The second week of the season continues the feeling-out process in college basketball, and while the matchups between Duke and Michigan State as well as the Kansas-Kentucky get together involved big-name programs squaring off in important games, the early part of the season does not usually involve these kind of epic confrontations.
However, there are many good and interesting games that will give an indication of how the season will develop.
Friday, Nov. 17: South Carolina State at UCLA
A game between a MEAC school and a Pac-12 opponent is unusual and noteworthy on its own, but this game is important to the college basketball world because UCLA has suspended LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley after they were caught shoplifting while the team was in China.
The suspension has been universally applauded, but since it is indefinite, nobody knows how long head coach Steve Alford and the UCLA administration will keep Ball, Hill and Riley out of the lineup for their actions that resulted in President Donald Trump getting involved in their release.
The Bruins are 3-0, and their last victory was a 106-101 triumph over Central Arkansas in overtime. Kris Wilkes keyed the victory with 20 points, including scoring five straight points in overtime, while Aaron Holiday led UCLA with 24 points.
The Bulldogs are 0-3, having dropped games to Wisconsin, Boston College and Yale. They are not likely to cause many problems for UCLA, but now that the suspension has come down on UCLA’s key players, it will be telling to see how the team reacts. South Carolina State will depend on Damani Applewhite (8.7 ppg) and Janai Raynor Powell (8.0 ppg) for the bulk of its scoring.
Saturday, Nov. 18: Utah State at Gonzaga
The Zags have a big advantage whenever they play at home, and this game should be no different, but the Aggies are a strong and competitive team.
Utah State comes into this game with a 2-1 record, having overwhelmed Mississippi Valley State 83-47 Wednesday night. They had a 20-0 run to start the second half in that game, and that kind of spurt indicates a kind of relentless demeanor that head coach Tim Duryea appreciates.
The Aggies are led by guard DeAngelo Isby, who is averaging 15.3 points per game and shooting 46.4 percent from the floor. Koby McEwen is right behind with a 13.3 ppg mark and he is hitting 41.9 percent of his shots from the field.
Josh Perkins and Johnathan Williams are leading the way for the 3-0 Zags with averages of 14.5 and 14.0 points per game, respectively. Williams has also taken over on the boards, averaging 8.5 rebounds per game, with Jacob Larsen right behind at 8.0 rebounds per night.
Look for Utah State to challenge Gonzaga and stay close for a half, but the Zags will take control in the final 20 minutes.
Sunday, Nov. 19: USC at Vanderbilt
The Trojans are ranked 10th and off to an impressive 2-0 start, but they will be tested severely by the Commodores, who come into the game having split their first two games.
Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu are leading the way for the Trojans, and that’s not a surprise since both could have been first-round picks if either had decided to opt for the NBA draft last spring.
Boatwright is averaging 20.5 points per game and is shooting 51.9 percent from the field. Metu is averaging 16.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Jordan McLaughlin is also averaging in double figures at 12.0 ppg and he is handing out a team-leading 5.0 assists per night.
If the Commodores are going to win this intersectional matchup, they will have to play clamp-down defense. Jeff Roberson, a 6-6 senior forward, is averaging 13.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, while freshman guard Saben Lee is averaging 12.5 points and 4.5 assists per game.
Monday, Nov. 20: Baylor vs. Wisconsin, Hall of Fame Classic, Kansas City, MO
This should be one of the more interesting games during the holiday week, as the Bears are in the top 25 and it would not be a surprise if the Badgers get there as well.
Baylor guard Manu Lecomte is a force who is averaging 22.5 points per game, and shooting 55.0 percent from the field. Senior forward Terry Maston is leading the Bears with 7.5 rebounds per night.
Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ is a seasoned junior averaging 16.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. D’Mitrik Trice is making things happen for the Badgers in the backcourt, as he is averaging 13.5 points and handing out 3.5 assists per night. He is connecting on 68.8 percent of his shots to this point in the season.