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Mike Lopresti | | November 8, 2022

Men's college basketball begins with at least a hundred happy teams and hints of what's to come

Top 10 preseason All-American picks in men's college basketball

And so it began Monday for Division I college basketball, the season tipping off in 200 places, from Princeton to Pepperdine. Meaning 100 teams get to say they’re 1-0. Such as...

1. It was a good day to be ranked.

Getty Images Armando Bacot fouls UNCW's Trazarien White on Monday in Chapel Hill. Armando Bacot fouls UNCW's Trazarien White on Monday in Chapel Hill.

All 25 teams from the Associated Press poll played, all of them won — 16 of the victories by at least 21 points. Blowouts on parade. But not everywhere.

No. 1 North Carolina was outrebounded and had only four assists — its lowest total in more than 42 years — and more or less grinded by UNC Wilmington 69-56. “I would say that’s probably a bad game for me, and I didn’t think any of us played good today,” pre-season All-American Armando Bacot said. But defense got the Tar Heels through for their 47th win in a row against in-state non-ACC opponents.

No. 14 TCU had to climb out of an early 20-point hole to edge Arkansas at Pine Bluff 73-72 on a 3-pointer in the final minute by Mike Miles Jr. The Horned Frogs were saved by a 27-7 gap at the free throw line. Two streaks were teetering; TCU came in 40-1 against the SWAC and Jamie Dixon was 19-0 in season openers in his career.

Other top-25 residents had easier Mondays.

Same old Gonzaga. North Florida traveled 2,700 miles to be Zags fodder, 104-63, their 68th home court win in a row. Gonzaga shot 63 percent; business as usual for a program that has led the nation in scoring four consecutive seasons.

Same old Houston. The No. 3 Cougars, with their highest AP preseason ranking in 55 years, flexed their customary defense to stifle Northern Colorado 83-36, which included a 27-2 Houston gap in points off turnovers. “We’re not always going to shoot well,” said Kelvin Sampson, who collected his 700th win. “That’s OK. Most teams don’t shoot well against us, either.”

Same old Kansas. Bill Self is on suspension sabbatical and assistant Norm Roberts is handling the first few games, but the Jayhawks rolled past Omaha 89-64 for their 50th home opening victory in a row going back to 1973.

2. It was a good day for those who followed legends.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports Jon Scheyer coaches Duke to a victory Monday against Jacksonville. Jon Scheyer coaches Duke to a victory Monday against Jacksonville.

Before Monday, the last time a Duke coach made his debut was Nov. 29, 1980, against Stetson, and the dawn of the Krzyzewski Age. Now it’s Jon Scheyer’s turn, and his Blue Devils ran over Jacksonville 71-44, with 16 points in the first half from Jeremy Roach, the only starter back from last season. Forty-seven of the other 55 points came from freshmen or transfers. Scheyer now needs only 1,201 more victories to catch Coach K.

“You’re anxious, you have some nerves, you were ready to get out there, start to get going,” Scheyer said. “You put in so much work, you want it to translate on the court. So for myself, I just took a moment before going out there (to think), what an opportunity, what a moment. This is the place I’ve grown up in, playing, coaching, and to be here as a head coach, I was not going to be anywhere other than this moment right now. And hopefully I can do that, going forward through the ups and downs.”

Said Roach, “He’s very calm. He doesn’t want to look too worked up, because if he’s looking worked up, how are we going to feel?”

Meanwhile, Kyle Neptune is off and winning at Villanova as the heir to Jay Wright — who was in the arena as a fan — with an 81-68 victory over La Salle. “All we think about is playing and coaching for each other,” Neptune said. “When you do that and think that way, there’s nothing to be nervous about.”

3. It was a great day for the ASUN conference.

First, Stetson rolled into Tallahassee and knocked off Florida State 83-74, ignoring all varieties of Seminole dominant numbers.

Florida State had been 46-1 its last 47 non-conference home games and had beaten the Hatters 18 consecutive meetings going back to 1975 and 24 times in a row in Tallahassee since its last loss in 1953. Because of injuries, the Seminoles were down to eight healthy scholarship players; not enough to stop Stetson’s Luke Brown and his 27 points, including seven 3-pointers. Brown is the fourth all-time leading scorer in Indiana high school history.

“I didn’t see anything that was not fixable,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.

Next, a continent away, USC coach Andy Enfield welcomed his old school, Florida Gulf Coast. It was nearly 10 years ago that Enfield’s No. 15 seed FGCU made history by dancing to the Sweet 16. Hello Dunk City. He took the USC job a week later. Monday’s reunion did not go well for him. The Eagles stunned the Trojans 74-61, wiping out an early 21-10 USC advantage to lead by as many as 20. That meant Florida Gulf Coast outscored the Trojans by 31 points over one stretch on their own floor. Chase Johnston had 20 points overall for the Eagles and Isaiah Thompson added 16 to the second half surge.

“I take the blame for this,” Enfield said. “I thought we were prepared to play tonight, and that’s on me.”

4. It was a great day for transfers.

The mass migration of talent across the college landscape will be a major storyline this season, so opening day was an appropriate preview.

Kentucky was down three starters Monday, including injured national player of the year contender Oscar Tshiebwe. The Wildcats still waxed Howard 95-63 with 22 points from Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves — “I knew what I was here to do,” he said — and 20 from CJ Fredrick, formerly of Iowa, who was last year to repair a hamstring.

Guard Michael Jones is the first graduate transfer in Stanford history and the first Cardinal transfer of any kind in 12 years. He scored 31 points in an 88-78 win over Pacific.

Minnesota slid past Western Michigan 61-60 with 23 points from Dawson Garcia, who was at North Carolina last season and Marquette the year before that.

Trevon Brazile landed in Arkansas from Missouri, and immediately went for 21 points and 12 rebounds to help push the Razorbacks past North Dakota State. Johnston and Thompson, the Florida Gulf Coasters who blew away USC? Johnston was at Stetson last season, Thompson at Purdue.

Brown, the Stetson Hatter who gunned down Florida State? He was at Ball State a year ago, averaging only 3.3 points.

Manny Bates was lost to North Carolina State for the season last November when he dislocated his shoulder in the first minute of the first game. He took the floor for Butler Monday and scored 25 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks in an 89-53 romp over New Orleans. “It’s been a long time coming,” Bates said.

The best transfer story of all was at Kansas State. Two years ago, Florida Gator Keyontae Johnson collapsed during a game at Florida State in the season’s most terrifying moment. Doctors had kept him on the sideline ever since. Now cleared to play, he started at Kansas State and scored 13 points in the 93-59 win over UT Rio Grande Valley. “I’m feeling good,” he said, “just thanking God every day.”

5. It was a good day to start early.

Baylor and Mississippi Valley State tipped off at 11 a.m. in Waco, the first Division I game of the season. The 117-53 Bears rout left ample time to consider three startling things about Scott Drew’s program.

Baylor is 82-13 in the past three-plus seasons, behind only Gonzaga.

Drew is a three-peat Big 12 coach of the year. The only other power conference coaches to do that are Purdue’s Gene Keady and Villanova’s Jay Wright.

Baylor played its 311th game as a ranked team during Drew’s 20 seasons. Before he arrived, the Bears had been ranked twice in 2,197 games over 97 years.

6. And it was a good day to win late.

Belmont nipped Ohio 70-69 when each team traded 3-pointers in the last 1.4 seconds.

7. It was a good night to be thirsty at Ball State.

The Michael Lewis coaching era began and he knew just how to attract support from campus. The first 300 students in the arena of legal age — a free beer! The well-hydrated crowd saw the Cardinals steamroll Division III Earlham 109-39.

8. And a good night to come home at Butler.

Of all the new faces in many places, Thad Matta is the only coach who has put a team in the national championship game. Matta 2.0 is now in session at Butler. Twenty-two years after coaching his first team there — his road then curved to Xavier and Ohio State, where he had the Buckeyes in the 2007 title game — he was back in Hinkle Fieldhouse leading his alma mater. The Bulldogs beat New Orleans before a full house. “That building was electric tonight,” he said. “It made coming home special to me.”

9. It was a good day to reverse some trends.

Oregon State rallied from 19 points down to beat Tulsa 73-70, a great way to start forgetting last season’s 3-28 record. UC Davis had been 0-33 against California, but not anymore after winning 75-65.

10. And a good day to be a coach’s son.

Freshman guard Jett Howard said hello to the Michigan fans with 21 points as the Wolverines defeated Purdue Fort Wayne 75-56. If he can supply the outside to go with Hunter Dickinson’s inside — the two combined for 43 points Monday — it will make life very pleasant for his dad Juwan on the bench.

One day, 200 games, lots of good news. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Noth Carolina’s Bacot said of the basketball season. The long run to April just took its first step.

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