Tip-off to the beginning of basketball season is just a week away, and the month of November features many interesting match ups. November won’t make or break a season, but it does create a temporary perception of how good a certain team is. The round robin tournament featuring Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Duke is the headliner of the month and starts on November 18.
Duke will be debuting its fabulous freshman trio Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow against a Michigan State squad looking to prove itself. The primetime event features a preseason No. 1 Kentucky squad boasting a NCAA record nine McDonald’s All-Americans. Kentucky, who is rebounding from a loss to UConn in the national championship, returns much of the same roster as last year with the additions of Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis, Trey Lyles, and Karl Towns. Kentucky is going to have to find minutes for all of its very talented players, and it should be interesting to see how head coach John Calapari balances all of their playing time. November games between ranked teams tend not to execute as advertised while the players are trying to figure out their roles within the team, and coaches are trying to create an identity and find balance. It wouldn’t surprise me if Kentucky hit a couple bumps in the road early in the year as they try to figure out who they are, but once January comes around surely they will be stout.
Their opponent, No. 5 Kansas, is also returning a talented roster minus NBA No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins and No. 3 pick Joel Embiid. With the additions of Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander, and Devonte Graham, Kansas possesses a formidable opponent for a Kentucky squad with high expectations. All in all this four team Monday night primetime match-up features 12 freshmen with McDonald’s All-American accolades, and four future Hall of Fame coaches. The games may not live up to the expectations, but these four teams will make noise when it matters most in March.
Other games of Note:
November 17: No. 22 SMU at No. 13 Gonzaga
SMU and coach Larry Brown will try to continue to build on their success last year against a Gonzaga squad with high expectations.
November 24: No. 12 Villanova at No. 15 VCU
Shaka Smart might have his most talented roster ever, and the fast tempo identity of the Rams will surely test a Villanova squad that has high hopes after losing to UConn in the Sweet 16 last year.
November 30: No. 10 Texas at No. 17 UConn
Texas and Rick Barnes exceeded expectations last year, but this year expectations are high once more; Barnes and his Longhorns will have a tough test early as they go to UConn to take on the reigning national champions.
*Section Photo credit to Shane Keyser, Kansas City Star; Featured Photo (above) credit to Jamie Squire, Houston Chronicle