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5 Storylines 5 Days Out From College Basketball: Pt. 5

Article written by:On3 imageBrandon Ramsey

BRamseyKSR

On3 image
Photo by Jamie Sabau | NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Football season is very much still in full swing. The weather is starting to change and we are getting some perfect fall weather over the last week or so. However, basketball is right around the corner. In fact, the college basketball season officially tips off in just five days. Monday, November 7th will be here before you know it. Preseason Top 5 team Baylor is among the group that will tip off the season at noon EST with a huge slate of games to follow on opening day.

In honor of games quickly approaching, we’re touching on 25 of college basketball’s biggest storylines heading into the 2022-23 season. So far, we’ve covered 20. You can check them out below. 

Now, here are our final five storylines just five days away from the college basketball season. Stay tuned for the annual college basketball manifesto that will be released leading into Monday’s tipoff. As Jon Rothstein would say: And Here. We. Go.

We don’t normally get big-time college basketball in October. However, Tennessee and Gonzaga treated us to a pay-per-view matchup on Friday night in a matchup between preseason Top 15 teams. The Volunteers used a dominant second half to pull away from the Bulldogs for a 99-80 victory.

Between a closed “secret” scrimmage with Michigan State, and this exhibition against Gonzaga, UT head coach Rick Barnes’ team may be the most battle tested group heading into the season. Tennessee was led in scoring by Indiana State transfer Tyreke Key, who came off the bench to score 26 points. Sophomore point guard Zakai Zeigler was excellent as well finishing with 13 points, eight assists, and three steals. He will be the straw the stirs the drink for the Vols this year. Right now it’s just preseason hype, but Tennessee has the look of a Final Four team.

For as good as the Volunteers looked on Friday, Arkansas was equally as bad on Saturday. The Razorbacks were blown out by Texas 90-60 in another high-level exhibition matchup. Head coach Eric Musselman’s group was just 20-50 from the field, turned it over 23 times, and allowed the Longhorns to shoot 54.1% from the field and 62.5% from beyond the arc. By starting three freshmen and two transfers, it is going to take the Razorbacks some time to become a cohesive unit. The talent level is certainly there for this team to live up to their hype. However, the punch to the mouth they received on Saturday may be a reason to pump the breaks on some of the most lofty expectations.

Underrated Big Ten Teams

Ohio State, Michigan State, and Purdue deserve more preseason chatter. The return of Trayce Jackson-Davis has gotten the Indiana Hoosiers more than their fair share of hype. Head coach Mike Woodson’s squad, while certainly talented, probably are overrated at #13 in the country. However, there are other Big Ten schools that are being overlooked heading into the year.

OSU head coach Chris Holtmann returns just one starter from last season’s team in Zed Key. The 6’8″, 245-pound junior should experience a breakout campaign as all reports indicate he is in excellent physical shape. Ohio State hit the transfer portal hard and added a few of instant-impact guys in Sean McNeil (West Virginia), Isaac Likekele (Oklahoma State), and Tanner Holden (Wright State). Holden was the Buckeyes leading scorer in a 40+ point route of Chaminade in an exhibition game Tuesday night. Top 50 recruit Bruce Thornton got the start at point guard while fellow freshman Brice Sensabaugh drew the start as a forward. Ohio State may feature a lot of new faces, but the talent is certainly there to compete at the top of the league.

As for Michigan State and Purdue, those are as much bets on coaching and consistency as anything. Sparty looked excellent in the second half of Tuesday night’s exhibition win over Division II Grand Valley State. Tyson Walker looked like the star he was at Northeastern while highly-touted freshman Jaxon Kohler showed flashes of being a two-way force. Veterans AJ Hoggard and Malik Hall appear ready to take on larger roles as well. As for the Boilermakers, 7’4″ junior Zach Edey is the obvious anchor in the middle. However, a big reason for optimism is freshman point guard Braden Smith who will start from day one. The Indiana Mr. Basketball award winner will be an excellent facilitator for Coach Matt Painter’s shooters. Utah transfer David Jenkins Jr. will help in the scoring department as well.

Opening Day Games to Watch

Admittedly, Monday’s slate of games isn’t the most exciting. There are no Top 25 matchups and very few high-majors will really test themselves to begin the season. However, there are still enough storylines to make it an exciting opening day. Here are some of the top matchups to follow:

  • #5 Baylor vs. Mississippi Valley State – With a noon tipoff, this will be the first Division I basketball game of the season. We’ve talked before about head coach Scott Drew’s talented backcourt and this will be our first look at freshman superstar Keyonte George.
  • #22 Michigan vs. Purdue Fort Wayne – This might be the most evenly matched game of the day featuring a Top 25 team. PFW won 10 straight games in the Horizon League at the end of last season before falling in the tournament. They were picked to win the league in the preseason this year. Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson is a preseason All-American.
  • #19 San Diego State vs. Cal State Fullerton – Matt Bradley is a trendy All-American pick for the Aztecs. Head coach Brian Dutcher has another very strong team that will win a ton of games. As for Cal State Fullerton, they will likely overachieve in the Big West despite losing a lot from a year ago. They are a veteran team with the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in the league in Jalen Harris taking over the starting point guard role. Look for Max Jones, a Division II transfer from Tampa, to be among the Titans leading scorers.

Questioning the ‘Cats

The Kentucky Wildcats scored just 56 points in an exhibition win over Division II Missouri Western State. National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe has missed the last few weeks after a knee procedure and Sahvir Wheeler suffered a knee injury in the exhibition game. Then, John Calipari put out a video to fans on Tuesday that some people took as a pumping of the brakes on preseason expectations.

On Thursday evening, the Wildcats will take the floor again for their second exhibition game against Kentucky State. The season opens with Howard and Duquesne, but then Michigan State looms on November 15th in the Champions Classic. Pressing any sort of a panic button after some offensive struggles in an exhibition game on October 30th, while playing without the National Player of the Year, is probably a massive overreaction. However, after last season came to an abrupt end with a loss to Saint Peter’s, Big Blue Nation is mostly in a “wait and see” phase. Luckily, the wait is almost over.

Preseason AP Top 25

  1. North Carolina
  2. Gonzaga
  3. Houston
  4. Kentucky
  5. Kansas
  6. Baylor
  7. Duke
  8. UCLA
  9. Creighton
  10. Arkansas
  11. Tennessee
  12. Texas
  13. Indiana
  14. TCU
  15. Auburn
  16. Villanova
  17. Arizona
  18. Virginia
  19. San Diego State
  20. Alabama
  21. Oregon
  22. Michigan
  23. Illinois
  24. Dayton
  25. Texas Tech

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2023-02-01