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Everything you need to know to get excited about college basketball

Jay Wright was smiling in April. He should be smiling again. College basketball is back. And his team is good -- again. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Each season, she wafts into the room like the aroma of Mom's Sunday roast. The unassuming scent creeps in slowly but deliberately, cutting through the clutter of the day.

In the sports world, college basketball competes with a stable of cornerstones: the World Series, the NFL, the NBA and college football's final, critical weeks.

A segment of its fan base treats the sport like the train it will catch later, just in time for the NCAA tournament, the greatest conclusion to any season in sports. That's a mistake because every game counts.

The opening night arrangement of the 2016-17 season -- anchored by Friday's Armed Forces Classic matchups of Arizona-Michigan State and Kansas-Indiana -- is the start of a fascinating year.

Here's why you should care about today and everything that follows:

1. Because Kentucky is Kentucky again (maybe)
Last year's Wildcats, led by Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray, split the SEC championship and exited the NCAA tournament after a second-round loss to Indiana. Lexington's Power Rangers are back with a bouncy crew of freshmen -- Malik Monk can fly -- that resembles the dynamic incoming collectives of 2009 (John Wall), 2011 (Anthony Davis) and 2014 (Karl-Anthony Towns).

2. Because Coach K doesn't care, since he has the better team
As John Calipari introduced his freshman class to the world, Mike Krzyzewski probably stood in the corner of Cameron Indoor Stadium and lit a cigar. Why? Well, Kentucky's One Direction-like band of youngsters can't top the No. 1 squad Krzyzewski has created in Durham. Duke's bench is a Top 25 squad.

3. Because you still have to convince your friends that Kansas' Big 12 title streak means something
Tell Earl at the barbershop and Tommy at the bar they're both wrong about the significance of the Jayhawks' Big 12 title streak, one that could match UCLA's record of 13 in a row this year. Tell them the last time the Jayhawks failed to win a share of the Big 12 title (2004), Lil Jon had a No. 1 hit with "Yeah!" Who is Lil Jon? Exactly.

4. Because Blake Shelton couldn't write a song as sad as Arizona's preseason
"The Voice" star's post-Miranda Lambert breakup hit "Bet You Still Think About Me" had melancholy lines like, "I know we couldn't hold on forever/But baby, I bet you still think about me." Somewhere, Sean Miller is thinking about the year he might've had before Allonzo Trier's mysterious issues, the indefinite suspension of Chance Comanche and Ray Smith's career-ending knee injury.

5. Because the Providence Friar mascot is still here

Only to haunt your dreams. He's coming! Run! Who thought this was a good idea?!!!

6. Because the Big Ten is a beautiful mess and that's great for everyone
Who will win the Big Ten? Michigan State. Definitely. Wait, it's Wisconsin. Nah, Indiana? Purdue? Maryland? We don't know. But Chaotic Big Ten is always a treat. We look forward to this.

7. Because Joe Lunardi has to tell us about the SEC's at-large "hopes" each week
After Kentucky and perhaps Florida, Georgia or Texas A&M, there's not much for the guru to project in this league. Expect an elevated slate of wisecracks by the Bracketology don when it's time to talk about the SEC. By the way, did you know "Bracketology" is a recognized word?

8. Because you're going to love UCLA
It's about to go down at Pauley Pavilion. Freshman stars Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf join a UCLA team as stacked as any program on the West Coast. They could reverse all the drama from last year.

9. Because you're going to be annoyed by UCLA
Steve Alford's track record of molding promising young talent is lukewarm right now.

10. Because Bill Walton is going to narrate Steve Alford's salvation or implosion in a tie-dye shirt

Remember when Walton announced he was not a fan of former UCLA coach Ben Howland ... on live TV ... during a game at UCLA while he stood 10 feet from him? Well, this year Walton will treat us with his unmatched running commentary of Alford's rebirth or demise. You'll want to stay up for this.

11. Because once Harry Giles gets healthy, you'll want your favorite NBA team to draft him
During an AAU tournament a few years ago, the projected top-five pick in the 2017 NBA draft played multiple possessions at point guard. He's 6-foot-11.

12. Because once Josh Jackson finds his rhythm, you'll forget about Harry Giles
He's a 6-8, 200-pound hang glider. Trust us.

13. Because "Honey, I have to stay up and watch West Coast basketball" is a legit excuse this year
Don't worry about sleep this season. Gonzaga's Final Four-level squad, UCLA's Ball, Wooden Award contender Ivan Rabb of Cal, Oregon's top-five squad, Saint Mary's Aussie-led revival and Washington's lottery-bound Markelle Fultz are all worth the baggy eyes and extra cup of coffee the next day.

14. Because it's about time we appreciate Mark Few's legacy at Gonzaga
Entering his 18th season as head coach at Gonzaga, he has never missed the NCAA tournament and he has won 23 or more games each season. Perhaps he'll guide the Bulldogs to their first Final Four appearance this year. Either way, he deserves a spot in national conversations about the greatest coaches in the game.

15. Because Miles Bridges hit his head ... on a rim this summer

Seriously. So you probably want to watch Michigan State this year.

16. Because Dillon Brooks' foot could change the entire season
Brooks (16.7 PPG) is still sidelined by a foot injury. He should return in time for Pac-12 play, if not earlier. But his absence is a major interruption for Oregon and its nonconference aspirations.

17. Because the new rule on coaches calling timeouts to rescue players inbounding the ball will help
The rule that barred coaches from calling timeouts in live-ball situations, beginning last season, was tweaked to give coaches the right to call TOs on inbound plays. Good move by the rules committee to help stranded players in critical predicaments.

18. Because the push for a 24-second shot clock could begin soon
The move to a 30-second shot clock enhanced the game. That's not disputed. Why stop at 30? The NBA-NCAA connection could move forward in the near future if coaches begin to push for 24 seconds the way they once demanded 30.

19. Because you're not talking about a Villanova repeat ... yet
No team has repeated as champion since Joakim Noah's Florida squad in 2006-07. Villanova has a real chance, however, to defend its crown. All of the Duke-Kentucky-Kansas hype will leave the Wildcats in the shadows until they begin to thump the Big East and look the part of a repeat champion.

20. Because Nigel Hayes (and others) could lead the charge for player compensation

He has used Twitter and other tools as platforms to post his views on everything from racism on the Wisconsin campus to compensation for student-athletes. He has the intellect, stage and popularity to turn the latter into a movement this season.

21. Because Louisville's season of vengeance and redemption begins soon
The Cardinals missed the NCAA tournament after the Katina Powell sex scandal last year. However, the program dodged the most severe potential penalties from the NCAA. Now, Louisville can focus on basketball for the first time in two seasons. Memories of all the critics who knocked them are still fresh for the Cardinals.

22. Because Jay Wright is the popular kid at school that everyone envies
He has a championship. He never sweats through his tailored Italian suits, even with the game on the line. Somehow, his hair remains perfect for two halves. It's not fair.

23. Because Bobby Hurley is probably screaming at some random bystander in Phoenix right now to prep for his techs this year
If you see Arizona State's head coach yelling about nothing on campus, don't worry, Sun Devils fans. He's just prepping for his next confrontation with Pac-12 refs.

24. Because the Chicago curse is broken ... just kidding, Northwestern
The Chicago Cubs ended the streak! So maybe that's a good sign for the one team searching for that elusive berth in the NCAA tournament. No. No, it's not. Northwestern should improve, but it's still a year (or more) from reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time.

25. Because we all picked Duke to win the title ... and we're wrong
Some of Duke's best teams ('99, '02, '04) in the last 20 years failed to win the national championship. Plus, the No. 1 Blue Devils have failed to advance past the Sweet 16 the last three times they were the top-ranked team entering the year. Your bracket is broken and the season hasn't even started.