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Under-the-Radar matchups for Week 1

Dave2015Most eyes will be on the State Farm Classic in New York (Kansas vs. Duke / Michigan State vs. Kentucky) when college hoops tips on Tuesday.  Elsewhere, in an interesting twist, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) opens league play right out of the gate, including first-week matchups such as Louisville at Miami and Virginia at Syracuse.

Those are the headliners of opening week.

Just as fun are the intriguing contests that register as Under-the-Radar (UtR) matchups.  Here are a few to put on your tracking list between Tuesday and Sunday:

Penn at Alabama (November 5) –  The Crimson Tide welcome new coach Nate Oats and have the returning pieces necessary to make the Field of 68.  Penn figures to challenge Harvard for the Ivy League title.  In other words, this isn’t an easy opener for Alabama.  It’s also a potential optics changer for the Quakers and the Ivy.

Vermont at St. Bonaventure (November 8) – Led by NBA prospect Anthony Lamb, the Catamounts project to be a dangerous opening-round opponent for someone in March.  If there’s any hope for a team from the America East Conference to earn at-large consideration, it begins with victories over other teams vying for an NCAA bid.  The Bonnies should fall into that category.

Bowling Green at LSU (November 8) – There may not be a clear-cut heavyweight in this year’s Mid-American race (unlike Buffalo a year ago), but the Falcons do bring back a Player of the Year candidate in Justin Turner and should compete for the league title.  Beyond that, opportunities to win road games against a power-conference schools are often where at-large dreams begin.

Illinois at Grand Canyon (November 8) – The host Antelopes look to be New Mexico State’s biggest challenger in the Western Athletic Conference.  But this game is really about an Illinois team that appears ready to make a leap back into the NCAA conversation.  With a follow-up tilt on Sunday at Arizona, this has trap game written all over it.  Carlos Johnson is a bucket-getter for the Antelopes.

Rhode Island at Maryland (November 9) – Underestimate the Rams in this year’s Atlantic 10 race at your own peril; there are a least a couple of potential all-league players on the roster.  Other than that, it’s a huge opportunity for URI to put a statement victory on its resume and help the entire league in the process.  It’s an equally solid matchups for the Terrapins who would love to leave any doubters behind.

Oklahoma vs. Minnesota (November 9) – Played in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, this neutral-court affair pits two potential bubble teams against each other.  Good stuff, all around.

Boston College at South Florida (November 10) – If you’ve followed any preseason projections, the South Florida Bulls are probably on your radar.  And while Boston College isn’t likely to be an ACC bid contender, notching a power-conference victory is always a plus.  If nothing else, it would serve as an additional confidence boost.

Colgate at Clemson (November 10) – The Patriot’s return their top five scorers from last year’s NCAA tournament team that rallied against Tennessee before falling 77-70 in the opening round.  Colgate will be looking for a return trip and an improved seed (they were a 15-seed a year ago).  Much like BC, this year’s Clemson team isn’t expected to finish in the top half of the ACC, but it’s still a huge opportunity for the Patriots.

 

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