There were two rule changes to college basketball this past off-season, both of which sound huge, but may not amount to much.
First, the NCAA decided to push back the 3-point line by more than 16 inches to 22 feet, 1.75 inches from the center of the basketball, the same distance used by FIBA in international competition. The NIT tournament took the distance for a test drive so the NCAA could see how it affected play, and apparently they liked what they saw: a slight decline in 3-point accuracy, but no change to scoring per possession. The new rule should open up the floor a bit and hopefully discourage bad shooters from chucking bombs, but it will hardly mean a revolution.
The other change is the NCAA declaring that it will get out ahead of California’s “Fair Pay to Play” law and allow student-athletes to “benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model” (whatever that means). This could allow college athletes to finally earn money, just like their fellow students. Or it could mean the NCAA will find some new way to screw the kids. Fingers crossed it’s the former.
In any event, college basketball is back, and the season kicks off with a Final Four-worthy doubleheader, as #3 Kansas takes on #4 Duke and then #1 Michigan State faces #2 Kentucky. Here’s a quick preview of the opening day games as well as highlights from the rest of the opening week schedule.
Tuesday, November 5
#3 Kansas Jayhawks vs #4 Duke Blue Devils
7pm ET on ESPN
The Jayhawks were last year’s pre-season #1, but went just 26-10 and suffered another early exit in the tournament, getting knocked out in the second round by Auburn. Thus far they’ve already had to deal with an NCAA investigation, a Snoop Dogg scandal and an injury to sophomore guard Devon Dotson. Kansas is also hoping 7-foot senior Udoka Azubuike can stay healthy after suffering season-ending injuries in his freshman and junior years.
The Blue Devils went 32-6 last season before losing to Michigan in the Elite Eight. Their personnel losses were even more significant: Wooden and Naismith Award winner Zion Williamson went No. 1 overall, landing with the New Orleans Pelicans; RJ Barrett was picked by the New York Knicks; and Cam Reddish went to the Atlanta Hawks. Fret not for Coach K, however, as he will be welcoming to the team 6-10 blue chip Vernon Carey Jr and five other freshmen, including Cassius Stanley, who this fall broke Williamson’s school record for vertical leap.
#1 Michigan State Spartans vs #2 Kentucky Wildcats
9:30pm ET on ESPN
The Spartans went 32-7 last season, making it all the way to the Final Four before losing to Texas Tech, but return atop the top of the national rankings. Unfortunately they’ll be without guard Josh Langford until January, as he’s still suffering from a foot injury that cost him 26 games last season. But they bring back 3 starters from last year’s team, including potential Wooden Award winner Cassius Winston, and they’ve added top-35 recruit Rocket Watts, who has arguably the best name in college b-ball.
The Wildcats were 30-7 last year, losing to Auburn in the Elite Eight, and are now #2 thanks to another ridiculous recruiting class, this one including 6-3 Tyrese Maxey, 38-percent 3-point shooter Nate Sestina, and 6-7 forwards Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks.
Wednesday, November 6
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs #9 North Carolina Tar Heels
7pm on ACC Network
#11 Virginia Cavaliers vs Syracuse Orangemen
9pm on ACC Network
Friday, November 8
Eastern Kentucky Colonels vs Kentucky Wildcats
7pm on SEC Network
UNC Greensboro Spartans vs #3 Kansas Jayhawks
9pm on ESPNU
Saturday, November 9
Texas Longhorns vs #23 Purdue Boilermakers
7pm on FS1
Rhode Island Rams vs Maryland Terrapins
9pm on FS1
Sunday, November 10
Youngstown State Penguins vs #5 Louisville Cardinals
2pm on ACC Network Extra
UMass-Lowell River Hawks vs #18 Ohio State Buckeyes
4pm on ESPNU
All times Eastern, stats courtesy of SRCBB