It’s here at last. The college basketball season began on Friday. Amidst the excitement, however, we were reminded that as much as we love the game, there are many other things of paramount concern. A series of terrorist attacks in Paris captured everyone’s attention, with well over 100 people killed. As we take a look at college basketball on the day, we extend our thoughts and prayers to those who lost loved ones.
As usual, there were plenty of mismatches, along with some very good matchups, and with the latter came surprises. There was also an unfortunate early end to one of two games played outside the country.
We’ll start with the last one, the Armed Forces Classic held in Okinawa, Japan. The court had plenty of condensation on it, the result of a warm and humid setting with no air conditioning, leaving players unsure if they could plant, and the lead official conferred with both coaches during warmups for the second half. As conditions had not improved, the game was called off. Pittsburgh point guard James Robinson lost his footing one time and suffered a facial gash from a face-first fall. The game will not be made up or completed later.
On a related note, Texas and Washington traveled to Shanghai for their opener and played it evenly in the first half, tied at 34. The second half was back and forth, with Washington leading by as many as nine and Texas rallying to take the lead. But the Longhorns couldn’t get a field goal in the final two minutes, and Washington would hold on for a 77-71 win despite 29 points from Isaiah Taylor in Shaka Smart’s debut as Texas head coach.
The first surprise of any kind was in one of the good matchups, as CAA contender William & Mary traveled to Raleigh and knocked off NC State 85-68. The Tribe shot nearly 52 percent from the field, including 9-22 from long range, and ran out to a 16-point halftime lead that they would not relinquish. The Tribe got a balanced attack, as they probably will all year. Considering they should contend and NC State is thought to be a middle-of-the-pack ACC team, calling this an upset is perhaps a bit much.
The second saw defending Atlantic Sun champion North Florida travel to Illinois. The Ospreys should be favorites to repeat there, and behind 26 points and 10 assists from Dallas Moore, they beat Illinois 93-81 for a nice start to the season.
In a result that was less of a surprise but is worth noting, Belmont traveled to Milwaukee to take on Marquette in an early Legends Classic game and held off the Golden Eagles 83-80. Belmont should once again contend in the Ohio Valley Conference. In a similar vein, Montana rallied to beat Boise State 74-71.
In another good matchup, Colorado and Iowa State headed to Sioux Falls for an old Big 12 battle. The Buffaloes stayed close most of the night, but Steve Prohm’s debut was a success as the Cyclones won 68-62.
North Carolina coasted past Temple 91-67, while Kentucky handled three-time defending America East champion Albany 78-65.
The thriller of the night was a matchup of two arch-rivals who used to be in the same conference. Northeastern and Boston University battled almost to a standstill all night, and needed overtime. There, a late three-pointer gave the Huskies an 87-84 win.
In a game that wasn’t far off, Stanford needed overtime to beat Green Bay 93-89, with Christian Sanders scoring eight of his team-high 23 points in overtime.
In another very good and underrated matchup, Auburn beat UAB 75-74 on a late three-pointer by T.J. Lang. Auburn is on its way to being relevant, while UAB is the favorite in Conference USA.
The first true shocker of the night came in a game that wasn’t thought of as a great matchup. Wisconsin lost their season opener for the first since 2001, losing to Western Illinois 69-67. The second came a little later as Monmouth beat UCLA 84-81 in overtime in Westwood.
One day is in the books, and we have many more to come.
St. John’s will be without junior guard Felix Balamou indefinitely, as the NCAA ruled him ineligible due to an unspecified rules violation. The team learned of this just hours before their season opener, a 66-57 win over Wagner. The Red Storm, already with a depleted roster in Chris Mullin’s first season as head coach, already lost Marcus LoVett two days earlier when the NCAA declared him a partial qualifier.
UCF fared a little better, as Tacko Fall received an academic waiver just in time for their opener, which will be on Saturday at Davidson. The NCAA had informed the school that the 7’6″ big man was not allowed to practice recently due to only accepting seven and a half of his core courses from Liberty Christian Preparatory School in Tavares, Florida. The native of Dakar, Senegal is an engineering major, and had made plans to sue the NCAA if the waiver was not granted.
Rhode Island fans are holding their collective breath after the Rams’ 65-42 win over American to open the season. About halfway through the first half, star guard E.C. Matthews went down with a knee injury that didn’t look good, especially since he had to be carried off the court. He was bumped by a defender and then went down. CBS Sports reported that he will have an MRI on Saturday morning at South County Hospital. Matthews figures to be a candidate for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, and the Rams are among the favorites in the conference.
A couple of teams announced three-game suspensions for violation of team rules. Canisius announced that sophomore forward Jermaine Crumpton will sit the first three games, and later Miami announced that Kamari Murphy has been suspended for their first three games. Both will begin their season in about a week.
Georgia Tech announced that they plan to redshirt freshmen post players Abdoulaye Gueye and Sylvester Ogbonda. Neither is originally from the U.S., and they are part of a crowded frontcourt with a lot of experience, so minutes would be hard to come by anyway.
The slate of season openers continues, with a few teams playing their second game in as many days to start the season.
- In the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge, Colorado State travels to Northern Iowa for a nice early game.
- Harvard heads south to take on Providence in what should be a good opener for both teams.
- Defending champion Duke opens their season against Bryant in a 2K Classic game.
- Kentucky hosts NJIT in another game that is part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic.