I've Got Five On It: Most compelling Week 1 games
The college basketball season will get under way on Nov. 9, and the slate won’t take long to get warmed up, as there are plenty of marquee matchups headed down the pipe in the season's early going.
This week in I've Got Five On It, Rivals.com’s Rob Cassidy takes a look at the five most compelling games of the season's first week and offers a prediction on each.
Florida Man: Bluebloods and the transfer rule; conference picks
2023 Rankings: Rivals150
2024 Rankings: Top 40
No. 9 DUKE vs. No. 10 KENTUCKY
WHEN: Nov. 9, 9:30 p.m. ET
WHERE: New York’s Madison Square Garden
The Bounceback Classic is one of the obvious picks to make this list. Even before you mention the rosters, the intrigue of two blueblood programs coming off disappointing seasons draws you in. Add in the fact that this is stop No. 1 of the Mike Krzyzewski Farewell Tour and you’ve got enough pomp and circumstance to run a high school graduation.
For many, this game will provide a first look at Blue Devil super freshman Paolo Banchero, who could lead Duke in both points and rebounds on his way to becoming a lottery pick. On the Wildcat side of things, John Calipari spent the offseason taking a sledgehammer to his roster like an Italian Property Brother and will reveal his renovation on the big stage.
Freshman guard TyTy Washington and senior Kellan Grady, who scored 2,000 points at Davidson before transferring to Kentucky this offseason, will be asked to do a lot of heavy lifting in the opener. Betting this game would be completely irresponsible because we know next to nothing about how these rosters will click. Luckily, we specialize in irresponsible here at I Got Five On it.
PICK: Duke 81, Kentucky 78
No. 3 KANSAS vs MICHIGAN STATE
WHEN: Nov. 9, 7:00 p.m. ET
WHERE: New York’s Madison Square Garden
Michigan State kind of feels like the forgotten man in the Big Ten, and a case can be made that the Spartans were a bit undervalued at No. 6 in the league’s preseason media poll. They’ll have a chance to back up that talking point on opening night, when they square off with No. 3 Kansas.
Michigan State is coming off a shaky season and will undoubtedly miss Aaron Henry, who departed for the NBA. Northwestern transfer Tyson Walker will stabilize the point guard spot and the Spartans come with elite length.
The game will also provide most people with their first look at star Arizona State transfer Remy Martin in a Kansas uniform. The Jayhawks will be without suspended sophomore Jalen Wilson, but how much KU has improved from a defensive standpoint may determine how this game goes.
PICK: Kansas 88, Michigan State 80
No. 4 VILLANOVA at No. 2 UCLA
WHEN: Nov. 12, 11:30 p.m. ET
WHERE: UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion
UCLA will arrive at this game with almost unattainable expectations, as referring to recreating last season's improbable run to the Final Four “difficult” is understating the point. The Bruins are intriguing nevertheless, however, as all five starters have returned to Westwood.
The trio of Johnny Juzang, Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez will provide the head of a balanced attack to combat a veteran Villanova team that is now healthy and ready to move past last year’s injury-plagued season. Wildcat senior Collin Gillespie would be in the NBA right now had it not been for injury and will lead an incredibly deep roster. If Jay Wright gets what he hopes from bruiser Eric Dixon on the inside, I like ‘Nova here.
PICK: Villanova 80, UCLA 76
No. 5 TEXAS vs No. 1 GONZAGA
WHEN: Nov. 13, 10:30 p.m. ET
WHERE: Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center
What’s not to like about Gonzaga and national player of the year candidate Drew Timme taking on new-look Texas in the first week of the Chris Beard era? No offseason coaching hire generated as much buzz as the Longhorns poaching Beard from in-state and in-conference foe Texas Tech, while no recruiting victory was more celebrated than Gonzaga landing No. 1 overall prospect Chet Holmgren.
Holmgren’s rare skill set makes him fascinating to watch and it’ll be nice to see him test himself against a roster full of top-end talent. Transfers Marcus Carr (19 ppg last year at Minnesota) and Timmy Allen (All-Pac 12 selection at Utah) make Texas intriguing on its own, even if the program lost its dominant frontcourt from a year ago. That said, UT’s arms seem a little too short to box with Mark Few’s bunch.
PICK: Gonzaga 81, Texas 72
No. 20 FLORIDA STATE at FLORIDA
WHEN: Nov. 14, 1:00 p.m. ET
WHERE: Florida’s O'Connell Center
I’m on record calling Florida State a possible sleeper team on the national level, so count me among those excited to see the Seminoles play an early-season rivalry game. Leonard Hamilton’s senior-led squad will rely heavily on freshman Matthew Cleveland to quickly adjust to the college game, but the former five-star certainly has the talent to make an impact here.
This season feels like an important one for Gators head coach Mike White from a public perception standpoint, so his team will be under the microscope during an early-season test. This game will tell us a lot about a revamped and somewhat mysterious Florida team led in part by UMKC transfer Brandon McKissic, who impressed in a recent exhibition game. Things may hinge on Colin Castleton, who the Gators hope uses his size to carry the load in the frontcourt.
PICK: Florida State 74, Florida 65