RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: February/March (Part One)Posted by zhayes9 on October 25th, 2009
The final two-part edition of our Top 65 games delves into the exciting stretch run of the final five weeks. These highlighted games should have tremendous implications on seeding and conference standings with heated rivals doing battle in the final push towards March Madness. Here’s a preview of what’s guaranteed to be the best slate of games 2009-10 has to offer (top games of November/December and January in case you missed it):
Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.
February 1- Texas @ Oklahoma State (#33 overall)– Hard to imagine you won’t see plenty of scoring in this Big 12 clash. The point guard situation is a bit dicey in Stillwater with Byron Eaton’s departure, but Travis Ford loves to run and James Anderson can score with the best. Expect this to be one of the toughest tests for Texas in their pursuit of a regular season Big 12 title.
February 6- Texas @ Oklahoma (#25 overall)– This could very well be another test. Two freshmen will have to fill major roles for Jeff Capel’s squad with Tommy Mason-Griffin helping out Willie Warren in the backcourt and Tiny Gallon bulldozing opponents in the paint with Blake Griffin in LA. It’s entirely possible defensive stud Avery Bradley could earn the job of trying to lock down the quick Warren.
February 6- Villanova @ Georgetown (#31 overall)– A Big East clash in February between two teams that have top-three aspirations in the conference. The point guard duel is a dandy with Chris Wright of the Hoyas matched up with Scottie Reynolds of the Wildcats. This should prove a worthy test for Villanova’s thin frontline trying to contain Greg Monroe, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims.
February 6- Michigan State @ Illinois (#37 overall)– The orange-clad students right on top of the floor will be out in full force to support their Illini in hopes of knocking off the loaded Spartans. With Chester Frazier departed, it could be the freshman guard D.J. Richardson trying to contain potential All-American Kalin Lucas. There’s some tremendous outside shooting in this one from State’s Durrell Summers to the Illini’s Demetri McCamey.
February 6- Nevada @ Utah State (#51 overall)– This game could possibly prove the difference in what should be a competitive WAC. Nevada was deemed the preseason favorite mostly due to the return of sophomore big man Luke Babbitt and junior guard Armon Johnson. Utah State rode Gary Wilkinson to a 30-win campaign a season ago, but the always-efficient Aggies do return their next top three scorers, including do-it-all guard Jared Quayle and steady forward Tai Wesley.
February 7- North Carolina @ Maryland (#16 overall)– Remember when these two met in College Park a season ago with Maryland vaulting their team into surefire NCAA status by knocking off then-#3 UNC? The Heels will be out for revenge this February who will look to expose the Terrapins’ young and average frontcourt. How freshmen big men Jordan Williams and James Padgett progress should be the difference with Deon Thompson, Ed Davis and John Henson on the other side.
February 8- Kansas @ Texas (#1 overall)– It wouldn’t shock me if this game pits the top two teams in the nation against each other. These are the two most talented and deep squads not only in the Big 12 but throughout the country and I’m giddy at the thought of these two battling it out for conference and national bragging rights into February and March. Can Dexter Pittman contain Cole Aldrich down low? Who will be the Texas point guard to emerge as their starter and cover Sherron Collins? Will the home court advantage for the Longhorns make a difference?
February 8- Villanova @ West Virginia (#18 overall)– The likely top two teams in the Big East meet in Morgantown for what could be a decisive contest. The impact players we’ve discussed plenty in this series- Devin Ebanks and Da’Sean Butler for the Mountaineers vs. Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher for the Cats. The West Virginia backcourt of Butler, Darryl Bryant, Joe Mazzulla and Casey Mitchell could be enough to neutralize Villanova’s strength and make Ebanks the determining factor, especially in their backyard.
February 9- Purdue @ Michigan State (#15 overall)– The first of two between the top Big Ten contenders. Matt Painter may elect to put defensive stalwart Chris Kramer on Michigan State point guard Kalin Lucas, while Robbie Hummel chases around the quick State wings looking for outside shot opportunities. This could be the first of three times these two teams face one another in six weeks.
February 10- Connecticut @ Syracuse (#65 overall)– How well Syracuse does this season following the departure of Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf is the big question. Wesley Johnson could turn that problem into an answer very quickly with his inside-outside game and pure athleticism. Expect the Iowa State transfer to lead Syracuse in scoring and form a dynamic trio with sharpshooter Andy Rautins and big man Arinze Onuaku. This could be enough to knock off a talented Connecticut squad.
February 10- Duke @ North Carolina (#14 overall)– The best rivalry in college sports. For the first time in a few years, frontcourt play will be the emphasis of both squads. Duke added freshmen Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee to help Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek in the paint while, even with the loss of Tyler Hansbrough, Carolina still boasts Davis, Thompson, Henson and Tyler Zeller.
February 11- Washington @ California (#29 overall)– The fifth straight game on this list that pits the leading duo in their respective conferences. Cal fans are awfully excited for what may be their first Pac-10 regular season title since the Eisenhower administration behind Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher. The Huskies boast a decent backcourt, as well, with Isiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy teaming up.
February 12- Siena @ Niagara (#61 overall)– Let’s add some mid-major flavor to the list. Siena returns four starters from last season’s second-round group, including Ryan Rossiter, Edwin Ubiles and Ronald Moore. Just like a season ago, the Purple Eagles should pose worthy competition in the MAAC behind senior scorers Tyrone Lewis and Rob Garrison.
February 13- Tennessee @ Kentucky (#19 overall)- These two teams, players, coaches and fans don’t care for each other much. The bluegrass rivalry should be enhanced with Bruce Pearl and John Calipari roaming opposing sidelines and the entire Josh Selby situation. The frontcourts are phenomenal on both sides- Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins for Kentucky banging down low with Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism of Tennessee.
February 14- Ohio State @ Illinois (#55 overall)– I’m fairly high on the Buckeyes this season once Dallas Lauderdale gets healthy. And he should be just that by February 14 when Ohio State travels to Champaign where the big man will be pitted against the twin towers Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale. Guard play could also be a factor as both Demetri McCamey and Jon Diebler love to pop the trey. Evan Turner may prove the difference for Ohio State, even on the road.
February 16- Kentucky @ Mississippi State (#9 overall)- John Riek should be eligible and Renardo Sidney may be eligible. If those two forwards are involved, all of a sudden this game in Starkville becomes the most intriguing of the SEC slate. We know about Kentucky’s insane talent, but the Bulldogs also return plenty of ammunition from a team that made the NCAA Tournament, including shot-blocker extraordinaire Jarvis Varnado and guards Barry Stewart, Ravern Johnson and Dee Bost.