Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: Let the games begin!
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 8 Louisville vs. Minnesota (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
The headliner on the first day of the college basketball season matches father and son, with Rick Pitino’s Cardinals facing Richard Pitino’s Golden Gophers in Puerto Rico. Louisville, in its first season as a member of the ACC, is led by guards Terry Rozier and Chris Jones and forward Montreal Harrell, with Harrell receiving a few All-America team nods during the preseason. Keeping him in check is something Minnesota has to do if they’re to pick up the victory, and starters Elliot Eliason and Joey King will need to perform well for a team coming off of a 25-win season and Postseason NIT title.
The guard play will be entertaining, with Minnesota countering the Rozier/Jones tandem with seniors Dre Mathieu and Andre Hollins. The area to watch: turnovers. Louisville forced a turnover on 25 percent of their opponents’ possessions last season, a stat that ranked second nationally. Obviously Minnesota will be familiar with the style of play, and if they’re to pick up the win the Golden Gophers have to at least break even in the turnover category.
NON-TOP 25 GAME OF THE NIGHT: Long Beach State at BYU (7:00 p.m. BYUTV)
BYU’s best playmaker, Kyle Collinsworth, saw his first action in the Cougars’ second exhibition game last week but his minutes will still be monitored as he continues to work his way back from a torn ACL suffered last March. The good thing for head coach Dave Rose is that he has a lot of depth on the perimeter, led by high-level scorer Tyler Haws and Wake Forest transfer Chase Fischer. Long Beach State boasts one of the better guards at the mid-major level in Mike Caffey who is expected to earn first team All-Big West honors for the third consecutive season. BYU should win, especially with the game being played in Provo, but the guard play makes this a game to check out.
Note: Long Beach State guard Tyler Lamb has been suspended for this game.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
- Navy will host the first annual Quicken Loans Veterans Classic, playing No. 18 Michigan State in the nightcap. The Spartans will be led by seniors Branden Dawson and Travis Trice and junior Denzel Valentine, with Valentine capable of putting together a breakout season with his expanded role. In the first game Donnie Tyndall will make his regular season debut at Tennessee, and he didn’t draw an easy opener with No. 15 VCU being the opposition. The Rams won’t have Briante Weber however, as he’s serving a one-game suspension.
- The two teams at the top of most preseason polls, No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Arizona, are in action with season openers they’ll be expected to win. Kentucky hosts Grand Canyon, with this being the first opportunity to see how John Calipari’s platoon works against Division I opposition. As for Arizona, Sean Miller’s Wildcats host a Mount St. Mary’s team that relied on pressure defense and three-point shooting to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament last season.
- Besides Arizona three other ranked teams host opponents that reached the NCAA tournament a season ago: No. 6 North Carolina (North Carolina Central), No. 10 Texas (North Dakota State) and No. 11 Wichita State (New Mexico State). All three ranked teams begin the season with high hopes, and the individual matchup of Wichita State’s Ron Baker and New Mexico State’s Daniel Mullings may be the best that any of those games has to offer.
- After finishing third in the SEC last season, Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs are looking to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament in 2014-15. First up on the schedule for them is rival Georgia Tech in Atlanta (7:00 p.m., ESPN3), and although Marcus Thornton and company will be expected to win you never know what will happen in rivalry games. Georgia Tech’s led by Marcus Georges-Hunt, and Maryland transfer Charles Mitchell will help them in the post.
- A game to keep an eye on that doesn’t match ranked teams: Wofford at Stanford (12:00 a.m., Pac-12 Networks). The Cardinal, led by guards Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown, should be in the mix in the Pac-12 but they’ve got a tough matchup in the regular season opener. Mike Young’s Terriers reached the NCAA tournament last season, and with all five starters back led by guards Karl Cochran and Spencer Collins this is a group expected by many to be the class of the Southern Conference.
THE TOP 25:
- Grand Canyon at No. 1 Kentucky, 8:00 p.m. (SEC Network)
- Mount St. Mary’s at No. 2 Arizona, 8:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
- Northern Kentucky at No. 3 Wisconsin, 9:00 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
- Presbyterian at No. 4 Duke, 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
- UCSB at No. 5 Kansas, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
- North Carolina Central at No. 6 North Carolina, 8:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
- William & Mary at No. 7 Florida, 6:00 p.m. (SEC Network)
- No. 8 Louisville vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
- No. 9 Virginia at James Madison, 7:00 p.m.
- North Dakota State at No. 10 Texas, 8:00 p.m. (Longhorn Network)
- New Mexico State at No. 11 Wichita State, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Lehigh vs. No. 12 Villanova, 8:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 2)
- Sacramento State at No. 13 Gonzaga, 9:00 p.m.
- Oakland at. No. 14 Iowa State, 8:00 p.m.
- Tennessee vs. No. 15 VCU, 6:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
- CSUN at No. 16 San Diego State, 10:00 p.m.
- Bryant at No. 17 UConn, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
- No. 18 Michigan State at Navy, 9:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
- UMass-Lowell at No. 20 Ohio State, 7:00 p.m.
- Lamar at No. 22 SMU, 9:30 p.m.
- Kennesaw State at No. 23 Syracuse, 7:00 p.m.
- MIT at No. 25 Harvard, 7:00 p.m.
- Ball State at No. 25 Utah, 10:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
OTHER GAMES OF NOTE:
- Texas Southern at Eastern Washington, 11:00 a.m.
- Yale vs. Quinnipiac, 5:30 p.m.
- Boise State vs. San Diego, 6:30 p.m.
- Siena at UMass, 7:00 p.m.
- Cleveland State at Iona, 7:00 p.m.
- NJIT at St. John’s, 7:00 p.m. (Fox Sports Net)
- Columbia at Stony Brook, 7:00 p.m.
- Fresno State at Pepperdine, 10:00 p.m.