College basketball has never started with a bang, more of a whimper.
Not this season.
Maybe not ever again.
The best game of the season may be on the first day.
And the hope is that this trend continues.
Here are the best 10 games in the first 10 days of the season.
Buckle up. This is going to be one wild, unpredictable ride.
Here are my power rankings of the top 10 games in the first 10 days.
1. Duke vs. Kentucky, Nov. 6, Champions Classic, Indianapolis, 9:30 p.m. ESPN: This is a national title game matchup on the first night. There will be oodles of talent on the floor. The freshmen from Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett of Duke to Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro of Kentucky will dominate a lot of the discussion. But the Kentucky debut of Reid Travis will be one of the most intriguing storylines. What’s at stake? Well, whoever wins should be the No. 1 team (sorry Kansas) in the country and ride the wave of momentum for the first week of the season.
2. Michigan State vs. Kansas, Nov. 6, Champions Classic, Indianapolis, 7 p.m. ESPN: Kansas enters the game as the preseason No. 1 team in the country. But it will be hard to top the nightcap if the winner leaves with more of an impression. Now, if the Jayhawks dominate Michigan State, that could be a different story. I don’t see that happening. The Spartans have the more experienced lead guard in Cassius Winston. The most interesting matchup could come down to MSU’s Nick Ward vs. Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike in the post. How the Spartans stop Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson will also be a storyline. Regardless, this is another potential Final Four preview matchup. A dynamite opener to the season before the headline game.
3. Marquette at Indiana, Nov. 14, Gavitt Games, 8:30 p.m. FS1: This is going to be a must-watch matchup with four big-time scorers for both teams: Marquette’s Markus Howard and Sam Hauser against Indiana’s Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford. The Golden Eagles have to defend better to take out Villanova in the Big East. The Hoosiers say they are on board with how Archie Miller wants to D teams up. This should be a good indicator of where these two programs are at this juncture in their quest to have special seasons.
4. Michigan at Villanova, Nov. 14, Gavitt Games, 6:30 p.m. FS1: The national title rematches are hard to duplicate. But this actually may be closer than the title game. The Wolverines are a work in progress maybe more so than Nova, but Charles Matthews is coming back with a vengeance and should be a prolific scorer for John Beilein. Nova has a lot to mesh with its newcomers. Phil Booth is going to score well. I’m most interested to see how Albany transfer Joe Cremo impacts the game for the Wildcats.
5. Washington at Auburn, Nov. 9, 9:30 p.m. SEC Network: I love this game. It sort of sneaks into the opening week. The Huskies are my favorite in the Pac-12 with Auburn a top three team in the SEC. The Huskies desperately need a good showing again in the non-conference. Washington had a significant win last season over Kansas. Get one on the road at Auburn early in the season and the Huskies/Pac-12 will have major momentum. The Tigers are still adjusting to new additions but need to establish their homecourt once again as a tough assignment.
6. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 6, 9 p.m., ESPN2: The annual rivalry game was moved up to the first weekend, and it should establish a great barometer for both. The Seminoles once again aren’t getting the preseason respect. This is the same team for the most part that reached the Elite Eight. And Leonard Hamilton is jazzed about the potential. Florida’s Mike White is also high on his crew, but a lot will come down to who ends up being the lead guard. There was a lot of discussion at SEC media day that Andrew Nembhard could end up being the choice. This should be a good test for him and the rest of the younger players on the Gators.
7. Syracuse vs. UConn, 2K Sports Classic, Madison Square Garden, Nov. 15, 7 p.m., ESPN: This rivalry never disappoints and putting it in the Garden should create a festive atmosphere. The Orange are a Sweet 16 team that has visions of a Final Four. The starting five is back and Tyus Battle is an ACC player of the year candidate. The Huskies will be an intense lot under new coach Dan Hurley. The question will be their bigs throughout the season. This should also be a good test for Jalen Adams. How he penetrates the Orange zone will help him be patient and selective throughout the season.
Preseason rankings pic.twitter.com/d5WPgJLh0Q— Syracuse Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) October 30, 2018
8. Ohio State at Cincinnati, Nov. 7, 6 p.m., ESPN2: This wouldn’t have happened under previous Buckeye staffs. Nope. This is all Chris Holtmann. And I love it. These two historic, tradition-rich programs should be playing a series every season. And the fact that Holtmann didn’t hesitate to open up the refurbished Bearcat Fifth-Third Arena on campus is a tremendous move. Why not? This is a quality game that isn’t going to do anything but help the program. The Bearcats are a tournament team, and the Buckeyes probably are not. So, the onus is on Cincinnati to come out and show it on day one.
9. Memphis at LSU, Nov. 13, 7 p.m., SEC Network: The Tigers will be a must-watch under Penny Hardaway, but not just because of him. Jeremiah Martin is a stat stuffer. He’ll have his hands full with what should be a solid Tigers’ crew, led by Tremont Waters. The Tigers are going through an emotional, gut-wrenching season after the death of Wayde Sims. So, they deserve to have time to figure everything out. They’ve already had to deal with the worst adversity a team can ever deal with in a season. Still, this should be a stellar game for both teams this early.
10. Oregon vs. Iowa, Nov. 15, 2K Classic, Madison Square Garden, 9:15 p.m., ESPN2: The Ducks and Hawkeyes have high hopes this season. Both teams return a lot but had major deficiencies last season. The debut of Bol Bol for Oregon will garner a lot of attention. Iowa has a stud in Tyler Cook. But the Hawkeyes won’t improve if they don’t defend. That has been the primary focus all summer. Let’s see if the message was sent.