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Title contenders Villanova, Gonzaga, Duke tip off college basketball season

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Title contenders Villanova, Gonzaga, Duke tip off college basketball season
Gonzaga freshman Chet Holmgren (34) is a preseason favorite for Player of the Year and a projected top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Photo courtesy of Gonzaga Athletics

MIAMI, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Villanova, Gonzaga and Duke will be among the title favorites to tip off the 2021 men's college basketball season Tuesday. Women's favorite South Carolina also starts its season Tuesday.

The teams return to their traditional fall start dates after the coronavirus pandemic delayed last year's start by two weeks. The 2020-21 season also had dozens of canceled or postponed games and pauses as players, coaches and referees frequently tested positive for COVID-19.

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Last season also marked the return of the Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments after they were canceled in 2019-20 due to the pandemic.

The 2021-22 tournaments are scheduled to start in mid-March and be held at several venues throughout the United States, unlike last postseason competition, which was moved to centralized locations.

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Baylor, which won the men's title in March, lost several key players this off-season and ranks No. 8 in the Coaches Poll. The Bears start their 2021-22 campaign against Incarnate Word at 8:30 p.m. EST Friday. Baylor is not among the Top 10 favorites to win the title this season.

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Stanford, the reigning women's champion, ranks No. 2 in the women's Coaches Poll. The Cardinal hosts Morgan State at 6 p.m. EST Thursday.

No. 4 Villanova hosts Mount St. Mary's one of the first Division I men's games of the season. That matchup tips off at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in Villanova, Pa., and airs on FS1.

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Also Tuesday, No. 1 Gonzaga, the men's title favorite, hosts Dixie State at 9 p.m. in Spokane, Wash. No. 2 UCLA hosts CSU Bakersfield at 11 p.m. on the Pac 12 Network. No. 6 Michigan, another title favorite, tips off Wednesday against Buffalo.

On the women's side, No. 1 South Carolina battles No. 4 North Carolina State at 5 p.m. EST Tuesday on ESPN. No. 2 UConn tips off Sunday against Arkansas. No. 5 Maryland hosts Longwood in one of the first women's games at 11 a.m. Tuesday in College Park.

Top matchups

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Four teams outside the Top 25 in the Coaches Poll tip off the men's basketball slate at 3 p.m. EST Tuesday. Washington State hosts Alcorn State on the Pac 12 Network. Manhattan hosts Manhattanville on ESPN3.

No. 9 Duke faces No. 11 Kentucky in Tuesday's lone matchup between ranked men's teams. That game tips off at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.

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No. 3 Kansas battles Michigan State at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden in New York City. That matchup also airs on ESPN.

No. 5 Texas hosts Houston Baptist at 9 p.m. on Longhorn Network. No. 7 Purdue, No. 10 Illinois, No. 12 Oregon, No. 13 Alabama, No. 14 Houston, No. 16 Memphis and No. 17 Ohio State are among the other top men's teams in action Tuesday. Ohio State hosts Akron at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

The South Carolina-North Carolina State matchup is the most high-profile game on Tuesday's women's basketball schedule.

No. 8 Baylor, No. 9 Oregon, No. 10 Michigan, No. 11 Iowa, No. 13 Kentucky, No. 15 Arizona, No. 16 Iowa State, No. 17 Texas A&M and No. 20 Georgia Tech are among the other women's teams who take the court Tuesday for season openers.

Top players to watch

UCLA guard Johnny Juzang, Michigan center Hunter Dickinson, Illinois center Kofi Cockburn, Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and Villanova guard Collin Gillespie are among the men's players expected to compete for Player of the Year honors.

So are Oral Roberts guard Max Abmas, Duke forward Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga forward Drew Timme and center Chet Holmgren.

Juzang averaged 16 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last season. Dickinson posted 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Cockburn averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds last season for Illinois.

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Abmas led Division I with 24.5 points per game. Timme posted 19 points, 7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game for Gonzaga.

Jackson-Davis logged 19.1 points and 9 rebounds per game for Indiana. Gillespie averaged 14 points and 4.6 assists for Villanova.

Holmgren and Banchero, both freshmen, also are the Top 2 projected picks in most 2022 NBA mock drafts.

UConn guard Paige Bueckers, Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith, South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston, Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard, Stanford guard Haley Jones and Iowa guard Caitlin Clark are among the top women's players set to return in 2021-22.

Bueckers averaged 20 points and 5.8 assists per game as a freshman in 2020-21. Smith averaged 18 points and 8.9 rebounds for the Bears. Boston posted 13.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game for the Gamecocks.

Howard averaged 20.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the Wildcats. Clark averaged a national-best 26.6 points for the Hawkeyes. Her 7.1 assists per game were the second-most in women's basketball.

Notable openers/matchups (All times EST)

Men's

Tuesday

Alcorn State at Washington State at 3 p.m. on Pac 12 Network

Manhattanville at Manhattan at 3 p.m. on ESPN3

Mount St. Mary's at Villanova at 4:30 p.m. on FS1

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Akron at Ohio State at 6 p.m. on ESPN2

Eastern Michigan at Indiana at 6 p.m. on Big Ten Network

Central Connecticut at UConn at 6:30 p.m.

Kansas at Michigan State at 7 p.m. on ESPN

Bellarmine at Purdue at 7 p.m.

Texas Southern at Oregon at 7 p.m. on Pac 12 Network

UT Martin at Tennessee at 7 p.m. on SEC Network

Loyola at North Carolina at 7 p.m. on ACC Network

Quinnipiac at Maryland at 7 p.m.

Siena at St. Bonaventure at 7 p.m. on ESPN+

Jackson State at Illinois at 8 p.m. on Big Ten Network

Tennessee Tech at Memphis at 8 p.m. on ESPN+

Hofstra at Houston at 8 p.m. on ESPN+

Mercer at Arkansas at 8 p.m. on SEC Network

Morehead State at Auburn at 8 p.m. on SEC Network

Dixie State at Gonzaga at 9 p.m.

Houston Baptist at Texas at 9 p.m. on Longhorn Network

Louisiana Tech at Alabama at 9 p.m. on SEC Network

Navy at Virginia at 9 p.m. on ACC Network

CSU Northridge at USC at 9 p.m. on Pac 12 Network

Kentucky vs. Duke at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN

Northern Arizona at Arizona at 10:30 p.m. on Pac 12 Network

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CSU Bakersfield at UCLA at 11 p.m. on Pac 12 Network

Wednesday

Buffalo at Michigan at 6:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network

Fairleigh Dickinson at Seton Hall at 7 p.m. on FS1

Pennsylvania at Florida State at 9 p.m. on ACC Network

Thursday

George Washington at Maryland at 6:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network

Sacred Heart at Providence at 6:30 p.m. on FS1

Kennesaw State at Creighton at 8:30 p.m. on FS1

Friday

Army at Duke at 7 p.m. on ACC Network

Robert Morris at Kentucky at 7 p.m. on SEC Network

Niagara at Ohio State at 7 p.m.

Radford at Virginia at 7 p.m. on ACC Network

Tarleton at Kansas at 8 p.m. on ESPN+

South Dakota State at Alabama at 8 p.m. on SEC Network

Rice at Houston at 8 p.m. on ESPN+

UL Monroe at Auburn at 8 p.m. on SEC Network

Incarnate Word at Baylor at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN+

Indiana State at Purdue at 8:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network

Arkansas at Illinois at 9 p.m.

Brown at North Carolina at 9 p.m. on ACC Network

SMU at Oregon at 11 p.m. on Pac 12 Network

Villanova at UCLA at 11:30 p.m. on ESPN2

Women's

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Tuesday

Alabama A&M at Dayton at 11 a.m. on ESPN+

UNC Asheville at UNC Greensboro at 11 a.m. on ESPN+

Longwood at Maryland at 11 a.m.

Omaha at Iowa State at noon on ESPN+

New Orleans at Texas at noon on Longhorn Network

South Carolina at NC State at 5 p.m. on ESPN

Davidson at Virginia Tech at 5 p.m. on ACC Network

Georgia Tech at Central Michigan at 6 p.m. on ESPN+

New Hampshire at Iowa at 7 p.m.

IUPUI at Michigan at 7 p.m.

Presbyterian at Kentucky at 7 p.m. on SEC Network

North Florida at Florida State at 7 p.m. on ACC Network

CSU Northridge at Arizona at 7 p.m.

Texas State at Baylor at 8 p.m. on ESPN+

UT Rio Grande Valley at South Florida 8 p.m. on ESPN+

Texas A&M CC at Texas A&M at 8 p.m. on SEC Network

Idaho State at Oregon at 10:30 p.m.

Wednesday

Indiana at Butler at 7 p.m.

Southern Illinois at Tennessee at 7 p.m. on SEC Network

Bucknell at Ohio State at 7 p.m.

Pepperdine at UCLA at 10 p.m. on Pac 12 Network

Thursday

Morgan State at Stanford at 6 p.m.

Baylor at UT Arlington at 7 p.m. on ESPN+

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North Alabama at Kentucky at 7 p.m. on SEC Network

Kennesaw State at Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. on ACC Network

Alabama State at South Florida at 7 p.m. on ESPN+

Virginia Tech at George Washington at 7 p.m. on ESPN+

Samford at Iowa at 7:30 p.m.

Southern at Texas A&M at 8 p.m. on SEC Network

Friday

Louisville vs. Arizona at 4:30 p.m. on ESPNU

Tennessee at UCF at 6 p.m. on ESPN+

South Carolina vs. South Dakota at 7 p.m. on ESPN News

Villanova at Maryland at 7 p.m.

Wofford at NC State at 7 p.m. on ACC Network

Loyola Marymount at Oregon State at 11 p.m.

Saturday

St. Francis at Michigan at 2 p.m.

Sunday

Virginia Tech at George Mason at noon on ESPN+

Arkansas vs. UConn at 1 p.m.

Maryland at James Madison at 2 p.m.

Florida at NC State at 2 p.m. on ACC Network

Milwaukee at Florida State at 2 p.m. on ACC Network

Norfolk State at Ohio State at 2 p.m.

Belmont at Georgia Tech at 2 p.m. on ACC Network

Texas at Stanford at 3 p.m. on ESPN

Iowa at Northern Iowa at 3 p.m. on ESPN+

Kentucky at Indiana at 5 p.m. on ESPN

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Dixie at Oregon at 8 p.m.

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