College basketball is BACK, baby!
Starting in just a matter of hours, we are going to be playing the first games of the college basketball season, and at this point, I think the most pressing question that we need answered is … does anyone actually give a ****?
I love college basketball as much as, if not more, than anyone. on the planet, and even I am having trouble getting myself excited for a weekend of are just blah. The most interesting part of the next 72 hours is going to be finding out who is playing and who is being held out because of concerns about the FBI investigation.
Let's start with this: Of the more than 250 Division I games that are being played this weekend, there are just five games that feature two high-major programs, and just one of those five actually pits two teams that are ranked in the top 25 - No. 25 Texas A&M takes on No. 11 West Virginia at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
In theory, this should be a terrific matchup, as Press Virginia takes on a team with arguably the best front line in college basketball. Potential Big 12 Player of the Year Jevon Carter vs. Potential Lottery Pick Big Bob Williams. But Williams won't be playing, as he's suspended for a violation of team rules. Two more starters, Admon Gilder and D.J. Hogg, were suspended for two games along with Williams, and that came a month after redshirt freshman point guard J.J. Caldwell, who might have started at the point, was suspended for five games.
In other words, the Aggies will essentially be playing without their starting lineup. That should go well.
It's worth noting here that A&M is not the only program in that game that will be without a key player. Esa Ahmad, West Virginia's second-leading returning scorer, is ineligible for the first semester.
So that game is a bust, as is the nightcap between Georgia Tech and No. 21 UCLA in Shanghai.
Josh Pastner is the happiest man in college basketball these days. Not eight hours after a story popped up on CBS Sports containing allegations that Pastner had helped funnel impermissible benefits to two players on his roster that are currently ineligible to play - Josh Okogie, his star guard, and Tadric Jackson, a starter for the Yellow Jackets - LiAngelo Ball and two of his teammates, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, went and got themselves arrested for shoplifting in China.
Pastner went from being the biggest story in college basketball to being a total and complete afterthought in his opening game thanks to the Big Baller Brand's inability to keep their hands off of Louis Vuitton sunglasses. At this point, the most interesting thing about this game is going to be whether or not LaVar Ball actually says something insane that gets his son sentenced to three years in a Chinese prison.
Maybe bust is the wrong word for that game.
Because I'm certainly going to be staying up until 11:30 p.m. ET to watch it, and it will have nothing to do with the actual basketball being played.
The third-most intriguing game of the weekend might have been Alabama taking on Memphis in the Veterans Classic in Annapolis, but Memphis is a dumpster fire in Tubby Smith's second season while Alabama is not only missing Braxton Key, last year's leading scorer who is dealing with a knee injury, but will likely be playing without star point guard Collin Sexton.
Sexton, a top ten freshman and a potential lottery pick, is a casualty of the FBI's probe into college basketball corruption, which is the story that had dominated college basketball headlines for the last six weeks. No one is going to care about the buy-games that the best teams in the country play this weekend, but everyone is going to be looking to see who sits out for teams like Arizona and USC, and if any other big time programs have unexpected players in street clothes.
The only ranked team that will be playing a true road game this weekend is No. 14 Notre Dame, but they will be paying a visit to DePaul, who has won all of 18 games the last two years. That's not exactly going to move the needle.
What we're left with is Iowa State and Missouri squaring off in Columbia.
On paper, this has potential. Iowa State has been one of the best programs in the Big 12 of late and Missouri has a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on their roster in Michael Porter Jr. But the Cyclones are very likely going to be terrible this season after losing everyone and everything to graduation, while Cuonzo Martin is trying to rebuild a program that has been dreadful for three years running.
That's the most interesting game on college basketball's opening night.
And this is what's supposed to distract us from the scandals that have blanketed the sport?
Ay yi yi.
The Champions Classic can't get here soon enough.
At least there will be a Law & Order marathon on somewhere.
MOST INTERESTING GAMES
1. Iowa State at Missouri, Fri. 9:00 p.m.: Our first glimpse at Michael Porter Jr. at the college level will also be a chance for us to see just how Cuonzo Martin is going to play this year. Big or small?
2. Elon at No. 1 Duke, Fri. 7:00 p.m.: The last time these two teams play, Grayson Allen tripped Steven Santa Ana and the season went absolutely haywire.
3. Georgia Tech vs. No. 21 UCLA, Fri. 11:30 p.m. (Shanghai): If LaVar Ball doesn't make an appearance on national television explaining why it was OK for his son to go into an authoritarian country and try to shoplift $700 sunglasses then the production team on site isn't doing their job right.
4. Northern Iowa at No. 9 North Carolina, Fri. 7:00 p.m.: If you;re looking for a major upset this weekend, look here. North Carolina is overrated this early in the season, particularly with the loss of Joel Berry II to a broken hand, and UNI has traditionally been one of the better teams in the Missouri Valley.
5. No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 11 West Virginia, Fri. 6:00 p.m. (Germany): Half of the players that should be starting in this game won't be. But hey, I'm here for Huggy Bear in a track suit.
6. Utah Valley's opening weekend: The Wolverines open the season playing at Kentucky on Friday night and follow that up with a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium to play Duke on Saturday night. Good luck with that.
Campbell at Penn State, Fri. 4:00 p.m.
Mercer at UCF, Fri. 7:00 p.m.
Louisiana at Ole Miss, Fri. 9:00 p.m.
Yale at Creighton, Fri. 9:00 p.m.
Yale at Wisconsin, Sun. 6:00 p.m.
Princeton at Butler, Sun. 6:00 p.m.
Belmont at Washington, Fri. 10:00 p.m.
Georgia Southern at Wake Forest, Fri. 7:30 p.m.
UNC Asheville at Rhode Island, Fri. 7:30 p.m.
Mount St. Mary's at Marquette, Fri. 9:00 p.m.
Maryland at Stony Brook, Fri.7:00 p.m.
TITLE CONTENDERS IN ACTION
Elon at No. 1 Duke, Fri. 7:00 p.m.
Utah Valley at No. 1 Duke, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
North Florida at No. 2 Michigan State, Fri. 8:00 p.m.
Northern Arizona at No. 3 Arizona, Fri. 8:00 p.m.
UMBC at No. 3 Arizona, Sun. 6:00 p.m.
Tennessee State at No. 4 Kansas, Fri. 9:00 p.m.
Utah Valley at No. 5 Kentucky, Fri. 7:00 p.m.
Vermont at No. 5 Kentucky, Sun. 3:30 p.m.
Columbia at No. 6 Villanova, Fri. 8:30 p.m.
UMKC at No. 7 Wichita State, Fri. 8:00 p.m.
Cal St.-Fullerton at No. 10 USC, Fri. 10:00 p.m.
George Mason at No. 16 Louisville, Sun. 2:00 p.m.