. Expect both these teams to be playing in March.

Butler vs Maryland – Tuesday, November 14th

This is another match up between two teams who will compete in the top half of their respective conferences. Butler returns their best player in Kelan Martin, and will have Kamar Baldwin back as well as supporting cast. The Bulldogs have a nice freshman guard in Aaron Thompson who will get his first real taste of college action against a tough Maryland team. For Maryland, they will experience life without Melo Trimble. Get to know their sophomore trio of Justin Jackson, Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan. These three will make this team go this year.

Indiana vs Seton Hall – Tuesday, November 14th

The Archie Miller era begins in Indiana this year. It will be a tough first year, as IU loses a lot from last year’s team. Look for Josh Newkirk and Juwan Morgan to become the go to guys this season. I also think Curtis Jones will give the Hoosiers so balance at the point guard position. For Seton Hall, this is a big year. The once heralded recruiting class of Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Kadeen Carrington have not reached senior year. Delgado is one of the best bigs in the country. He’s a double-double machine, plain and simple. The Pirates also have sharpshooter Myles Powell and a nice group of freshman to add to their veteran group. Expectations are high in Jersey.

Xavier vs Wisconsin – Wednesday, November 15th

We talked about Wisconsin earlier. If Yale isn’t a test for them, Xavier definitely will be. The Muskateers have one of the best guards in the country in Trevon Bluiett, and J.P. Macura is back for his senior season. The Big East has been Villanova’s conference to lose, but Xavier will look to have a say about that. New faces like Paul Scruggs and Naji Marshall will only add more weapons to a dangerous Big East team.

Virginia Tech vs St. Louis – Thursday, November 16th

This match up would be awesome next year; That’s not taking away from the one we have this year. Both teams have a lot of young talent and will use this year to gain some much needed experience in their conferences. Saint Louis has senior Davell Roby to lead their group of sophomore and freshman. Billiken fans will enjoy watching Jermaine Bishop for an entire season after medically redshirting, and will be introduced to freshman Jordan Goodwin. For Virginia Tech, they welcome freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Wabissa Bede. The two will join returning players such as Chris Clarke and Ahmed Hill, who both averaged 11 points a game last year.

Virginia vs VCU – Friday, November 17th

Tipping at 4P EST on Friday, this is the last game before first rounds of many opening tournaments start. Virginia got hit by the transfer bug, while VCU will have some nice transfer pieces eligible this year. You can always count on Tony Bennett’s team to be stout defensively, and a back court of Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome will be fun to watch for the Cavaliers. VCU loses a lot of scoring, but Justin Tillman and Jonathan Williams are reliable scorers. Transfers Kris Lane and Isaac  Vann both transferred from smaller programs, but will be contributors for VCU as well this season.

Champions Classic – Tuesday, November 14th

This needs it’s own section. It’s one of, if not the biggest non-conference event of the year. Four of college basketball’s blue bloods and four of the top five teams in the country this year. The 2017 Champions Classic has a little bit of everything.

Duke vs Michigan State – 7PM

Bagley vs Bridges. Krzyzewksi vs Izzo. Duke vs Michigan State. This match up features a deep and primed Spartan team versus a NBA bound Duke club. The Blue Devils are led by highly touted freshman Marvin Bagley, Trevon Duval and Wendell Carter. Oh, and who could forget Grayson Allen. Duke doesn’t have the deepest of teams, but their starting five is as good as it gets. Michigan State is the opposite. The Spartans have depth upon depth. They return a team that went through growing pains and injuries last season. They have future lottery pick Miles Bridges, they have great depth in the post and the have Tom Izzo. These are two teams expected to play deep into March.

Kentucky vs Kansas – 10:30 PM

Game two features Big Blue Nation and Rock Chalk. New year, same script for Kentucky, as they will lean on numerous McDonald All-American freshman to lead them through SEC play and into the NCAA Tournament. Different than most UK teams, John Calipari really doesn’t have an upperclassmen to lead his young team. As a result, don’t be surprised if it takes a little for Kentucky to click. Once they do though, players like Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo will be household names, if they somehow aren’t already. Kansas, like last year, will again rely on their guard play in 17-18. A small ball line up of Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Svi Mykhailiuk and LeGerald Vick will be utilized a lot. They have question marks upfront, but KU appears to be the favorite once again in the Big 12.

So there it is, a schedule to get you through week one of the college season. After these games, preseason tournaments will begin and there will be some great championship battles to look forward to. Just don’t look ahead too soon, or you may miss a couple of great games.

Big East Basketball: 2017-2018 Conference Preview

 

big east ball

Coming back from a relatively underwhelming 2016-2017 campaign, the Big East looks poised to make a bold statement this year to competitors from all conferences, while also securing a handful of bids to the NCAA Tournament in March. Big East play is bound to be exciting for everyone, so let’s break the conference down for a preseason preview and our predictions. 

 

PROJECTED FINISHES 

  1. Villanova — Few people will be surprised to find Villanova atop the Big East for the fifth year in a row. Not only should the Wildcats survive without superstar Josh Hart, they look poised to return even stronger. With redshirt freshman Omari Spellman cleared to play and Jalen Brunson set to step into the leadership position, the Wildcats should clinch the Big East without too much competition.
  2. Xavier — Xavier surprised a lot of college basketball fans last year with their trip to the Elite 8, but if the same happens this year, it would come as no shock. Trevon Bluiett’s decision to return to the Musketeers and forgo the NBA Draft will be a large part of Xavier’s dominance, but the return of shooting guard JP Macura to the wings could prove to be just as lethal.
  3. Seton Hall — It seems like it has been too long since the Pirates have been a dominant basketball team, and that time of waiting is over. Seton Hall returns arguably the strongest trio of seniors in the country (Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, and Angel Delgado) who will run the court with veteran talent. Delgado, a 6’10” power forward who can double as a center, threatens to average double-digit numbers in both points and rebounds per game.
  4. Providence — Providence finished top five in the Big East last year, surprising many people who wrote them off preseason as a team in a rebuilding year. Kyron Cartwright is one of the best point guards in the Big East and could easily lead the conference in assists; the Friars bring in more talent this year in freshman Makai Ashton-Langford, giving them the depth they need to threaten for an NCAA Tournament bid, and a run once they get there.
  5. Creighton — Marcus Foster is a beast, simply put. As a junior shooting guard last year, he averaged over 18 points per game; this year, he could break 20. The loss of Cole Huff and Isaiah Zierden puts a considerable hole in their production, but they should have the depth to stay near the top of the conference table.
  6. Marquette — The name Markus Howard may not mean much to people outside of the Golden Eagles fan base, but it will after this season. Last year, he shot just under 55% from three, even more astonishing numbers when you consider he was a freshman. Look to him to lead a very high scoring Marquette offense this year.
  7. Butler — The Bulldogs had good reason to be excited for this year, after being the only team in the NCAA to beat Villanova twice last season. But the late departure of Coach Holtmann may leave the new coach, LaVall Jordan, with a team in disarray. With a handful of talented players in back-court transfer Paul Jorgensen and guard Kamar Baldwin, Jordan could easily take the only team to beat Villanova twice last year to the top, but it’s too early to tell.
  8. St. John’s — The Red Storm have talent in point guard combo Marcus Lovett Jr. and Shamorie Ponds, who should account for most of the team’s offense. The team’s depth does not go much farther beyond these two however, and unless forward Bashir Ahmed can utilize his seniority, St. John’s could quickly fall to the bottom of the conference without a solidified leader.
  9. DePaul — DePaul has had a tough struggle on the court in recent years, finishing at the bottom of the conference table with two wins last season. This year, transfer Marin Maric and junior shooting guard Elijah Cain will help to begin the program’s revival, but it won’t be enough to bring them up more than one or two spots with the tough competition in the Big East.
  10. Georgetown — The Hoyas will be an intriguing team to watch this season, as it will be the first year with Georgetown and NBA legend Patrick Ewing taking over as head coach. His roster is rag-tag at its best, anchored by center Jessie Govan who is one of the few able to do damage to opposing defenses. Ewing’s name and basketball expertise will help Georgetown basketball rebuild, but for now they’ll be stuck at the bottom of the Big East.

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Al-Amir Dawes Ready For Increased Role at The Patrick School

Al-Amir Dawes from The Patrick School will have a lot of responsibility placed on his shoulders this season and judging off his performance at the Hoop Group Fall High School Showcase, he is ready for it. Dawes came into the high level event with a winning mindset.

“I just wanted to come out here and help my team win,” said Dawes. “I’m trying to put my teammates in a better position to score and do whatever I can to come away with a win.”

With Dawes undertaking a bigger role this season, he plans on doing a bit more on the court than he usually does.

“This year I am facilitating it a bit more, when last year I was doing a lot more off the wing,” he said. “This year I’m focusing more on getting the ball to my teammates so they can score. I’ve also worked on being more communicative on the floor.”

The class of 2019 guard has collected offers from Rutgers, Seton Hall, Minnesota and DePaul. Three of those schools have made him a priority.

“I would say that Rutgers, Seton Hall and Minnesota have been making me a priority,” Dawes said.

He also said Maryland and Rhode Island have expressed a lot of interest in him and could be close to offering.

The Patrick School won the TOC last season and they are looking to bring it back home this year.

“We have to take home the TOC, a lot of teams haven’t won it back to back,” said Dawes. “I know I can speak for all of my teammates and say that we all want it really bad this year.”

With Kentucky center Nick Richards, Minnesota guard Jamir Harris, Seton Hall point guard Jordan Walker, Monmouth guard Marcus McClary all graduating The Patrick School lost a lot of talent. Dawes wants to prove doubters wrong that don’t believe they will be able to compete at the same level this year.

“I’m just trying to prove that it doesn’t matter how many players we lost from last year,” he said. “I want to prove that every year The Patrick School will be ready.”

Taurean Thompson to Transfer, Eyes Seton Hall

During the summer, the College Basketball transfer market is one of the busiest periods. With hundreds of players switching schools all over the country, coaching staffs are always busy trying to add to their current team. However, even with schools across the nation starting classes this week, additions are still being made to rosters. Such is the case for Kevin Willard and the Seton Hall Pirates.

Coming into this year, Seton Hall is a consensus Top 25 team in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll. Returning four starters, including three 1,000 point scorers in Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, and Desi Rodriguez, the Pirates look poised to make a run in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Aside from their three-headed monster, the Pirates also return two-year starter and defensive stalwart Ish Sanogo, sharpshooter Myles Powell, and aggressive big man Michael Nzei. The Pirates also bring in a recruiting class that features Top 100 player Myles Cale, Point Guard Jordan Walker, and big man Sandro Mamukelashvili, the Pirates have a deep roster.

Recent news has come out however regarding a former Seton Hall target, former Top 100 Forward Taurean Thompson. The big man who averaged 9.2 points with 3.8 rebounds on a very solid 55 percent shooting from the field showed a lot of promise for the Syracuse Orange in his freshman campaign despite only playing 18 minutes a game.

On Monday morning, Donna Ditota of syracuse.com reported that Thompson had left Syracuse and is unlikely to return to the University.  “We have been informed that Taurean is taking a leave of absence from Syracuse University,” Head Coach Jim Boeheim said on the matter, “My understanding is he wants to go to school closer to home due to some family health issues.”  Thompson was expected to be a big piece for Boeheim and the Orange this year.

Since Thompson announcing his decision to leave, all signs have pointed to him transferring to the Hall.

Now what does this mean for the Pirates?

Seton Hall would be adding a valuable piece to an already loaded roster. With former 2017 commit Darnell Brodie electing to take a Post Graduate year at Montverde Academy, Seton Hall is left with an open scholarship for this year. Adding Thompson would not only fill the scholarship, but be a good piece for the future as it is more than likely he will have to sit out this year due to NCAA transfer rules. The Pirates landed transfer Quincy McKnight earlier in the summer. Both he and Thompson would be great pieces to add, once eligible for play.

Thompson only being a sophomore sets the Pirates up to have a good foundation after the inevitable graduation of the four seniors and the possibility of loosing Nzei to a graduate transfer. A Thompson commitment gives the Pirates a future front line of Thompson, Mamukelashvili, and current JUCO transfer and 7 footer Romaro Gill, who is expected to red shirt this year. That would be a good core for Willard to work with.

Follow Matt on Twitter – @PignataroMatt

Early Big East Predictions

An Early Look at What To Expect from the Big East in the 2017-2018 Season

Class may not be in session, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start talking about college hoops. With that in mind, let’s look at how the standings may shape up in the Catholic Conference this year.

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