It's early November, and that means college hoops season is here! College football is still in full swing, but this week marks the start of college basketball season. There aren't many great matchups this week, but most of the nation's top teams and incoming freshmen will be in action over the next six days. The 2K Sports College Hoops Classic starts Monday and will be the main focus during opening week. If anything, this first week will serve as an appetizer for what will surely be an exciting college hoops season. Without further ado, let's get to the week's most interesting matchups.
GAMES OF INTEREST
Tennessee-Martin at Memphis
The Memphis Tigers come into the season ranked number one by a number of preseason polls, including our very own SCS.com Fab 15. It's only fitting they get things started Monday night against Tennessee-Martin in the first round of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic. College hoops fans will get their first look at stud freshman Derrick Rose and the high-powered Memphis attack. The Tigers are undoubtedly one of deepest and most talented teams in country. This game probably won't be very close, but it will be nice to see one of the nation's best squads in action.
Central Arkansas at Kentucky
Coach Billy Gillispie will make his Kentucky coaching debut in this first-round game of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic. The Wildcats have a couple question marks up front, but they have a very good trio of guards in Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley, and Derrick Jasper. It will also be interesting to see if highly-touted freshman forward Patrick Patterson can replace Randolph Morris down low. Central Arkansas won't be a big threat to Kentucky, but the game will be a little closer than Tennessee-Martin against Memphis.
Morgan State at Connecticut
Coach Calhoun has the Huskies on the rise again after a down season a year ago. UConn is still a very young team led by Jerome Dyson in the backcourt and Jeff Adrien in the frontcourt. Junior point guard A.J. Price needs to meet expectations this season for the Huskies to maximize potential. Morgan State is also a team on the rise and is one of the favorites in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Coach Todd Bozeman will have his Bears ready to play, and that should make this game closer than some may expect. This matchup is also a part of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic.
San Francisco at Oklahoma
The Sooners will welcome San Francisco to Norman in yet another 2K Sports College Hoops Classic game. Oklahoma also welcomes one of the nation's best newcomers in Blake Griffin. The freshman forward might be the team's best player from day one. Coach Jeff Capel enters his second season in Norman and has the talent to make some waves in the Big 12. The Dons, on the other hand, lost their best player to graduation but are still favored to finish in the top half of the West Coast Conference. This contest should be close early before the Sooners pull away down the stretch.
Vermont at George Mason
This matchup pits two Mid-Majors who are among the favorites to win their respective conferences. The Catamounts have made a couple NCAA Tournament appearances in recent years, including a great opening-round upset of Syracuse in 2005. Coach Mike Lonergan will once again have Vermont in the America East hunt. The Patriots made a memorable Final Four run two seasons ago and are once again one of the favorites to win the Colonial Athletic Association. This game will give fans an idea of who is for real and who isn't amont the Mid-Major elite.
Temple at Tennessee
The Vols come into this season ranked fourth in the SCS.com Fab 15, and they will get a solid early-season test against the Owls. Coach Bruce Pearl has All-American Chris Lofton back for another year, and he will be joined by a handful of All-SEC caliber players in the backcourt and frontcourt including impact transfer Tyler Smith. The Owls have one of the best scoring duos in the nation in Mark Tyndale and Dionte Christmas. The two were first and second, respectively, in Atlantic-10 scoring last season. Tyndale and Christmas will get their points, but the Vols will win big at home.
UL-Monroe at Kansas
The Jayhawks are ranked sixth in the SCS.com Fab 15 and will once again be among the elite in the Big 12. Coach Bill Self lost Julian Wright to the NBA, and he will be without All-American candidate Brandon Rush for the first month of the season. The combination of guards Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins is one of the best in the nation, and they will keep Kansas rolling early on. UL-Monroe should be one of the best teams in the Sun Belt Conference, returning all five starters and reigning Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year Orlando Early. Kansas may struggle early before turning up the heat in the second half.
Portland State at UCLA
The Bruins are ranked second in the SCS.com Fab 15 going into the season, as they begin their journey towards a third consecutive Final Four appearance. Coach Ben Howland lost team leader Arron Afflalo to the NBA, but he welcomes one of the best freshman in the country in Kevin Love. This will be Love's first regular season test at Pauley Pavilion. The Vikings are one of the favorites to challenge for the Big Sky Conference title and will be led by sophomore Lucas Dupree. Coach Ken Bone will have his team ready to play, but UCLA will roll to an easy victory.
William & Mary at Georgetown
The Hoyas lost do-it-all star Jeff Green to the NBA, but they still have one of the best players in the nation in Roy Hibbert. Hibbert decided to come back for his senior season and will be a beast in the paint all year. Coach John Thompson III led Georgetown to a Final Four appearance last season, and he has a good shot at doing so this year as well. The Tribe, on the other hand, will probably finish near the bottom of the Colonial Athletic Association. William & Mary won't put up much of a fight against the Hoyas in this one, but it will be interesting to see how dominant Hibbert looks early on.
Mercer at USC
This game marks the college debut of highly-touted freshman O.J. Mayo. Mayo scored 34 points in the intrasquad game last week, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in his first regular season game. Mayo will join with Taj Gibson to give the Trojans a nice one-two punch. Coach Tim Floyd lost a few key weapons to the NBA, but the hype is still at an all-time high at USC. The Bears are predicted to finish right in the middle of the pack in Atlantic Sun Conference, and they return the conference's leading scorer in sophomore James Florence. That being said, it will be a long night in Southern California for Mercer.
Pepperdine at Oregon
The Ducks open their regular season as part of the World Vision Invitational. This game also marks the beginning of the post-Aaron Brooks era in Eugene. Brooks was the team's best player and leader, and coach Ernie Kent must find a way to replace him. Luckily for Kent, there are still plenty of weapons to fall back on including All-Pac 10 candidate Malik Hairston. The Waves are coming off a disappointing season and are once again predicted to finish in the middle of the West Coast Conference. McArthur Court will be rocking as always, and Oregon will roll to an easy victory in this one.
Vermont at Virginia
The Cavaliers lost one of their best players in J.R. Reynolds, but they return one of the nation's best players in Sean Singletary. Singletary's return to campus will make Virginia a factor in the ACC. Coach Dave Leitao will have his team ready to go in their home debut, but they will be facing a pesky team from Vermont. The Catamounts play George Mason earlier in the week as part of a tough non-conference schedule, and that big-game experience will give them confidence to stick with the Cavaliers early on. In the end, however, Virginia will win their regular season debut in what will be a hard-fought contest the entire way.