College Hoops Friday: Your Commentary

November 11th, 2011

Friday marks the first big day of the college basketball season with more than 100 games on the schedule. Sure most of the games look to be of the "opening sacrifice" variety, but a closer look reveals some intriguing matchups. It only makes sense to begin with the game that needs little introduction, the Carrier Classic game matching preseason national title favorite North Carolina and Michigan State. The game will be played on the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego, which will likely cue a few "I'm on a boat" jokes. 

As for the teams themselves, the Tar Heels and Spartans arrive in different situations. Roy Williams' team is absolutely loaded, a product of players such as Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller all deciding to return after last seaon's Elite 8 run. Point guard Kendall Marshall runs the show for UNC, and the team that scored 77.5 points per game in 2010-11. Given this group, when adding in the likes of Dexter Strickland, Reggie, Leslie McDonald Bullock and freshmen James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston, it's expected that this group will be even better offensively. 

Michigan State on the other hand has to account for the loss of Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers, but in senior Draymond Green the Spartans return a versatile forward who is essentially an extension of Izzo on the floor. The Spartans could never seem to get things rolling last season, and with their nucleus being even younger one would think that things could be the same in 2011-12. But that could be a mistake, with guard Keith Appling ready to take over at the point. Appling was more valuable defensively last season, which was largely a product of Lucas' presence. With more on his plate the sophomore will have every opportunity to take over.

Add in freshman forward Branden Dawson and while Michigan State will be a young team they won't lack for talent. Dawson, Adriean Payne and Derrick Nix will be interesting to watch as they'll need to hold their own with UNC's highly touted front line, which became tougher when Delvon Roe had to end his playing career due to chronic knee issues. The Carrier Classic will have much of the nation's attention, but it's certainly not the only quality game (or attractive storyline) on the schedule.

Many have looked at this weekend as a coronation of sorts for Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is just a couple wins away from overtaking his college coach (Bob Knight) for the lead in all-time wins. And while that could happen for the Blue Devils this weekend, people had better not overlook the Belmont Bruins. Rick Byrd's team, which went 30-5 last season, returns nearly all of their key contributors from last season's Atlantic Sun championship team and big men Scott Saunders and Mick Hedgepeth will be a challenge for the Duke frontcourt. Don't be surprised if this game is tight throughout, especially when considering Duke losing Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.

Vanderbilt also opens play, and they'll host an intriguing Oregon squad without the services of center Festus Ezeli. Ezeli, who was suspended for the first six games due to an NCAA violation, also injured his knee in preseason camp and that pushes his return back even more. But the Commodores have bodies up front, with Lance Goulbourne and Steve Tchiengang back along with other contributors. And in John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor Vandy has two of the better perimeter players in the country.

As for Oregon, a lot of people believe that Dana Altman's team is ready to make a jump in the Pac-12. Freshman Jabari Brown has the ability to be one of the best freshmen in the country, and the Ducks also return key players from last year's CBI championship squad. But how do they account for the loss of big man Joevan Catron? Tyrone Nared is one key frontcourt player for Oregon, and wing E.J. Singler is a versatile veteran who will be asked to do a number of things on the floor. But the bulk is gone, meaning that Oregon will need to get it done by committee. 

There's also a big rivalry game with BYU visiting Utah State, with both teams looking to make up for major personnel losses. BYU lost Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery from that Sweet 16 squad while the Aggies begin life without Tai Wesley, but both teams have solid returnees who can get their teams back to the NCAA Tournament. Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo return for the Cougars, who also regain the services of Brandon Davies, and Utah State returns Brockeith Pane and Brady Jardine. If you can find this one on TV be sure to tune in, as it could end up being the most intense game all night (keep in mind the controversial technical foul called on Wesley late in last year's game in Provo). 

There are also a pair of enticing games on the schedule taking place about two hours apart, with Rider visiting Robert Morris and Oral Roberts in Morgantown to play West Virginia. The Broncs are down to just eight scholarship players right now but Tommy Dempsey's got some talented players still at his disposal, and they'll be needed against a team expected to once again contend in the NEC. And Oral Roberts has almost everyone back from last year's team, led by Dominique Morrison, and it shouldn't be much of a surprise if they were to find a way to knock off the young Mountaineers. 

College basketball is back so grab your favorite snacks and make sure the batteries in the remote (and laptop) are ready to go. We'll have some fun between now and early April.  

Top 25 Games
7:00 PM (1) North Carolina vs. Michigan State* (ESPN)
7:00 PM Marist at (2) Kentucky (Sun Sports)
9:00 PM Wright State at (3) Ohio State (BTN)
7:00 PM Columbia at (4) Connecticut (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Belmont at (6) Duke (ESPNU)
10:00 PM Oregon at (7) Vanderbilt (FSN)
7:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at (8) Louisville (MASN)
7:00 PM Jackson State at (10) Florida (FS Florida)
7:00 PM Albany at (11) Pittsburgh (SNY)
10:00 PM Texas Southern at (12) Baylor
8:00 PM Towson at (13) Kansas (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Morgan State at (15) Xavier (FS Cincinnati)
8:00 PM North Florida at (17) Alabama
7:00 PM Ferris State at (18) Michigan
10:30 PM Loyola Marymount at (20) UCLA (FS West)
9:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at (21) Marquette (SNY)
11:05 PM Eastern Washington at (23) Gonzaga
10:30 PM UC Irvine at (24) California
8:00 PM Southeast Missouri State at (25) Missouri

NCAA Division I Games
2:00 PM NW Missouri State at UMKC
3:00 PM Hartford vs. Sacred Heart*
4:30 PM Montana State at Arizona State
5:00 PM Northeastern at Boston University
5:00 PM Johnson and Wales (Den) at Brown
5:00 PM Eastern Illinois at Indiana State
5:30 PM Fairfield vs. Quinnipiac*
6:00 PM Montreat College at Presbyterian
6:30 PM Simpson University at Utah Valley
7:00 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at George Washington
7:00 PM Jacksonville at Florida State (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Stony Brook at Indiana (BTN)
7:00 PM Anderson IND at IUPUI
7:00 PM MIT at Harvard
7:00 PM Milligan at East Carolina
7:00 PM UNC Asheville at North Carolina State
7:00 PM Loyola (MD) at Wake Forest (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Suffolk University at New Hampshire
7:00 PM Cornell at St. Bonaventure
7:00 PM Howard at Bowling Green
7:00 PM Monmouth at Villanova
7:00 PM Covenant at Coastal Carolina
7:00 PM Lees McRae at Appalachian State
7:00 PM St. Peter's at Buffalo
7:00 PM Lake Erie College at Detroit
7:00 PM Illinois-Chicago at Eastern Michigan
7:00 PM Long Island at Hofstra
7:00 PM Lafayette at La Salle
7:00 PM Randolph College at Liberty
7:00 PM Navy at Longwood
7:00 PM Tennessee Tech at Miami (FL)
7:00 PM Northern Illinois at Purdue (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Delaware at Radford
7:00 PM Rider at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Western Carolina at South Carolina (Sports South/ESPN3)
7:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Tennessee (FSN/ESPN3)
7:15 PM Bethune-Cookman at Stetson
7:30 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Ole Miss
7:30 PM Dartmouth at Rutgers
7:30 PM Roanoke at Furman
7:30 PM Holy Cross at Charleston
7:30 PM American University at Richmond
7:30 PM Alabama State at Marshall
7:30 PM Valparaiso at Georgia Southern
7:30 PM Southern Utah vs. UC Davis*
7:30 PM Houston Baptist at Campbell
7:30 PM Cheyney at Coppin State
7:30 PM Rhode Island at George Mason
7:30 PM Pennsylvania at UMBC
7:30 PM North Carolina Central at Charlotte
7:30 PM St. Francis (PA) at Virginia Commonwealth (ESPN3)
8:00 PM McNeese State at Auburn
8:00 PM USC Upstate at Arkansas
8:00 PM Florida A&M at Georgia Tech (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Wofford at Georgia (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Saint Joseph's at Western Kentucky (FCS)
8:00 PM Bucknell at Minnesota
8:00 PM South Dakota at Nebraska
8:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at Oklahoma State
8:00 PM Idaho State at Oklahoma (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at Tulsa
8:00 PM Gardner-Webb at Clemson (ESPN3)
8:00 PM St Gregory's at North Texas
8:00 PM Yale vs. Central Connecticut State*
8:00 PM Guilford at Davidson
8:00 PM Chicago State at Iowa
8:00 PM Charleston Southern at Kansas State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Austin Peay at Middle Tennessee
8:00 PM Le Tourneau at Northwestern State
8:00 PM McMurry at Southern Methodist
8:00 PM Centenary at Stephen F. Austin
8:00 PM Florida Gulf Coast at TCU
8:00 PM University of Mary at Green Bay
8:05 PM North Carolina A&T at Creighton
8:15 PM Fort Valley State at Lipscomb
8:30 PM Harris Stowe at Murray State
8:30 PM Tennessee State at Saint Louis
8:30 PM Texas Lutheran at Texas State
8:30 PM Arkansas State at Lamar
8:30 PM Dillard at Southern University
9:00 PM Montana at Colorado State
9:00 PM Miles at Jacksonville State
9:00 PM Elon at Massachusetts
9:00 PM New Orleans at New Mexico
9:00 PM Oral Roberts at West Virginia (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Texas-Pan American at DePaul
9:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Illinois
9:00 PM North Dakota State at San Francisco
9:00 PM Alabama A&M at Tulane
9:05 PM Brigham Young at Utah State
9:05 PM UT-San Antonio at UTEP
9:30 PM CO Christian at Boise State
9:30 PM Army at Air Force (CBSN)
9:30 PM Portland State at Denver (Root RM)
9:30 PM Claflin at South Carolina State
9:30 PM Troy at Texas Tech (FS Southwest)
10:00 PM Central Arkansas at Stanford
10:00 PM Cal Lutheran at UC Riverside
10:00 PM Ft. Lewis at Colorado
10:00 PM Illinois State at Fresno State
10:00 PM Grand Canyon at UNLV
10:00 PM Missouri State at Nevada
10:00 PM Chapman at UC Santa Barbara
10:00 PM Fresno Pacific at Saint Mary's
10:00 PM Northern New Mexico at Weber State
10:05 PM Redlands at Cal State Fullerton
10:30 PM Bryant University at San Diego State
10:30 PM California Merced at Santa Clara
10:35 PM Menlo College at Sacramento State
11:00 PM Cal State Northridge at USC
11:30 PM Northern Arizona vs. Louisiana-Lafayette*
11:59 PM Citadel vs. Virginia Military* (CBSN)