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We Sleep in May: College Basketball Opening Week Game Thread

Kansas-Michigan State? Sure! Everything else? ALSO SURE! Basketball’s BACK!

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 29 Northwestern at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It has been 218 days since Baylor and Scott Drew cut down the nets in Indianapolis. 224 days since B1G basketball hopes were extinguished for the 20th tournament in a row. And even longer than that since a capacity crowd last witnessed an official college basketball game at your favorite B1G arena*. College basketball is back and this year offers up multiple squads in the B1G that could end the conference wide national title drought.

*Offer not valid in State College, PA.

11 B1G teams will open up on the official start of the season including new coaches at Indiana and Minnesota. The other three wait just a single day to kick off their seasons. In their excitement for the upcoming season, Penn State basketball twitter already posted something they uhhh... had to take down.

Obvious game of the week: Kansas v. Michigan State at Madison Square Garden. While a bunch of B1G teams will just be looking to hopefully go on cruise control in the second half of their opening games, Izzo likes to challenge himself early. As a result, the Spartans open with the #3 ranked Jayhawks. Jayhawks are favored by just 4.5 points. Will we see the early signs of a Sparty rebound from last season? Or will the Jayhawks remind us of Michigan State’s issues that plagued them for most of last season?

Other could be interesting games:

  • Bellarmine @Purdue. Bellarmine was 3rd in Division 1 shooting percentage last year and basically never dribbles the ball as they pass more than every team in the nation. Watching highlights it reminds me of the offense I would run when my dad coached my teams growing up - lots of off-ball screens, cutting, and sharp passing rather than trying to drive by the defender. Definitely a different look than most of college basketball today that relies heavily on ball screens but sadly BTN wants to show the fighting EMUs of Eastern Michigan during this timeslot. Purdue should win, but they better be prepared for the unique offensive style of Bellarmine or they could find themselves in a game.
  • Kansas City @Minnesota. This game is interesting for reasons that aren’t good for Minnesota. Minnesota plays a pretty weak non-conference slate but even still I’d recommend their fans tune into this game because there may not be too many wins this year. This is going to be the smallest spread of the buy games this week and KC will slow the game down to limit possessions.

Tuesday, November 9

(all times CT)

Akron Zips at #17 Ohio State Buckeyes

5pm | ESPN2 | OSU -16.5 | O/U 144.5

At one point or another I’ve stepped on the campus of every Ohio MAC university except Akron. Both my sisters attended Ohio, Toledo was just down the street (okay a long way down the street) from where my grandparents lived, Buckeye Boys State was held at Bowling Green, I’ve been to Miami for a handful of charity 5Ks and a hockey game or two, and I got dragged along with my twin sister for her college visit to Kent State despite having no interest in going there. Pretty sure I went and viewed the memorial during the Kent State campus tour as I remember nothing else.

Anyway, I have no frame of reference for Akron as an university or a city and very little impression of their basketball program. Illini fans however will recognize their former coach John Groce - exhibit A in why you shouldn’t hire a coach just based on postseason tournament results. Groce enters his 5th season at Akron and wouldn’t you know it in 2020 he finally got his first conference regular season championship in his 12th season of trying. I can’t help but wonder if that unlikely event is what triggered these past two years. Akron lost a charity exhibition to West Virginia by just 15 points so they aren’t completely awful. I haven’t mentioned the Buckeyes because I’m sure their fans will be more focused on the CFP rankings.

Eastern Michigan Eagles at Indiana Hoosiers

5pm | BTN | IU -24 | O/U 142

Buffkomodo: Ahhh. The Mike Woodson era has begun. Might I remind you all what happened last time Indiana had a new coach. Archie Miller had his debut spoiled by Indiana State, losing 90-69. Nevertheless, I do not anticipate that outcome today.
I’ll be far more interested in how the guard situation plays out. I expect some rotations, but I really just want to see if Indiana has a shot at viable guard play or not. I mean they’ll probably all look decent in this game, but it’ll be nice to see Indiana guards do something positive for a change. Here’s hoping for the best. Go Hoosiers.

#3 Kansas Jayhawks vs. Michigan State Spartans

6pm | ESPN | KU -4.5 | O/U 143.5

State Farm Champions Classic, Madison Square Garden

The State Farm Champions Classic match-up features two teams that haven’t actually won the national championship for over a decade. That’s still better than my team is doing, but I can’t help but feel that the name “Champions Classic” is a slight misnomer at this point. Maybe the most recent champions Villanova, Baylor, Virginia, and North Carolina should host their own better version of the Champions Classic. Call it the All-State Champions Classic or the Geico Champions Classic. Feels like an easy layup for the marketing teams of these insurance companies.

This is the 2nd time a team in the event has not been ranked coming into the game. Last time that happened (2011), unranked Michigan State gave Duke a game but fell short by 5 points. I’m not going to preview this game. If you want a preview, just tune into the first half of the Ohio State-Akron game. I’m almost 100% positive that ESPN2 will spend half the time previewing this game and the other half previewing Kentucky-Duke.

Bellarmine Knights at #7 Purdue Boilermakers

6pm | BTN+

Purdue was sloppy defensively in their exhibition and secret scrimmage. They struggled preventing dribble penetration in both of those games. That shouldn’t be an issue here because Bellarmine doesn’t do dribble penetration. Instead the Knights will try to pass their way around Purdue’s defense, continually cutting to the hoop. I’m disappointed I won’t get to see the game now that I’ve read up on Bellarmine and watched highlights of their play style. Fellow Boilermaker degenerates that won’t pay for BTN+, your radio station to stream is WAZY (96.5 FM) out of Lafayette.

Quinnipiac Bobcats at #21 Maryland Terrapins

6pm | BTN+ | MD -22 | O/U 141

Quinnipiac is most famous for conducting election polls. I’m sure they do something else, but the only times of the year I usually hear about Quinnipiac are during election season or when I’m filling out my MAAC conference tournament bracket - for some reason I never seem to win that particular bracket challenge. Quinnipiac will hope to get a nice early season warm-up against the Terrapins in preparation for their daunting matchup on Friday against the Western New England squad.

If they were fully healthy the Terrapins should easily handle the Bobcats but they do have some injuries that could prevent some of their stars from seeing the court. Donta Scott has been ruled out for the game and Pavlo Dzuiba and Eric Ayala are game time decisions. If none of them can play it will be up to Fatts Russell (A+ name Russell parents) to lead the Terrapins squad.

Jackson State Tigers at #11 Illinois Fighting Illini

7pm | BTN

Checking in as our biggest KenPom ranking difference of the night (4 vs. 295), this matchup shouldn’t be close. Shame on BTN for making this their second game of the night. That isn’t to say Jackson State is the worst opponent of the night for B1G teams (in fact there are a couple worse than them) or that SWACtion shouldn’t get more TV time (they should). Jackson State did go undefeated in the SWAC regular season last year at 11-0 and had a winning record overall (very unusual for any SWAC team). Wayne Brent returns for his 9th season as head coach.

St. Francis (Brooklyn) Terriers at Wisconsin Badgers

7pm | BTN+

St. Francis of Brooklyn is one of 4 remaining members of the Never Made the Tournament club that were around for the first NCAA tournament. Along with Army, the Citadel, and William and Mary, I root for the Terriers every late February/early March to finally break thru and make it by winning their conference tournament. We thought they might break thru in 2015 when they won the Northeast Conference regular season but big baddy Robert Morris defeated them by 3 points in the final in front of a crowd of 1,013 fans. Hopefully this is The Year(TM) the Terriers break thru. Glenn Braica will coach the Terriers for a 12th consecutive year.

Unlike St. Francis (whom everyone should want to see in the NCAA tournament), nobody should want to be subjected to watching the painfully slow basketball practiced by the Badgers. Super senior Brad Davison returns to lead the young Badgers roster and teach them his ways of flopping and getting technical fouls. Gone is former assistant and malcontent Alando Tucker which should lead to a better locker room environment.

Western Illinois Leathernecks at Nebraska Cornhuskers

7pm | BTN+ | UNL -16 | O/U 153

The Leathernecks were the team I often started my coaching career with on NCAA basketball whatever year when I was a kid. Them or the Campbell Camels. Rob Jeter (a former assistant at Minnesota under Richard Pitino for two seasons) is their current head coach. I also hear that at halftime of this game the Cornhuskers are going to reveal Scott Frost as their head football coach for 2022 so that should be fun. Hopefully that won’t dampen fan enthusiasm too much as Nebrasketball should have an exciting, offense friendly, defense optional team to watch this season.

Kansas City Roos at Minnesota Gophers

7pm | BTN+ | Minn -9.5 | O/U 135

Just like in the early slot, the decision makers at BTN chose the worse game to televise and shuttled this gem off to BTN+. Ben Johnson will go for his first career win as a head coach. I know all the Gophers fans are truly excited for a new era of basketball in Minneapolis. It will also be an opportunity for a bunch of new faces the entire Gophers team to get their first official minutes in a Minnesota uniform.

On the other side of the ball, head coach Billy Donlon enters his third year at KC. He has some Big Ten ties as he served as an assistant at Michigan and Northwestern for a year and two years respectively following his 6 year stint as the head coach of Wright State. 6’8” forward Josiah Allick is the Roos’ best returning player from last year when he average 15.0 points and 6.0 rebounds. KC is also projected to be one of the ten slowest tempo teams in the country this year by KenPom. Even slower than Wisconsin by 4 spots!

Eastern Illinois Panthers at Northwestern Wildcats

7pm | BTN+ | NU -23.5 | O/U 139

MNW: Eastern Illinois, uh...well, they have a new coach. Marty Simmons is as experienced as he is large—had a long, underwhelming career at Evansville unless you value a CIT championship—and maybe one of those things is good, because the Panthers brought about 16 total points a game back from 2020-21. EIU has reloaded with a bunch of transfers, including Nebraska transfer Elijah Wood and Illinois transfer Jermaine Hamlin, along with a Brazilian dude named Rodolfo Rufino Bolis, who I love just based on name.

Look, I would never take Northwestern to cover a 23-point line in anything, but with a new coach and a recycled roster, EIU is as good of fodder here as any. We’ll see the ‘Cats run out some high-tempo offense that’ll disappear when Big Ten play rolls around, and they’ll clang a lot of threes. That won’t disappear when Big Ten play rolls around. I’d recommend the ‘Cats to win but the Panthers to cover, though, and the under.

Longwood Lancers at Iowa Hawkeyes

9pm | BTN

In our final televised B1G game of the night, it’s the Longwood Lancers vs. the Hawkeyes. Longwood previously spent a full 8 seasons as a Division 1 independent before gaining entrance to the Big South for the 2012-13 season. They have never made the NCAA Division 1 tournament but did make the D3 Final Four back in 1980. Which means both Longwood and Iowa both last made the Final Four in 1980! When Big Ten Network falls to mention this factoid, please call in and demand your money back.

Wednesday, November 10

Buffalo Bulls at #6 Michigan Wolverines

5:30pm | BTN

MaximumSam: Buffalo checks in at 90th on Torvik, so they are not a complete garbage team. Could they provide a test as Juwan Howard assembles his new box of toys? Perhaps - they are a senior laden team that probably wouldn’t mind trying to stuff a few freshmen into a locker. Still, with two seven footers who can play defense standing guard for the Wolverines, they had better do it from long range.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

6pm | BTN+ | Jersey Mike’s Arena

MaximumSam: Lehigh slots in at 254 on Torvik, very much in the garbage range of teams. Rutgers is an interesting team that lost a lot from last year, but returns some guys. They might be a bit underrated at 56th given their history of scrappiness under Steve Pikiell.

Youngstown State Penguins at Penn State Nittany Lions

7:30pm | BTN

MaximumSam: Jim Tressel returns to the B1G, in basketball form, though with the Penguins hitting 301 on Torvik, not sure they bring much more than him. Should be a good warmup for Micah Schrewsberry as he figures out his team.

Thursday, November 11

George Washington Colonials at #21 Maryland Terrapins

5:30pm | BTN

MaximumSam: Yinka Dare, rest his soul, isn’t walking through the door for the Colonials, who check in at 272nd on Torvik. Maryland is fitting their big transfers Fatts Russell and Qudud Wahab together, and may be a sneaky B1G contender this year with a veteran starting five.

Here’s your open thread for the week’s basketball, along with MNW wasting his time creating a schedule again because he thinks it’s “fun” or something. Someone will probably come thru and fill in the “previews” or “rantings” for the non-Tuesday games as the week goes on. Enjoy, behave, don’t share illegal streams.