What To Watch This Week In College Basketball: Champions Classic Tips Things Off

The first week of the season has some exciting matchups.

97.1 The Ticket
November 04, 2019 - 11:51 pm

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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By Kyle Beery | 97.1 The Ticket

As a college basketball junkie, I feel like I’ve been waiting years, not months, for this season to start. Well, that day is finally here, and I couldn’t be more excited.

This year’s non-conference slate as a whole has a ton of high-caliber matchups. One of the biggest gripes about college basketball is the lack of blue-blood matchups early in the season. That problem seems to be solved this year.

I’ll be putting out a weekly list of the best games to watch in the world of college basketball, from the local teams, to the blue bloods, to the mid-majors you should be getting to know now so you can be ahead of the curve come March.

While the first week of the season doesn’t necessarily have a wealth ranked-vs-ranked matchups there are a handful of good games, and a pair of great ones on night No. 1.

Tuesday, Nov. 5

The Champions Classic (at Madison Square Garden)

As has been tradition in recent years, the season starts with a bang – this event is tremendous for the sport. And this year, for the first time, it features the top four teams in the preseason AP Top 25.

No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 4 Duke – 7 p.m., ESPN

Life after the freshman trio of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish begins with a massive test for Duke. A new-look offense centered around Tre Jones and freshman Vernon Carey may not have a ton of reliable depth and it will be interesting to see how the Blue Devils fare against a strong Kansas frontcourt.

Udoka Azubuike and Silvio DeSousa are finally healthy and eligible at the same time and could cause fits for Duke. Kansas doesn’t have the greatest incoming freshman class, but it will be fun to see what former Michigan commit Jalen Wilson will bring to the table. Couldn’t think of a better game to get the season going.

No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Kentucky – 9:30 p.m., ESPN

Well, maybe this would be the only better game to start the season, but the hype could be even bigger, being the nightcap.

We all know expectations are sky-high for Michigan State. The Spartans have a ton of talent, led by none other than Cassius Winston. Even with Joshua Langford out with a nagging foot injury until at least January, this team will have a lot of weapons and seemingly endless depth.

MSU will get a major test right off the bat – and several more throughout the non-conference slate, which could be a very good thing for the Spartans, even if it means taking a few lumps along the way – with this Kentucky team. Similar to last year’s Wildcats, there’s a solid balance of returning experience and incoming potential. It will be very interesting to see how Tyrese Maxey looks, as well as Bucknell transfer Nate Sestina.

Appalachian State  @ Michigan -- 7 p.m., BTN

Admittedly, the basketball might not be the best in this game, but there’s a lot of intrigue in terms of what Juwan Howard’s team will look like. A solid core of Zavier Simpson, Isaiah Livers and Jon Teske is a nice starting point in year one for Howard, but especially in the absence of Franz Wager, other guys will need to step up. The Wolverines will need to use these early-season games to find their identity and get some meaningful court time for some of the players they’ll need to call on down the road.

As for the Mountaineers, the prospects of doing what their football team did 12 years ago in Ann Arbor don’t look all that great. A team that finished 10 games below .500 and outside KenPom’s top 200 loses two of its top four scorers from that team and brings in a new head coach.

Wednesday, Nov. 6

Notre Dame @ No. 9 North Carolina -- 7 p.m., ACC Network

In a new twist to the beginning of the season, there are a handful of ACC conference games in the first week, including the Irish visiting the Tar Heels. Notre Dame looks to return to the NCAA Tournament this year, led by John Mooney, while freshman Cole Anthony, son of former NBA star Greg Anthony, will be the headliner in Chapel Hill and could win ACC Player of the Year. It will be interesting to see how Anthony looks in his debut.

No. 11 Virginia @ Syracuse -- 9 p.m., ACC Network

Another in-conference matchup that features a ranked team and a rebuilding team that should be in the tourney conversation. The defending national champions will look a lot different this year, but this is your first chance to get a look at big man Jay Huff, who I predict will have a massive breakout year.

Cincinnati @ No. 18 Ohio State -- 8:30 p.m., FS1

The Buckeyes have a balance of experience and promising freshman talent on their team. The Bearcats should compete near the top of the American, even in John Brannen’s first year as head coach. Oakland University transfer Jaevin Cumberland joins his cousin, Jarron Cumberland, in Cincy.

Friday, Nov. 8

No. 24 Auburn vs. Davidson -- 6 p.m., CBS Sports Network 

The Tigers, fresh off their first trip to the Final Four, will have to take some time adjusting to life after Jared Harper, Chuma Okeke and Bryce Brown. That’ll be a little tough to do in this one, as Davidson – ranked in my own Ticket Top 25 – is a top-three mid-major this season, led by Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson.

Washington vs. No. 16 Baylor -- 9:30 p.m., ESPN

Tristan Clark’s comeback season is here. He’ll be in Big 12 Player of the Year discussions all season. Washington’s resurgence is alive and well, led by Nahziah Carter. This will be a fun late-night, neutral site contest from Alaska.

Saturday, Nov. 9

Texas @ No. 23 Purdue -- 7 p.m., FS1

Need a break from football Saturday evening? Maybe check out how the Boilermakers will look without Carsen Edwards. Shaka Smart may be on the hot seat by the end of the season, but a win at Mackey would go a long way in keeping it a little cooler.

Sunday, Nov. 10

Florida State @ No. 6 Florida -- 1 p.m., ESPN

The Gators fancy themselves as national title contenders and will be looking for a little payback after the Seminoles destroyed them in last year’s season opener. Look for Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear to grab some headlines for Florida this year.

Illinois @ No. 21 Arizona -- 9 p.m., Pac-12 Network

A great way to end the first week – a true road test for the Illini against a Wildcats team that should have a huge bounceback season in a much-improved Pac-12. Ayo Dosunmu vs. Nico Mannion? Sign me up.