CBB: 2023 Champions Classic Preview (and other top early season games)

Image Courtesy: Spartans Wire

November 10
Florida (1-0) vs. Virginia (1-0) (Charlotte)
Can Florida be an NCAA Tournament team in year 2 under Todd Golden? What about Virginia under Tony Bennett? Pre-season first team All-SEC guard Riley Kugel and Florida take on talented Cavalier guard Reece Beekman and Virginia. The Cavaliers’ fierce defense under Bennett will have to continue in this game and as the season continues if they want to have success this season. For Florida, it will be about being consistent offensively against Virginia’s terrific defense in a neutral environment if they want to win this game. The game should come down to the last few minutes. In what should be a pro-Virginia crowd, the Cavaliers handle business over the Gators. Projected Score: Virginia 61, Florida 60

15.Texas A&M (1-0) @ Ohio State (1-0)
7 PM ET, Peacock
Texas A&M is a hot pick to be a contender in the SEC again this season and have a chance to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament in March. The Aggies could not get out of the first weekend of the tournament this past season but the Aggies return many integral pieces from their team last season. Guard Wade Taylor IV (leader in points and assists last season for the Aggies), forward Henry Coleman (leader in rebounds), guard Tyrece Radford, and forward Julius Marble should give the Aggies a great season. On the other side, Ohio State missed the NCAA Tournament back in March. There is always hope from Buckeyes fans that they can contend in the Big Ten. This showdown with the Aggies will be a great early season for the Buckeyes. Ohio State lost leading scorer and rebounder Brice Sensabaugh to the NBA. Forward Zed Key does return for the Buckeyes this season. He will need to show out if Ohio State wants to beat Texas A&M. Projected Score: Texas A&M 72, Ohio State 67

12.Arizona (1-0) @ 2.Duke (1-0)
The most high profile opening week game of the college basketball season with the Champions Classic’s permanent move to the second Tuesday of the regular season is between Arizona and Duke, a team that will head to Chicago for the Champions Classic next Tuesday. Pre-season ACC Player of the Year Kyle Filipowski and terrific sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor make this Duke team go while North Carolina transfer Caleb Love headlines a retooled Arizona roster. Love’s familiarity with the Blue Devils is obvious to see, as he hit a game-winning three to beat Duke in the 2022 Final Four in addition to the many regular season battles he shined in college basketball’s best rivalry game. In addition to Love, Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley, San Diego State Keshad Johnson, and returners Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell, and Oumar Ballo make up Tommy Lloyd’s roster who is the favorite to win the Pac-12 in the conference’s final season as we know it. The Duke-Arizona battle should come down to who can get the ball to their big time players in the closing moments of the game. Duke should win but it will be close.
Projected Score: Duke 78, Arizona 76

9.Tennessee (1-0) @ Wisconsin
9 PM ET, Peacock
Tennessee upset fourth ranked Michigan State in an exhibition game almost two weeks ago. New Vol Dalton Knecht encouraged fans with his performance in a win over Michigan State in an exhibition game. Star guards Santiago Vescovi and Zakai Ziegler were inactive in the win over the Spartans. The two joined Knecht, who scored 17 points in a win over Tennessee Tech, to open the season. Wisconsin failed to make it to March Madness in 2023 but will look to change their fates for 2024 as they take on Tennessee. Junior guard Chucky Hepburn returns as the leading scorer for the Badgers. It will take a full team effort and a great crowd for the Badgers to win over a tough Tennessee team on Friday night. Projected Score: Tennessee 65, Wisconsin 62

Memphis (1-0) @ Missouri (1-0)
In a return game for Memphis of their home and home series with Missouri, this game should be neck and neck. Penny Hardaway’s team added multiple transfers to its roster, with Jahvon Quinerly, the former Alabama point guard, headlining the list. Quinerly’s familiarity with Missouri will be important in this game after a few years with the Crimson Tide. On the other side for Missouri, it will take awhile to get used to this team without star forward Kobe Brown. 7-foot center Connor Vanover returns to the SEC after a year at Oral Roberts but many believe former Clemson guard Nick Honor will be what makes this team go. The winner of this game will have some great momentum as they enter the second week of the season. Projected Score: Missouri 67, Memphis 60

November 13
Xavier (1-0) @ 3.Purdue (1-0) (Gavitt Tipoff Games)
8:30 PM ET, FS1
Purdue looked dominant in a season-opening win over Samford, scoring 98 points and giving up only 45. Reigning national player of the year Zach Edey, Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith, and Mason Gillis returned as last year’s cogs. Forward Camden Heide and guard Myles Colvin look like good pieces that the Boilermakers can use this season. But, the challenge gets tougher when they face Xavier in this year’s Gavitt Games. The Musketeers’ duo of Desmon Claude and Quincy Olivare make this Xavier team very good. Sean Miller’s teams in Cleveland are always tough and this will not be an easy win for Purdue. Projected Score: Purdue 74, Xavier 68

November 14
4.Michigan State (0-1) vs. 2.Duke (1-0) (Chicago; Champions Classic)
Since I talked about Duke above, let’s focus on Michigan State. The Spartans fell 79-76 on opening night to James Madison. That does not mean they are not the team many thought they were entering the season. Consistency must be the Spartans’ friend offensively because they went 1-20 shooting from 3 against the Dukes. That number is bound to improve but it will be difficult against a talented Duke squad. Star guard Tyson Walker exploded for 35 points against James Madison. He must play well in addition to Malik Hall, AJ Hoggard, and Coen Carr being pieces that step up for Michigan State against a great Duke team, led by Kyle Filipowski. Projected Score: Duke 79, Michigan State 75

5.Marquette (1-0) @ 25.Illinois (1-0) (Gavitt Tipoff Games)
8 PM ET, FS1
Marquette has not been tested as much as Illinois as the season has begun. The Fighting Illini defeated top ranked Kansas in an exhibition game almost two weeks ago. Terrence Shannon, Dra Gibbs-Longhorn, and Coleman Hawkins must step up and lead this Illinois team against a tremendous Marquette squad coming into Champagne on Tuesday night. The Golden Eagles return Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek and Kam Jones. If everything goes right for Marquette, they will be competing for back to back Big East regular season and tournament titles and getting a top two or three seed in March Madness. At home, Marquette would be an easy pick to win but on the road, I believe Illinois pulls its second upset over a top five team in its house. Projected Score: Illinois 72, Marquette 69

16.Kentucky (1-0) vs. 1.Kansas (1-0) (Chicago; Champions Classic)
9:30 PM ET, ESPN
Kentucky and Kansas ride hype into the season most off-seasons under John Calipari and Bill Self, as two of college basketball’s best coaches. Calipari has returned to his roots, landing five top freshmen; DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards, Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard, and Aaron Bradshaw. For Kansas, Self added the top transfer in the country, former Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson joined a roster that returned starting point guard Dajuan Harris and wing Kevin McCullar. Both squads were dominant in their openers and they definitely won’t see a better team before they face each other on Tuesday night. Similar to the 2018 Champions Classic, I could see a coming out party on the national stage for a great group of freshmen for Kentucky (like 2018-2019 Duke with RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Tre Jones) or Kansas will dominate with what Bill Self teams are so good at, inside with Dickinson. Projected Score: Kansas 84, Kentucky 81

Iowa (1-0) @ 8.Creighton (1-0) (Gavitt Tipoff Games)
10 PM ET, FS1
Creighton lost tremendous point guard Ryan Nembhard to Gonzaga in the off-season. It will be up to Utah State transfer Steven Ashworth (17 points in opener) and Trey Alexander (20 points in opener) to replace his production. In addition, starting center Ryan Kalkbrenner and wing Baylor Scheierman continue to be great as starting pieces for Greg McDermott’s team. Iowa has not been great since center Luka Garza exited the program following the 2021-2022 season. Without Garza, Iowa lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Auburn. So, forward Payton Sandfort (21 points in opener) must continue his quality play if the Hawkeyes want to continue to succeed. Creighton should take care of Iowa but this will be a close game in the first half.
Projected Score: Creighton 85, Iowa 70

November 17
Maryland (1-0) @ 22.Villanova (1-0) (Gavitt Tipoff Games)
8:30 PM ET, FS1
Kevin Willard’s team is here to compete for a Big Ten title and get an NCAA Tournament berth in 2024. Forward Julian Reese (18 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks in opener) and guard Jahmir Young (12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks). The Terrapins will be tested on the road versus Villanova, who should be a top team in this season’s Big East. Forward Eric Dixon (15 points), forward Tyler Burton (15 points), guard TJ Bamba (13 points), guard Hakim Hart (11 points), and Justin Moore (10 points) contributed in a team effort in Villanova’s opening win against over American. This game looks like a NCAA Tournament game in the second weekend of the season. Villanova should win at home but Maryland will keep it very close. Projected Score: Maryland 75, Villanova 70

By Carter Huff

Please enjoy all of my content :) <3-Carter

Leave a Reply