JOE SULLIVAN | COLLEGE BASKETBALL
I don’t know. I’m willing to admit I have no idea how good any of the freshmen will be in college basketball this season, and in this era, they will have an effect on the outcome of games, really important games.
I guess there are some people, such as those who watch summer basketball in out-of-the-way places like North Augusta, S.C., who could project how good some of these players will be. Honestly, I’m not sure how reliable that is.
This weekend, I begin to find out for myself. The season opens Friday night, and my first task will be to check out the freshmen — besides my unusual usual proclivities (maybe LIU Brooklyn-Tulane?).
Michael Porter Jr. is generally regarded as the best freshman; he has appeared on some All-American teams. He’s a 6-foot-10-inch forward who will play one season at Missouri.
Mizzou was once a great basketball school, but that seems like a long time ago. This is supposed to be the beginning of recovery under new coach Cuonzo Martin (and his assistant, Michael Porter Sr.). The fans are excited, as the school announced this week that the SEASON is sold out.
You can get your first look at Porter Friday when the Tigers play Iowa State (SEC Network, 9 p.m.).
Later Friday night, UCLA plays Georgia Tech in Shanghai (ESPN, 11:30 p.m.). Maybe I can be criticized for this, but I want to see freshman LiAngelo Ball (younger brother of Lonzo) play his first game. LiAngelo isn’t considered as good as his big brother Lonzo or his little brother LaMelo, but I’m still fascinated. I’ll get some sleep instead, though, because LiAngelo and two teammates were arrested for shoplifting, and coach Steve Alford announced they will not play.
Finally, there’s Kentucky. John Calipari’s latest version of the Lexington AAU Playaz will rely on freshmen as heavily as ever. There are eight on the roster; the three most interesting to me are guards Quade Green and Hamidou Diallo and big man Kevin Knox.
Other games I’d like to see this weekend:
Texas A&M at West Virginia: An opening-night Top 25 matchup that will be played at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. A&M has to deal with West Virginia’s furious full-court press, but the Aggies’ junior big man, Tyler Davis, should have his way on the inside.
Northern Iowa at North Carolina: This could be interesting because Carolina point guard Joel Berry is injured. Northern Iowa is among the best teams in the Missouri Valley.
Northeastern at BU: Great way to start the season — with a rivalry game. No doubt it will go down to the wire.
Yale at Creighton: Admirably, Yale starts its season with road games here and at Wisconsin. The Bulldogs probably will return 0-2 but it will help them in the long run.
Notre Dame at DePaul: This used to be a twice-a-season rivalry, but those days are over. This is worth watching to see Bonzie Colson, an All-American for the Irish. DePaul is now playing in Wintrust Arena. It’s still not on campus (it’s near Soldier Field) but it’s better than Allstate Arena, the airplane hangar out near O’Hare Airport where the Demons used to play.
Monmouth at Seton Hall: This is supposed to be a big year for the Hall, but it had better pay attention against a pesky opponent.
George Mason at Louisville: Rick Pitino got fired. The Cardinals’ top freshman won’t play. Here’s the spot for an opening-weekend upset. Can I still call Louisville’s arena the Pitino Palace?
UMass at Harvard: It’s going to be a long season for first-year UMass coach Matt McCall, but I still want to check in on this matchup.
Yale at Wisconsin: I’m traveling with Yale the whole way.
Bucknell at Arkansas: Here’s another possible upset. Bucknell returns every notable player from last season’s NCAA team.
Princeton at Butler: Princeton will contend in the Ivy League. Butler might take some time to develop under first-year coach LaVall Jordan.
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