Image take by Sports Illustrated
1) Michigan State vs. Connecticut
This Friday, Nov. 9, the college basketball season starts in a big way as the Michigan State Spartans travel across the Atlantic to take on the Connecticut Huskies at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. This is the second year the Spartans are playing in the Armed Forces Classic. The Spartans fell to the higher ranked North Carolina Tar Heals last season, but the game meant a lot more than just the score. It was a great way to honor our armed forces and show appreciation for all they do. This season, the Spartans are favored to win, but it should still be a great opening game. These teams have a history of playing each other on a big stage as Michigan State defeated Connecticut in the Final Four in 2009. Then in 2010, the Huskies’ defeated the Spartans at the Maui Invitational. This game should be filled with nothing but excitement as these are the first U.S. college basketball teams ever to play in Europe. What a great way to start the season.
2) Ohio State vs. Marquette
Another game worth mentioning on the ninth of November is the Ohio State vs. Marquette game. This year, these two teams will be playing on an aircraft carrier as they keep the Carrier Classic going. They will be playing on the USS Yorktown. The Buckeyes are expected to be very good this season and this game will give Buckeye fans an idea of how good they actually are. Buckeye fans should be interested to see how the roles of William Buford and Jared Sullinger will be filled. The Ohio State Buckeyes finished second in the Big Ten last season and the Marquette Golden Eagles finished second in the Big East. These conferences are arguably the strongest two in the nation. Both teams are expected to contend in their conference this year. This will be another huge game early in the season for the Big Ten.
3) Michigan State vs. Kansas
The Michigan State Spartans have the hardest first two games in the Big Ten and arguably the hardest in the nation. On Tuesday November 13, Four days after their game in Germany, they head to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta to take on the Kansas Jayhawks. This game is part of the Champions Classic, which is a three year series featuring four teams. The four teams included in the Champions Classic are Michigan State, Kansas, Duke, and Kentucky. The Jayhawks are preseason ranked higher than the Spartans this season but not by much. The Jayhawks are preseason ranked #7 and the Spartans are ranked #14. If Michigan State wins the game in Germany, I believe they will have the momentum, and could potentially upset Kansas. They will already have played in their first big game of the season so the big game jitters will be less of a factor for the Spartans. However, they will be traveling a long way and that can have a toll on a player’s physical and mental capacity. The Jayhawks are a very talented team and will be ready to go.
4) Wisconsin vs. Florida
The fourth and final significant game of the opening week for the Big Ten is the Wisconsin vs. Florida game. These teams play each other on Wednesday, November 14. The #23 Wisconsin Badgers will look to upset the #10 Florida Gators and start the year off strong. This game is big for Wisconsin because it is a chance for them to show that they are a definite contender in the Big Ten and that they are a strong team. The Badgers open their season off against Southeastern Louisiana. Wisconsin will use this game as an opportunity to tune up their game as they prepare for Florida. It will be a great way to practice in game situations, as they should have no problem beating the Lions of SE Louisiana. They should be fully prepared to take on the Gators come game time. Florida however, is not just looking towards Wisconsin. They open their season off against Georgetown, a team that is not expected to be great this year, but has a lot of talent. If Florida defeats Georgetown, they will have all the momentum. Wisconsin has to bring their “A” game next Wednesday.
Opening week predictions
My prediction for this opening week is that the Big Ten will win half of these four games. Michigan State will defeat Connecticut in Germany and lose a close one to Kansas. Last season, the Spartans started off 0-2 and ended up being a one seed in the NCAA tournament so this start is not bad. It is yet again, another season where Tom Izzo is getting his players used to the big games early so they are prepared for them in the end. The Buckeyes will win their game against Marquette on the USS Yorktown and the positions of Buford and Sullinger will be filled. Finally, Wisconsin will lose a nail biter to Florida but will impress people with their game play. It is a great game for Wisconsin because it will get them used to the big game early. It is also good for their freshman, especially their star recruit Sam Dekker. Any of these games could go either way. This should be an exciting week. College basketball is here.