For years, hardcore college basketball fans have begged the powers that be in the sport to create some sort of true opening night.
The cries were finally answered, as this evening college basketball kicks off its 2012-13 season with 124 games, 15 games featuring ranked teams, and three games played on aircraft carriers or naval ships. Those complaining hardcore college basketball fans weren't necessarily begging for aircraft carrier games to be a part of the deal, but it's a nice gesture.
Here's what you're watching tonight:
Lehigh at Baylor (5:00/Fox Sports)
It doesn't feature a top ten team and it's not being played on an aircraft carrier, but in terms of individual matchups it's going to be hard to top Pierre Jackson vs. C.J. McCollum on opening night.
Armed Forces Classic: Michigan State vs. Connecticut (5:30/ESPN)
What figures to be a long season for Connecticut will begin in an Air Base hangar in Germany. I'm not sure if that's poetic or appropriate or what, I was just trying to state a fact.
Georgia State at Duke (7:00/ESPNU)
It's not officially college basketball season until an ESPN network is showing a Duke home game against a no-chance non-conference opponent.
Carrier Classic: Ohio State vs. Marquette (7:00/NBC Sports Network)
The fourth-ranked Buckeyes will receive a stern test right out of the gate in the second annual Carrier Classic. Marquette's chances of springing the season's first big upset were hurt earlier this week when it was announced that sharp-shooter Todd Mayo had been ruled academically ineligibile for the season.
Gardner-Webb at North Carolina (7:00/Fox Sports)
No. 11 UNC has as many questions as any team in the country after losing Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson to the NBA. Gardner-Webb should be a good opportunity to find some early answers, so long as the Tar Heels don't Billy Gillispie it up (I would never put that one squarely on you, Kentucky).
Fairleigh Dickinson at Xavier (7:00/Fox Sports)
How Dickinson are they? Eh.
Virginia at George Mason (7:00/MASN)
It's not receiving any national attention, but this is one of the more intriguing games of opening night. Mason has to replace 2012 CAA Player of the Year Ryan Pearson, a task made even more difficult by the recent suspensions of Erik Copes and Vaughn Gray, while Virginia plans on starting three freshmen.
Kennesaw State at Tennessee (7:00/Fox Sports)
Expectations are pretty high for Tennessee in year two of the Cuonzo Martin era, but the Vols will have to get the job done on opening night without the services of star forward Jeronne Maymon. The senior recently had a minor setback as he continues to recover from offseason arthroscopic surgery to each of his knees.
St. Peter's at Rutgers (7:30/SNY)
These are the types of games Mike Rice can't afford to lose if he's serious about turning Rutgers into a relevant program.
Bryant at Indiana (8:00/Big Ten Network)
The Hoosiers will begin a season ranked No. 1 for the first time since the start of the 1979-1980 campaign. And apparently they've chosen to do so by playing some guy and not an actual team.
Barclay's Center Classic: Kentucky vs. Maryland (8:30/ESPN)
This one was already going to be interesting, but the eligibility of Maryland's Dez Wells means that it now has the potential to be competitive. For the fourth straight year, John Calipari is beginning a season with almost an entirely different team.
Georgetown vs. Florida (9:00/NBC Sports Network)
The only aircraft carrier game without an official title ought to be the best of the bunch. Patric Young vs. Otto Porter in the paint is as about as good as it's going to get in terms of post matchups in November.
Louisiana Tech at Texas A&M (9:00/Fox Sports)
If the basketball game is half as exciting as the football game was, I might flip over for a few minutes.
2k Sports Classic: South Dakota State at Alabama (9:00/ESPNU)
Nate Wolters gets an early opportunity to stake his claim as this season's Jimmer by lighting up Anthony Grant and 'Bama on national television.
North Dakota at Kansas State (9:00/Fox Sports)
The most interesting aspect of this game might be the home crowd. After playing in two scarcely-attended exhibition games, senior forward Jordan Henriquez recently took to Twitter and bashed K-State fans for not showing more support.
Indiana State at UCLA (11:00/Fox Sports)
Kyle Anderson, the still not cleared Shabazz Muhammad and the rest of the new look Bruins look to christen the new Pauley Pavilion in style.