College Basketball
College basketball's opening week: Fun settings, epic upsets and more
College Basketball

College basketball's opening week: Fun settings, epic upsets and more

Updated Nov. 13, 2022 4:31 p.m. ET

Let’s dispense first with the complaints about college basketball not having marquee games on opening night, or at least the first two days of the season.

The only reason the Champions Classic, the sport's marquee tip-off event, didn’t happen on the first Tuesday of the season was because of the midterm elections. The plan is for the event to be on the second week of the season in even years. So, that should at least whet the appetite of national fans to see Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan State.

And while there weren’t enough marquee games into the first weekend, there will be a slew up ahead this week with the Champions Classic, the Gavitt Games and neutral-site tournaments starting in earnest next weekend.

Remember, most Power 5 schools need a certain number of home games to satisfy season-ticket requests and/or at least justify charging significant dollars for them. Oh, and there were plenty of upsets that will resonate for teams in the quest to get at-large berths from traditional one-bid conferences. 


Onto the storylines from the first week of the season:

1. Armed Forces Classic on the USS Abraham Lincoln: The event returned for the first time since the pandemic, and back to Coronado Island for the first time since the initial event in 2011. The day-to-night atmosphere, despite a bit of a San Diego chill, was something special. Gonzaga fell behind by a dozen, but All-American and Player of the Year candidate Drew Timme scored 22 and took control in the second half for the one-point win, 64-63. Michigan State’s Jaden Akins had a shot to win it at the buzzer, but it didn’t fall. Atmosphere. The military performances. The scene overlooking the water. The flyover. The close, last-possession game. All of it was great.

2. Kansas State’s Keyontae Johnson played for the first time since collapsing and having to be revived on the court while playing for Florida at Florida State on Dec. 12, 2020. Johnson scored 16 in a win over Cal and 13 in the Wildcats' opener, but the numbers don’t matter. The fact he played a single minute is a remarkable, inspiring comeback story.

3. Oscar Tshiebwe’s absence: The reigning National Player of the Year missed Kentucky’s first two games as he continues his rehab from an offseason knee procedure. Tshiebwe’s status is still unknown for Kentucky’s three games this week — against Michigan State in Indianapolis on Tuesday, hosting South Carolina State on Thursday, and at Gonzaga on Sunday. 

4. Upsets galore: Florida State is 0-2 after losing to Stetson and UCF; Oklahoma lost to Sam Houston State; Temple lost to Wagner and then beat Villanova; Grambling State beat Colorado in the inaugural Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Challenge with the Buffaloes playing at the Historically Black College in Louisiana; UC Irvine crushed Oregon by 13. 

The significance of the Ducks' loss is still to be determined. But last season’s inconsistency — and NCAA Tournament miss — was supposed to be in the past. This does raise some doubts. The Seminoles were going to be a work in progress, but digging a hole one week into the season is not going to help a team in transition. 

5. First impressions:

6. Remember these names: 

Highlights: Wisconsin defeats Stanford

Wisconsin's Tyler Wahl finished with 17 points in the Badgers beat Stanford.

7. Great atmospheres: The game on the USS Abraham Lincoln was No. 1. 

But No. 2 and 3 are close. Wisconsin beat Stanford at the home of the Milwaukee Brewers with the court placed over a baseball diamond. But for me, since I saw it in person, I’ll go with San Diego State’s comeback win over former rival BYU at Viejas Arena. Love that place. The student section dubbed "The Show," showed out and created one of the best crowds in the country. Oh, and the Aztecs have some studs to join Matt Bradley and Nathan Mensah. Jaedon LeDee, a transfer via Ohio State and TCU, and Seattle transfer Darrion Trammell both scored over 20. The Aztecs can always defend. Now they can score with anyone. Look out. 

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Andy Katz is a longtime college basketball writer, analyst and host. He can be seen on the Big Ten Network, as well as March Madness and, and he hosts the podcast "March Madness 365." Katz worked at ESPN for nearly two decades and, prior to that, in newspapers for nine years.


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