College Basketball begins tonight, and unlike some other sports that limp into the season gently, college hoops isn’t messing around. All 25 of the Top 25 teams are in action tonight, and while many are, I suppose, “tuning up”, four of the top 12 teams in the nation are going head to head tonight, highlighted by Michigan St and Arizona leading off before the Kansas vs. Indiana nightcap from Honolulu.
Granted, they aren’t all gems. I don’t recommend setting the DVR for Marist at Duke, Army at Oregon or North Carolina visiting Tulane. But some of the “dogs” tonight aren’t really the schedule maker’s fault. When it was scheduled, Stephen F. Austin at Kentucky looked like a daring nothing-to-gain danger trap for the ‘Cats. But of course, all five starters are gone from last year’s Tourney darlings, as is coach Brad Underwood, taking a LOT of the shine of tonight’s potential sneaky drama.
It’s going to be an awesome season. And for those of you who decry the “meaninglessness” of the regular season in college basketball, I would instead challenge you to revel in the fact that in the next four days you are going to get: Michigan State vs. Arizona, Kansas vs. Indiana, Villanova at Purdue, San Diego State at Gonzaga, Michigan St. vs. Kentucky, Oregon at Baylor, Maryland at Georgetown, Wisconsin at Creighton and KENTUCKY V. KANSAS from Madison Square Garden.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks at Kentucky Wildcats -20
As alluded to in the opening, this wasn’t a dud when it was scheduled. One of the nation’s foremost low majors for the past half-decade was no walkover just five months ago. But with five starters and a talented coach all gone, it is hard to see them offering much resistance to the Big Blue this evening in frenzied Lexington. Kentucky always seems to have the preseason hype thanks to their incredible stable of prized freshman recruits, but this year’s version enters the season ranked #2 in the country, their fifth straight season ranked in the Top Three nationally, and with the added promise of MORE than just freshman on the roster. Sure, there is turnover – when ISN’T there are UK, but with Isaiah Briscoe pulling his name from the draft, there is some (albeit limited) ‘veteran’ leadership to help guide Bam Adebayo, D’Aaron Fox, and Malik Monk. Senior Derek Willis is also a nice glue guy to have in the rotation and in the locker room.
Early reports are that Adebayo brings a motor and enthusiasm that might be unparalleled in college hoops this season and that Fox and Monk could form the most devastating backcourt in the country once they get comfortable together.
Look for Kentucky to have a few normal first game jitters, but for SFA’s to be even worse. Look for Kentucky’s wildly superior athleticism to lead to a ton of turnover and easy buckets for the Cats and for things to get out of hand relatively quickly. Given the early season status, I see Calipari leaving his lineups in later than in a normal blowout as he wants his VERY young team to log some court time together.
I think Kentucky blows them out of the building and that this line would be 27-29 if SFA didn’t have the lingering name recognition.