Despite the uncertainty hanging over college basketball as a result of the FBI investigation into the sport's connection with apparel companies, the fact remains that we will be watching games five weeks from now. Between a tough slate of non-conference games and the expectation that the SEC conference will take a step forward this year as a basketball conference, Alabama should have one of the tougher schedules in the country.
Monday, November 6 - Alabama-Huntsville - The 17-18 season tips off with an exhibition game against the D-II Chargers. UAH is a national power at the D-II level. Last season the team finished with a record of 26-8, won their conference tournament title, and were a 1 seed in the national tournament, reaching the south regional of the tournament. The Chargers could be looking at a rebuilding year of sorts this season after 61% of their scoring finished their college careers.
Friday, November 10 - vs Memphis [Annapolis, MD] - The season officially kicks off vs Tubby Smith and the Memphis Tigers. The Tigers finished last season with a 19-13 record, and did not receive a postseason invitation. On paper it looks like a rebuilding season for Memphis after seeing 78% of their scoring from last season depart. I wouldn't count out Tubby Smith, though. He's one of the more underappreciated coaches in the sport.
Tuesday, November 14 - Lipscomb - The home opener will take place against a sneaky good mid-major in Lipscomb. The Bison should be one of the top teams in the Atlantic Sun this season. Lipscomb finished 20-13 last season with no postseason invite. Lipscomb returns 79% of its scoring from last season, including Garrison Mathews (20.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.3 apg).
Friday, November 17 - Alabama A&M - The first game of the Barclays Center Classic. There's nowhere to go but up for the Bulldogs, who only won 2 games last season (2-27 overall).
Tuesday, November 21 - Texas-Arlington - Upset alert. The Mavericks will be one of the top mid-major teams in the country this season. Do not be surprised if you see them playing the role of Cinderella in March. Arlington finished 27-9 last season, advancing to the NIT quarterfinals. This is a senior-laden team, returning 53% of its scoring from last season, including Kevin Hervey - a legit pro prospect. Hervey's numbers last season were impressive (17.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.2 spg). In my opinion, he's a poor man's Kevin Durant. Watch out for these guys.
Friday, November 24 - vs BYU [Brooklyn, N.Y.] - The team travels to the Barclays Center for a couple of games. First up will be the BYU Cougars. Dave Rose has built this BYU program into an annual top 100 team. The Cougars finished with a 22-12 record last season, losing to UT-Arlington in the 1st round of the NIT. The strength of the BYU team this season will be on the perimeter with three impact guards returning: TJ Haws (13.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.0 spg), Nick Emery (13.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.6 spg), Elijah Bryant (11.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.2 apg).
Saturday, November 25 - vs Minnesota [Brooklyn, N.Y.] - The games are already set in this event because, god forbid, the networks not get the match-ups they favor. In my opinion, it takes away the tension of teams needing to bring it each night in order to advance in an event. But whatever. After enough years on this planet I'm used to not having my thumb on the pulse of things. The Gophers had a nice 16-17 season, finishing 24-10 and receiving an NCAA Tournament invite. They should be good in 17-18 as well. Minnesota returns roughly 85% of its scoring from last season, including its top four scorers. This is a darkhorse pick to win the Big 10.
Wednesday, November 29 - Louisiana Tech - The Bulldogs have been one of the more consistent mid-major programs in the country over the last five seasons. The program has won a total of 129 games (25.8 per season) during that period. The only disappointment has been the lack of an NCAA Tournament invitation. Last season, the program finished 23-10, but did not receive a postseason invite. Tech should once again be one of the top teams in Conference USA as 60% of its scoring returns. This game is at a tricky spot on the schedule, between the Barclay games and a 3-game stretch against UCF, Rhode Island and Arizona. There are a couple of upsert alert games on this schedule. This is one of them.