It is Friday, Nov. 9 and the college basketball season is officially here.
A number of top-level match-ups are on the docket for Friday evening, including an intriguing season opening contest in Brooklyn, New York.
Kentucky and Maryland will square off from the brand-new Barclays Center with tip-off beginning just after 8:30pm (EST). News from earlier this week involving the eligibility status of Maryland wing Dez Wells, has the Terps entering this contest with an added boost of confidence and ability.
However, the Wildcats are the defending national champions and are welcoming in a new crop of talented youngsters, not searching to rebuild, but searching to repeat. Kentucky features one of the nation’s more elite teams heading into the season, but most of their projections are based off speculation, given their youth and inexperience.
With that being said, there is no denying the talent level that Kentucky will feature and their first shot at showcasing it to the nation begins on Friday. Speaking of that top talent, the front court battle should be the fun part of tonight’s season opening match-up as incoming freshman Nerlens Noel will square off 7-foot sophomore, Alex Len.
We know the publicity that Noel features as he prepares for his first game at the collegiate level. The Massachusetts-native was the top ranked freshmen from the class of 2012 and faces the task of replacing Anthony Davis down low. While that replacement comes strictly from a position standpoint, in my opinion, Noel is keen on making a name for himself in Wildcats’ history.
As for Len, his intriguing size has dubbed him as a true NBA prospect. Standing at 7-foot-1, Len is a native of Ukraine and expectations are soaring for him in his second year in College Park.
According to NBADraft.net, both Noel and Len are potential NBA lottery selections in next June’s draft, as the site pins Noel as the No. 2 overall choice and labels Len at No. 14.
Len averaged 6.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game a season ago, but also 2.1 blocks per contest in just over 21 minutes of action. The key for Len will be his defensive presence and ability to clog the paint. If Noel gets going offensively, the Terps could be in for a long night.
Both players are strong defensively, so it’ll be interesting to see which coach looks to impose an offensive threat and build off an advantage in the paint. Fellow freshman Willie Cauley-Stein could also cause problems for the Terps down low, so Len’s ability to stay fresh and out of foul trouble in the first game of the season will be crucial.
Given his draft projection, this could be Len’s time to shine, even though the season is just beginning. You want to talk about an instant stock rise, this could that opportunity for Len. Noel, on the other hand, is here to prove his worth in game number one.
The lights are on in Brooklyn, New York and the stage is set for an early season match-up that could hold resume-building implications for a Maryland squad that is looking to dance for the first time since 2010.
Paul Seaver is the College Basketball Network Manager at Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter: @TheArenaPulse