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After dominating Michigan State, Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji won’t be considered the second-best Jayhawk for long

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NEW YORK — Nearly a month ago, on Oct. 13, the Big 12 announced its preseason award winners. To the surprise of many, Kansas grad transfer Remy Martin Jr. won the honor of Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year. 

It took exactly one game for that prognostication to look … let’s say … misguided. 

Martin could well win a game or three or five this season with his entertaining and raw scoring prowess, but it’s hard to see how he’ll be Kansas’ best player. Because on Tuesday night, KU senior Ochai Agbaji made a compelling argument that he’ll not only be Kansas’ best player — but also a potential All-American. The third-ranked Jayhawks made casual work of Michigan State, winning 87-74 at Madison Square Garden and sending notice that this team could be deeper, stronger and more physically adroit than the Jayhawks group that went 21-9 and failed to get out of the first weekend of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

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“I’m surprised,” Self told CBS Sports. “We controlled it. I would have thought first to 65 would win.”

At the center of this convincing season-opening victory was Agbaji, a senior, who finished with a game-high 29 points (9-of-17 from the field) and zero turnovers. He also drew seven fouls — by far the most he’s ever induced. As a result, Agbaji was perfect from the charity stripe (8 for 8) and helped pace Kansas to one of its best wins in the 11-year history of the Champions Classic. 

“That’s what you should write,” Kansas coach Bill Self told me as we walked back to the victorious Kansas locker room. He was raving about the immediate evidence of Agbaji’s growth. This kind of performance wasn’t something he could have provided seven months ago. There’s clearly an increased aggressiveness — which is the attribute that has been most missing from Agbaji’s game. 

It’s understandable to a degree, though. As Self reminded reporters after Tuesday’s win, Agbaji was a three-star recruit rated deep into the 300s when Kansas offered him. He eventually climbed to be No. 132 in his 2018 class, but this was not a player expected to do much in his first or second season with the program. Self loved Agbaji’s long-term potential. Now that foresight is what has Kansas legitimately ranked as a top-three team to start the season.

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Agbaji — who found his way through the creases and cracks of Michigan State’s defense often — is a model of what comes with patience, discipline, humility and years worth of quality minutes. Tuesday night sure looked like a star-turn performance. Agbaji averaged 14.1 points and 3.7 rebounds last season when Kansas had, statistically, one of its poorest campaigns of the past 20 years. So he wasn’t exactly a beaming light at the center of the college hoops universe. 

But he was good enough that he heavily debated leaving Kansas and going pro. He came close. How close?

“Really close,” he said. “I made the right decision.”

One game in, that rings true. Truth is, Agbaji was told what he needed to hear from NBA evaluators. Not only was he extremely unlikely to be drafted, he still had time and opportunity to improve his game in a couple of areas that still needed significant improvement. Against the Spartans, he showed how seriously he took the constructive criticism.

Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Trevor Keels had big-time college debuts at MSG, and Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe was a monster. But no player had a more important performance than Agbaji.

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“I also think when the NBA basically tells you you’re not good enough — I hate to say that,” said Self, “I didn’t ever tell him he’s not good enough. I told him he’s not going to be good enough unless he gets a killer instinct. But when they confirmed it, I think he and Jalen (Wilson) both have really benefited by the process.” 

It’s not like Agbaji’s been put in the position of needing to be The Guy because he’s the lone returning key veteran. Not at all. Kansas has four starters back (along with Christian Braun, David McCormack and Jalen Wilson). Braun and McCormack combined for 16 points vs. Sparty, while Wilson served the first of his three-game suspension for a DUI charge.

“There’s still another step that he has to take in order to be an elite player in that he’s got to become an assassin, from a confidence level and everything, and he certainly did that tonight,” Self said. “He looked great.”

Truth is, Self knows Agbaji’s knocking on the door of becoming an elite defender. If he gets there, Tuesday’s game probably won’t even register as one of his five or six best games this season. For a guy who can “be a little too sweet” on the court with his style, there’s no denying Agbaji worked a toughness groove into his mentality. That’s big for a Kansas team that lacked a certain something last season and will need an alpha to compete in a very good Big 12. 

Seniors always deserve a bit more shine and respect than they get these days in college basketball. 

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We have a habit of giving a lot of attention to the new faces on opening night, too. 

In the undercard at the Champions Classic, the latest example of why seniors will always be special, valuable and irreplaceable. Agbaji can be an inspiring story for many. A guy who barely even started for his grassroots team now might — might — become an All-American this season. If Tuesday’s Agbaji is the player we’re going to get for the next four months, we’ll probably also see him on an NBA roster a year from now. But let’s not rush that. 

There’s still all that potential to fulfill from now until April.

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UTSA vs. Texas Southern: How to watch NCAA Football online, TV channel, live stream info, game time

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Who’s Playing

Texas Southern @ UTSA

Current Records: Texas Southern 1-2; UTSA 1-2

What to Know

The Texas Southern Tigers will take on the UTSA Roadrunners at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Alamodome. Texas Southern isn’t favored, but they just beat the odds in their last game, so don’t count them out.

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The Tigers kept a clean sheet against the Southern University Jaguars last week and took the matchup 24 to nothing. The squad ran away with 21 points in the first half and mostly just sat on those in the second to pick up the victory.

Meanwhile, it was all tied up 17-17 at halftime, but UTSA was not quite the Texas Longhorns’ equal in the second half when they met last week. The Roadrunners suffered a grim 41-20 defeat to the Longhorns. This contest was a close 17-17 at the break, but unfortunately for UTSA it sure didn’t stay that way. A silver lining for them was the play of RB Brenden Brady, who threw one touchdown in addition to punching in one rushing touchdown.

Texas Southern’s win lifted them to 1-2 while UTSA’s loss dropped them down to 1-2. We’ll find out if the Tigers can add another positive mark to their record or if UTSA can shake off the defeat and take the spring out of Texas Southern’s step.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
  • TV: STADIUM
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $69.00

Odds

The Roadrunners are a big 42-point favorite against the Tigers, according to the latest college football odds.

Bettors have moved against the Roadrunners slightly, as the game opened with the Roadrunners as a 44-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

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Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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North Carolina vs. Notre Dame live stream info, TV channel: How to watch NCAA Football on TV, stream online

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Who’s Playing

Notre Dame @ North Carolina

Current Records: Notre Dame 1-2; North Carolina 3-0

What to Know

The North Carolina Tar Heels will be returning home after a two-game road trip. They will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kenan Memorial Stadium after a week off. UNC is expected to win — but not by much — so they will need to come into the game prepared for a fight.

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The Tar Heels beat the Georgia State Panthers 35-28 two weeks ago. Among those leading the charge for UNC was RB Omarion Hampton, who rushed for two TDs and 110 yards on 16 carries. Hampton put himself on the highlight reel with a 58-yard TD scramble in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame netted a 24-17 victory over the California Golden Bears last week. RB Audric Estime and RB Chris Tyree were among the main playmakers for Notre Dame as the former punched in one rushing touchdown and the latter snatched one receiving TD.

Notre Dame’s defense was a presence as well, as it embarrassed California’s offensive line to sack QB Jack Plummer six times for a total loss of 47 yards. It was a group effort with four guys contributing.

The wins brought the Tar Heels up to 3-0 and the Fighting Irish to 1-2. A pair of stats to keep an eye on: UNC enters the matchup with 310 passing yards per game on average, good for 21st best in the nation. But Notre Dame comes into the contest boasting the 34th fewest passing yards allowed per game in the nation at 184. These opposing strengths should make for an exciting matchup.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kenan Memorial Stadium — Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • TV: ABC
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $110.00

Odds

The Tar Heels are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Fighting Irish, according to the latest college football odds.

The line on this game has moved quite a bit since it opened, as it started out with the Fighting Irish as a 1.5-point favorite.

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Over/Under: -110

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Notre Dame have won all of the games they’ve played against North Carolina in the last eight years.

  • Oct 30, 2021 – Notre Dame 44 vs. North Carolina 34
  • Nov 27, 2020 – Notre Dame 31 vs. North Carolina 17
  • Oct 07, 2017 – Notre Dame 33 vs. North Carolina 10



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San Diego State vs. Toledo: How to watch, schedule, live stream info, game time, TV channel

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Who’s Playing

Toledo @ San Diego State

Current Records: Toledo 2-1; San Diego State 1-2

What to Know

The San Diego State Aztecs may be playing at home Saturday, but the experts are forecasting a three-point defeat. They will take on the Toledo Rockets at 3:30 p.m. ET at Snapdragon Stadium. Both of these teams will be looking for a pick-me-up after considerable defeats in their previous games.

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The Aztecs were expected to have a tough go of it last week, and, well, they did. They found themselves the reluctant recipients of an unfortunate 35-7 punch to the gut against the Utah Utes. San Diego State was in a tough position by the half, with the score already sitting at 21 to nothing. One thing holding San Diego State back was the mediocre play of QB Kyle Crum, who did not have his best game: despite one touchdown, he threw one interception with a passing completion percentage of only 31.25%.

Meanwhile, it’s never fun to lose, and it’s even less fun to lose 77-21, which was the final score in Toledo’s tilt against the Ohio State Buckeyes last week. The Rockets were down 56-21 at the end of the third quarter, which was just too much to recover from. Toledo’s loss came about despite a quality game from QB Dequan Finn, who passed for two TDs and 153 yards on 19 attempts in addition to rushing for one TD and 70 yards. Near the top of the highlight reel was Finn’s 50-yard TD bomb to WR Thomas Zsiros in the first quarter.

The losses put San Diego State at 1-2 and Toledo at a reciprocal 2-1. A couple offensive numbers to keep in mind before kickoff: San Diego State enters the game with 221 rushing yards per game on average, good for 22nd best in the nation. The Rockets have displayed some offensive firepower of their own as they rank 17th in the nation when it comes to rushing touchdowns, with nine on the season.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Snapdragon Stadium — San Diego, California
  • TV: Fox Sports 1
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $14.85

Odds

The Rockets are a 3-point favorite against the Aztecs, according to the latest college football odds.

The line has drifted a bit towards the Rockets, as the game opened with the Rockets as a 1-point favorite.

Over/Under: -111

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See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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