The second day of the 2020-21 college basketball season is here, which also means it’s an appropriate time to wish you safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving!
Though the total number of games Thursday pales in comparison to Wednesday’s slate, there are still plenty of exciting matchups to track during breaks between the turkey and pumpkin pie.
Below are three things that you need to know.
Opening day goes according to plan
In what was one of the longest offseasons in modern sports history, college basketball finally returned Wednesday after 258 days. Over 100 games were successfully completed across the country as college hoops inched closer to a level of normalcy it hadn’t experienced in months.
To no surprise, things looked and sounded quite different than opening day in recent years. Empty bleachers were visible throughout the day while refs, coaches, staffers and reserve players donned masks. Overall, though, the bulk of Wednesday’s storylines focused on the on-court action.
Stars show up with quality performances
It seemed like every player who received All-American pub in the offseason recorded a double-double on Wednesday. We start with Iowa’s Luka Garza, who recorded 26 and 10 with three blocks to help the Hawkeyes cruise past NC Central. Illinois’ beatdown of North Carolina A&T was fueled by Ayo Dosunmu, who had 28 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Trayce Jackson-Davis also had 26 points and 11 rebounds in Indiana’s victory over Tennessee Tech.
Outside of the Big Ten, Cade Cunningham opened his Oklahoma State career with a bang, logging 21 points and 10 rebounds in a close win over UT Arlington. Elsewhere, Villanova’s Jeremiah Robinson-Earl chipped in 18 points and 10 boards against Boston College in what was an exceedingly strong collective performance out of the gates from the nation’s brightest stars.
Two heavyweight Thanksgiving matchups
Don’t you dare forget about college basketball just because it’s a holiday. A pair of top-20 matchups highlight Thursday’s schedule with early implications on the quality win picture. The nation’s top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs make their season debut against No. 6 Kansas in Fort Myers, Fla. Few games all season will have as much raw talent on the floor at once, thanks to Gonzaga’s immense depth and Kansas’ mix of returning contributors and skilled newcomers.
In the nightcap, No. 3 Villanova and No. 18 Arizona State keep things rolling in the 2K Empire Classic in Uncasville, Conn. Expect plenty of scoring in this one as ASU boasts one of the nation’s top backcourts while ‘Nova scored nearly 1.2 points per possession in its opener against Boston College.
Memphis 73, Saint Mary’s 56: See here
No. 3 Villanova 76, Boston College 67: Give Boston College a lot of credit for how it battled against one of the national title contenders on opening night. The final score — Villanova’s largest lead of the game — doesn’t tell the full story here. The Wildcats and Golden Eagles traded punches throughout the night as BC’s well-rounded attack and general toughness made life difficult for Jay Wright’s squad. Despite the loss, Boston College appears to be a team with a lot more promise than many expected heading into the season. Meanwhile, Villanova scored the ball fairly efficiently but had its lapses on the defensive side, which will certainly be tested against Arizona State’s scoring attack.
No. 18 Arizona State 94, Rhode Island 88: What a wild game of runs, shot-making, and general chaos. The Mohegan Sun Arena duel saw ASU hold off URI from what would have been a huge win after a substantial deficit early. Remy Martin finished with 26 points and helped the Sun Devils go up 16 before the Rams closed the game to 48-41 at the break. Rhode Island tightened things up and even took the lead in the second half but couldn’t find the necessary stops — especially without fouling, where ASU went 34-46 at the line — to close out the win.
San Diego State 73, No. 22 UCLA 58: There are plenty of new faces on the SDSU roster but the Aztecs looked as dominant as ever in their win over preseason Pac-12 favorite UCLA. Four San Diego State players finished in double figures, including 15 apiece from usual suspects Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel. UCLA turned it over 15 times and looked scattered throughout the second half.
Western Kentucky 93, Northern Iowa 87: UNI had no trouble scoring the basketball with a 20-39 mark from 3-point range and AJ Green and Noah Carter both scoring 28 points apiece. But Ben Jacobson’s crew couldn’t record enough stops to flip the script against Western Kentucky. Charles Bassey was back in action for the Hilltoppers but it was Taveion Hollingsworth who led the charge with 26 points. Nice quality win for WKU with several more opportunities on the way.
Other notable scores:
No. 15 West Virginia 79, South Dakota State 71
No. 25 Michigan 96, Bowling Green 82
Georgia State 123, Georgia Tech 120 (4OT)
Drake 80, Kansas State 70
Georgetown 70, UMBC 62
Oklahoma State 75, UT Arlington 68
Butler 66, Western Michigan 62
St. Francis PA 80, Pittsburgh 70
St. John’s 76, Saint Peter’s 75
USC 95, Cal Baptist 87 (OT)
VCU 85, Utah State 69
Thursday’s watchability index