The 2016-17 College Basketball Season has tipped off with a bang! On Friday night, we saw two of the most entertaining games in recent history. The 2016 Armed Forces Classic in Hawaii saw Michigan State University, Arizona State University, Indiana University and the University of Kansas open their seasons with stiff tests. Michigan State entered the season with many new pieces, including superstar forward Miles Bridges and returnees like guard Eron Harris, Gavin Schilling and Bahamian guard Tum Tum Nairn. Coach Tom Izzo is optimistic about this young core and how they will mesh early in the season. On the other side, the Arizona Wildcats have a young roster, lead by veteran guard Kadeem Allen and diaper dandies such as freshman point guard Kobi Simmons and freshman forward Rawle Alkins. However, the superstar sophomore shooting guard Allonzo Trier is sidelined with an unspecified issue and guard Ray Smith, an ESPN 100 recruit last year, retired after suffering his third ACL tear.
Now back to the games. Game one was an instant classic. Despite being down big early, Arizona ended up winning 65-63 on a Kadeem Allen game-winning layup. Up next for the 0-1 Spartans the 1-0 number two ranked Kentucky Wildcats, who are stacked with five star talents such as guards Malik Monk and De’aaron Fox.
This game will be played at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Tuesday night. Arizona has a little easier game at home against the Bakersfield Roadrunners on Tuesday night.
In game two, we saw two more of the traditional bluebloods, Indiana and Kansas. Indiana, despite losing point guard Yogi Ferrell, returned a potent offensive unit, including Guards Robert Johnson and James Blackmon. Kansas returned an experienced and potent backcourt in Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham, while adding diaper dandy and potential star wing Josh Jackson. The two teams went at it, throwing punches into the first overtime, where Indiana took control behind Blackmon’s 26 points, including a dagger three-pointer late, and squeaked out a 103-99 victory against Kansas.
If this is a primer, Tuesday’s Champions classic, with thirteenth ranked Michigan State, number two ranked Kentucky, first ranked Duke and seventh ranked Kansas will be a possible preview of the 2017 Final Four. All four teams have the ingredients to be elite teams and possibly cut down the nets in April. However, as we all know, being elite does not necessarily mean you win the championship. Michigan State found that out the hard way this past March when, as a number two seed, they were upset 90-81 by Middle Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA tournament. They and Kentucky are young teams who have to adjust to the toughness of the early season schedule. However, if they can get their players to play together, they will have great seasons. Basketball fans, this is your year because the blue bloods will be in town and ready to play. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to college basketball!
Keep in mind that these two games are only a small snippet of the Tip Off marathon, which officially gets under way Monday evening with several match ups, both women’s and men’s, that will impact the NCAA tournament. At 6:00 p.m. on Monday, third ranked Uconn women’s basketball, fresh off of their fourth consecutive National championships, goes on the road to face twelfth ranked Florida State, who is looking to avenge their loss last year. Gonzaga and San Diego State, a couple of quality West Coast teams, will play their second game of the season at 11:59 p.m. on ESPN2. Third ranked Villanova and fifteenth ranked Purdue played at Mackey Arena in Lafayette and Villanova won 79-76. These are teams that could make a run at the title as well.
For more action, visit www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball for more action and highlights. They are here to help you kick off your season in style!