The first full week of college hoops action gets underway this week, and while there aren't but one or two high-profile matchups on the schedule, there are a select few battles that will be interesting to watch as the week progresses. None of these games count towards the conference standings, and few of them will grab big headlines or national attention. But don't be surprised if several of these help determine the bubble status of a team or two come March. With that in mind, here are fifteen games, and a few tournaments, to keep an eye on this week.
Manhattan at Seton Hall
The Pirates have something to prove in a newly expanded and much tougher Big East, and things need to get started on the right foot. That won't be easy against a Jaspers squad, led by C.J. Anderson, that is one of the best in the Metro-Atlantic again this season.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Memphis
Expectations are high once again for John Calipari's squad, but as always, it remains to be seen how his team will respond. UWM lost coach Bruce Pearl to Tennessee, but the Panthers return perhaps the Horizon League's best player in Joah Tucker.
Florida vs Wake Forest
The Deacons had a tough time with their home regional last week, and the Gators will be a much tougher opponent than any they faced in Winston-Salem. We'll get our first look at how both of these squads are coming together after losing key players from a year ago.
Syracuse vs Texas Tech
Both of these squads have been picked among the top 25 teams in the country by various sources, and each is coached by one of the best minds in all of college basketball. Each team's superstar from a season ago is gone; who will step up in this game and throughout the season?
Georgia at Old Dominion
The Bulldogs have not done much winning in recent years, and UGA fans are ready to see that change. A season-opener at ODU, this site's preseason favorite in the Colonial Athletic Association, isn't an easy start. Watch for the Monarchs' center Alex Loughton.
Fairleigh Dickinson at Maryland
FDU forward Gordon Klaiber is the top player in the Northeast Conference, and fellow Knight Chad Timberlake isn't too bad either. The Terps have plenty of talent returning in guys like Caner-Medley, McCray, and Strawberry, but how that talent comes together will be interesting to see.
Coaches vs Cancer Consolation and Championship Games
No matter which teams end up in each game, it's another chance to boost the RPI early in the season and pick up an early win over quality competition before Thanksgiving. Ten of the last twelve finalists in this event have made the NCAA Tournament.
Davidson at Duke
Davidson, who went 16-0 in league play last year, is projected to be one of the best teams in the Southern Conference again this season and is led by all-conference star Brendan Winters. It won't be an easy opener for perhaps the nation's best team.
Michigan State at Hawaii
Another of the best teams in America will have a tough opener as well, but the Spartans' game will be quite a few miles from home. The Warriors are expected to contend in the WAC this season but will get tested early against MSU's tough trio of Maurice Ager, Shannon Brown, and Paul Davis.
Gardner-Webb at North Carolina
Expectations are low for the defending national champions. Even last year, the Heels dropped an early-season game to Santa Clara, so expect the Runnin' Bulldogs, our preseason favorite in the A-Sun, to go into Chapel Hill thinking upset.
Murray State at Cincinnati
The Bearcats have changed conferences, but before they face a test in the Big East, they'll have to take down Murray State and feisty point guard Trey Pearson. The Racers are projected to be at or near the top of the Ohio Valley standings this year.
Chattanooga at Mississippi State
The Bulldogs lost star players like Lawrence Roberts and Winsome Frazier and now have a young and unproven squad. The Mocs, like Davidson, are one of the early favorites in the Southern Conference and are looking to make a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
Utah State at Oral Roberts
Both the Aggies and Eagles are expected to be top contenders in their respective league races this year. USU, who moved over from the Big West, is led by the inside-outside combo of G Jaycee Carroll and F Nate Harris. Watch for ORU's Ken Tutt and Caleb Green.
Eastern Kentucky at Wisconsin
Wisconsin is led by forward Alando Tucker, one of the Big Ten's best players. He and the Badgers will be tested Saturday evening, however, when EKU, a NCAA team from a season ago, makes a trip to Madison. Stud point guard Matt Witt leads the Colonels' attack.
Northwestern State at Missouri
Like Memphis who was mentioned earlier, it is time for the Missouri Tigers to finally make some noise. This season-opener is a chance for the Demons to make some early-season national noise of their own though. Mizzou better watch out for star guard Jermaine Wallace.
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