Nearly the entire top 25 is in action as college basketball kicks off its season. I’m here to give you a few things to watch as you flip around trying to catch as much of the action as possible. This is a good night to set the DVR for some of the games as well. Give those fingers a workout.
All times Eastern
* Game of the Night
Tennessee vs. (15) Virginia Commonwealth (In Annapolis, MD) – 6:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network
The biggest game of the night looks to be this battle of 2014 NCAA tournament teams. Tennessee is led by new coach Donnie Tyndall. Shaka Smart’s bunch is poised to be one of the better non-power conference teams in the land. Treveon Graham of VCU is the best player on the court He averaged nearly 16 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists a game last year. Returning starters include point guard Briante Weber and shooting guard Jordan Burgess. The Volunteers are without Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae, but Josh Richardson is back to lead the Volunteer attack.
* Father vs. Son
(8) Louisville vs. Minnesota (In Puerto Rico) – 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Rick versus Richard highlights this Armed Forces Classic originating from Puerto Rico. Louisville has first-team preseason All-American Montrezl Harrell powering its front line. The Golden Gophers could have the advantage in the backcourt with Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu both returning. Hollins is one of the best scorers in Minnesota history. Louisville’s guards, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier, both get after it defensively, so this should be a very solid matchup. Of course, the capper is the coaching matchup with Rick Pitino squaring off against his son Richard. The storylines are there, win or lose, for both teams.
* Jahlil’s Debut
Presbyterian at (4) Duke – 6 p.m., ESPNU
The top prospect in the nation will have an opportunity to shine in the early window Friday night. Jahlil Okafor is a first-team All-American. Hell, CBS had him as its player of the year. The big man has a very polished game in the post. The Blue Hose do have a 7-footer to throw at Okafor, but Jake Campbell averaged all of five minutes a game. This should be a showcase for the highly regarded freshman Okafor, especially since this game should be well in hand by the time the other ones get going. Plus, Duke has other elite freshmen, such as Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow.
Grand Canyon at (1) Kentucky – 8 p.m., SEC Network
The Wildcats play Grand Canyon, which… yawn. The story behind this one is going to be the way Kentucky deploys its elite talent. John Calipari played eleven players at least 10 minutes a game in the exhibition season. There is a lot to watch with every unit the Cats throw on the floor. The major question is if they will be the early-season lob factory they were during the Anthony Davis season of 2011-’12.
Northern Kentucky at (3) Wisconsin – 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
The Badgers are going to be one of the best offensive teams in the nation. Frank Kaminsky, first team All-American, and Sam Dekker should assure that. This was a Final Four squad that has everyone back except for Ben Brust. This is the first chance to see Wisconsin completely tear someone to shreds with its inside-outside attack.
* Wichita State’s Streak
New Mexico State at (11) Wichita State – 9 p.m., ESPN3
The Shockers ran the regular season table a season ago. Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and company look to run their regular season winning streak to 32. New Mexico State was a tournament team a season ago.
* Freshmen Debuts
We touched on a Duke freshman earlier in this post; here are some of the other top freshmen in the nation and your first opportunity to see them in action.
D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State – 7 p.m. – Big Ten Network – vs. UMass Lowell
Myles Turner, Texas – 8 p.m. – Longhorn Network – vs. North Dakota State
Justin Jackson, North Carolina – 8 p.m. – ESPNU – vs. North Carolina Central
Stanley Johnson, Arizona – 8 p.m. – Pac 12 Network – vs. Mount Saint Mary’s
Kelly Oubre, Kansas – 8 p.m. – ESPN Full Court – vs. UC Santa Barbara
Rashad Vaughn, UNLV – 10:30 p.m. – UNLVRebels.com – vs. Morehead State
Isaac Hamilton, UCLA – 12 midnight – Pac-12 Network – vs. Montana State