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On The Menu: Opening Day

Happy New Season! The first day and night of the 2015-16 college basketball campaign is focused more on quantity than quality.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Game information courtesy Matt College Sports on TV Website, which has even more games listed. Be sure to read his post detailing this season's broadcast/webcast changes, since there are many.

This season, more games will be available on your nearest TV or computer screen than ever before. My goal in these posts is to direct you to the ones that just might be the most important and entertaining.

One of the things I will be looking out for today and tonight is how this season's rule changes will affect game length. Given the short two-hour windows most games receive---ones they typically exceed by at least 10 minutes---I'm expecting things to get worse before they improve. And with that, here's a look at the five games that stand out the most on this busy Opening Day.

Main Courses

Vermont Catamounts at Eastern Michigan Eagles, 11 a.m. (ESPN3)
And that's Opening Day because ... who's up for some morning hoops? This matchup in Ypsilanti serves both as the official opener of the new season and practice for the upcoming Tip-Off Marathon.

No. 7 Iowa State Cyclones vs. Colorado Buffaloes (at Sioux Falls, S.D.), 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
Steve Prohm's first game in charge of the Cyclones, who should challenge Kansas in the Big 12 race, comes against a Buffaloes team that failed to make the NCAA Tournament or NIT for the only time in Tad Boyle's tenure. (Colorado fell in the second round of the CBI to Seattle.)

No. 9 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (Armed Forces Classic at Okinawa, Japan), 7 p.m. (ESPN)
The Panthers, who stumbled into the NIT last time around, will look to get their new campaign off to the best possible start with an upset win over a Bulldog team that will again challenge for a one or two seed.

Temple Owls vs. No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (Veterans Classic at Annapolis, Md.), 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
The Tar Heels rank first in the AP poll and fourth in my preseason bracket projection, and they face an opponent who should test them for 30-35 minutes, even if the Owls did lose some talent off a squad that made the NIT semifinals after its NCAA snub.

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks at No. 22 Baylor Bears, 9:30 p.m. (FS Southwest Plus/FCS Atlantic)

If you're able to watch this one, do it. Brad Underwood's Lumberjacks---the Southland's best by a considerable margin---should seriously test the Bears in the opener for both.

Washington Huskies vs. Texas Longhorns (at Shanghai, China), 10 p.m. (ESPN)
The first official NCAA basketball game is the Texas debut of former VCU coach Shaka Smart. It could also be the beginning of the end of the Lorenzo Romar administration in Seattle, if the Huskies don't rise up the Pac-12 standings this season. As I've said a few times before, these two might meet again in less than two weeks if their Battle 4 Atlantis quarterfinal results match.

Ranked Specials

Siena Saints at No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (2K Classic Benefitting Wounded Warrior Project), 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Albany Great Danes at No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats (Hoophall Invitational), 7 p.m. (SEC Network)

Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers at No. 3 Maryland Terrapins, 7 p.m. (BTN)
Morgan State Bears at No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

Northern Colorado Bears at No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks (Maui Jim Maui Invitational), 8 p.m. (ESPN3)

Of the top half-dozen teams in both the preseason AP poll and my preseason bracket, only UNC faces a squad that should pose actual opposition. Still, these games are your first chance to see touted freshmen like Duke's Brandon Ingram, Derryck Thornton, and Chase Jeter; UK's Skal Labissiere, Jamal Murray, and Isaiah Briscoe; and Maryland's Diamond Stone (yes, that's his real name).

Ranked Appetizers

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights at No. 11 Villanova Wildcats, 7 p.m. (FS2)
Florida Atlantic Owls at No. 13 Michigan State Spartans, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

Maine Black Bears at No. 20 Connecticut Huskies, 7 p.m. (SNY/ESPN3)

Eastern Illinois Panthers at No. 15 Indiana Hoosiers, 7 p.m (BTN Plus)

N.C. A&T Aggies at No. 23 Purdue Boilermakers (Hall of Fame Tip-Off), 7 p.m. (BTN Plus)

Northern Michigan Wildcats at No. 25 Michigan Wolverines, 7 p.m. (BTN Plus)
St. Francis, Pa. Red Flash at No. 19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3)

Charleston Southern Buccaneers at No. 10 Wichita State Shockers, 8 p.m. (ESPN3)

Austin Peay Governors at No. 18 Vanderbilt Commodores (Maui Jim Maui Invitational), 8 p.m. (SEC Network+)

McNeese State Cowboys at No. 21 LSU Tigers, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

Western Illinois Leathernecks at No. 17 Wisconsin Badgers, 9 p.m. (BTN)
Pacific Tigers at No. 12 Arizona Wildcats, 9:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network Arizona)
Southern Utah Thunderbirds at No. 16 Utah Utes, 10:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network Mountain)

Rice Owls at No. 14 California Golden Bears, 11:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network Bay Area)

Similarly, the remaining 15 ranked teams in action this evening, should all pick up victories. Michigan is the only team of the group to open play with a non-Division I opponent, something the Wolverines have done in six of John Beilein's eight seasons (though each of those teams is either local or has an interesting tie to UM).

Also, consensus No. 1 recruit Ben Simmons, an Australian import, makes his LSU bow at home against in-state rival McNeese. He's one of the more uniquely talented players you'll ever see, so be sure to check in on that game for a bit.

Other Intriguing (?) Options

UNC-Asheville Bulldogs at Tennessee Volunteers, 7 p.m. (SEC Network+)
Samford Bulldogs at Louisville Cardinals, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Lehigh Mountain Hawks at Syracuse Orange, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

Western Carolina Catamounts at Cincinnati Bearcats, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
William & Mary Tribe at North Carolina State Wolfpack, 8 p.m. (ESPN3)
Eastern Washington Eagles at Mississippi State Bulldogs, 9 p.m. (SEC Network)
Belmont Bruins at Marquette Golden Eagles (FanDuel Legends Classic), 9 p.m. (FSN)

Florida Gators at Navy Midshipmen (Veterans Classic), approx. 9:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

UAB Blazers at Auburn Tigers, 9:30 p.m. (SEC Network+)

Illinois State Redbirds at San Diego State Aztecs (Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge), 10 p.m. (ESPN3)

Monmouth Hawks at UCLA Bruins, 11 p.m. (Pac-12 Network LA)

The night's other highlights include a trio of notable coaching debuts at schools that failed to make the NCAAs last time around---Rick Barnes at Tennessee, Ben Howland at Mississippi State, and Mike White at Florida. Otherwise, Belmont and Illinois State are the best upset bets in this group, while March darling UAB winning at Auburn couldn't really be classed as such.

Yes, more thrilling nights await, but college basketball has finally returned.

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