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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Moments ‘til Madness: The best games to open the season

What to watch for week one of college hoops.

"Moments 'Til Madness " Column Graphic
Graphic by Gretta Goorno

The months of waiting have finally paid off. It’s officially time for the first tip-offs of the 2023–24 college basketball season. With many fascinating storylines and loads of new talent to be displayed, here are my favorite games for each day this week in college hoops.

Monday: No. 21 University of Southern California at Kansas State

For the first slate of games, this matchup stands out the most to me. USC has one of the most exciting groups of freshmen, including Isaiah Collier, the No. 2 recruit in the nation, and, of course, Bronny James. On the other hand, Kansas State is coming off a run to the Elite Eight. While the Wildcats did lose their top two players in Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson, Jerome Tang has already shown his high-level coaching skills in just one year at KState.

Tuesday: Drexel University at La Salle University

While you wouldn’t expect these two names to be on this list, they are facing off in the first Philadelphia Big 5 matchup of the season. The Big 5 has a whole new format this year, with Drexel being added to the field and the separation of the six teams into two pods. This historic round robin could be much more exciting and competitive than in recent years, where Villanova University has typically dominated.

Wednesday: No. 10 Florida Atlantic University at Loyola Chicago University

The FAU Owls are must-see basketball this year and this will be the first time we see them after their exhilarating run to the Final Four. Dusty May did a great job this offseason, keeping all but one player from the 2022–23 roster. With close to an identical team as last year, the expectations are high for this team. If you’re a fan of the sport, you should be tuning in to this mid-major battle.

Thursday: University of New Mexico at No. 23 Saint Mary’s University

The Saint Mary’s Gaels and New Mexico Lobos are giving us yet another great mid-major matchup for this week. I believe New Mexico could have the potential to crack the top 25 at some point this year, as they are usually ranked in the top fifty teams in the sport. Furthermore, Saint Mary’s seems to always have a spot in the AP Top 25, as they continually play great basketball and compete with their conference rival (and college basketball powerhouse), Gonzaga University. These two squads will likely be battling it out on Thursday and there’s no reason not to watch.

Friday: No. 12 Arizona at No. 2 Duke

This coastal conference battle is likely going to be the most watched of the week, and understandably. Per usual, the Blue Devils have one of the best rosters in the nation and are being led by sophomore Kyle Filipowski, who many writers have in their All-America First Team. The Wildcats also have a talented group, with Oumar Ballo, another quality big man leading the way, and several key transfers, with one being former UNC guard Caleb Love. There’s too much to love about this matchup.

Saturday: Stonehill College at No. 6 University of Connecticut

We all know what happened last April to cap off the season. Can UConn do it again? Although Stonehill isn’t expected to put up much of a fight, this is a great opportunity to see what the reigning champs could be this year. Dan Hurley will need to get a lot out of sophomore Donovan Clingan, who is coming off a foot injury, if they hope to get another trophy next April. This will also be the first time we see freshman Stephon Castle, who could potentially play a huge role for the Huskies.

Sunday: Lehigh University at No. 19 University of North Carolina

To end the week, with not much to choose from, you should likely be watching UNC’s second game of the season, as they try to forget about last year’s major disappointment and bring back that same momentum they had to end the 2022 tournament. Fifth-year forward Armando Bacot will need to have a monster year. With a whole new look to this team, I wouldn’t be surprised if they end the year in the top 10 and earn themselves a top-four seed in March Madness. But we’ll have to wait and see.