The 2018-19 college basketball regular season opens up on November 6th, which is now less than a week away. Opening night features some big name teams taking the floor. Last year’s champion and #9 ranked Villanova will open its season at home against Morgan State. As well, #5 Virginia looks to get rid of any traces of its devastating loss during last year’s round of 64 as it hosts Towson. The 19th-ranked Michigan Wolverines look to get back to the Final Four as they start their season at home against Norfolk State.
Although these all should be good games, none of them hold a candle to the two games that will be nationally televised on ESPN. Here are previews and predictions for both of those games.
#10 MICHIGAN STATE vs #1 KANSAS: 7:00 on ESPN
A heavyweight battle to start the season will feature less star power than last year on at least one of the sides. The Spartans come into this year with high expectations despite losing Jaren Jackson Jr and Miles Bridges to the NBA draft. Michigan State brought in PF Marcus Bingham, PG Foster Loyer, and SF Gabe Brown to help try to replace some of what they lost in Jackson and Bridges. Guards Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford will combine with forward Nick Ward as the three returning starters that will provide the majority of the scoring for the Spartans in this game.
For the Jayhawks, the key will be the freshman standout Quentin Grimes. The top recruit likes to play fast and could provide trouble for Michigan State’s defense. Seven-foot center Udoka Azubuike will also look to up his scoring from 13 PPG last season.
This game should be very close, but in the end, the Kansas offense should be too much for even a strong Michigan State defense to handle. Expect Kansas to win this one and start off 1-0.
#4 DUKE vs #2 KENTUCKY 9:30 on ESPN
College basketball kicking off the season with Duke vs Kentucky when both teams are going to be fantastic this year is a very good thing for college basketball. Both teams boast 4 five-star recruits for the upcoming season as they look to get the edge on the other team. Kentucky’s offense will play a strong turnover-free game and force the Duke offense to make plays to beat them. After losing star Kevin Knox to the NBA draft, freshman Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery, Ashton Hagans, and Immanuel Quickley will be forced to step up for Kentucky if they want to go far.
Duke will control the Kentucky defenders as it has star wing players in RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish that can do more than just catch-and-shoot. Both are all-around players that will get even better as the year goes on. Then, of course, there is the always imposing figure of Zion Williamson, who can control the boards on any given night.
Another game that could come down to the final few possessions will go to the Blue Devils. Duke’s offense is too strong and already has NBA level talent on its roster.