RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: February/March (Part Two)Posted by zhayes9 on October 27th, 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, January and the first part of February/March in case you missed them):
February 16- North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (#36 overall)- Many believe Georgia Tech has assembled the talent to play with the supposedly rebuilding reigning champs. Still, UNC should be the favorite to win the ACC and Tech may be right on their heels (no pun intended). Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors make up a frontcourt composed of two possible lottery picks. Iman Shumpert (5.0 APG) returns to bolster the backcourt at the 1 or 2 position while Zach Peacock and Mo Miller provide depth for a Tech squad looking for a late-season impact win.
February 22- West Virginia @ Connecticut (#20 overall)- Whether Stanley Robinson is assigned Da’Sean Butler on the perimeter or Devin Ebanks in the post, Stix is the key for Connecticut this season and in this specific Big East battle. Robinson averaged 14.0 PPG and 9.0 RPG in his final ten contests last year and the UConn coaching staff strongly believes their athletic forward can replicate that success the entire season. He won’t be spending the first half in a sheet metal plant this time around, either.
February 23- Tennessee @ Florida (#62 overall)- The Gators could linger around the bubble this season in a difficult SEC East. Knocking off likely high seed Tennessee at home would send a message to the committee at this late date in the season. It’s imperative Kenny Boynton have an electric shooting game against Tennessee’s shaky defense for the Gators to have a shot. They’ll also need Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons to contain the Tennessee bigs inside and out.
February 24- Purdue @ Minnesota (#32 overall)- A difficult road contest for a Purdue team looking to capture the Big Ten title. Minnesota always plays at a different level defensively at the Barn, meaning this could be a battle of wills in the 50s that sends Big Ten haters screaming in the streets. How Minnesota’s youth, whether it be sophomores Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson or their freshmen Royce White and Rodney Williams, develops into late February should reveal whether the Gophers can pull off this upset.
February 27- Kentucky @ Tennessee (#4 overall)- This one gets me excited. The talent on the floor for this game is stunning. Tennessee won’t have much of a shot if they don’t get some stabilization at the point guard position to defend John Wall, whether it be Bobby Maze or other candidates for coach Bruce Pearl. Tyler Smith must play his usual all-around game of scoring, dishing and rebounding and Tennessee has to hit some shots from deep with Smith, Wayne Chism, Josh Tabb or Cameron Tatum. The intensity won’t be lacking.
February 27- Michigan State @ Purdue (#5 overall)- Another huge top-five matchup in late February that could determine the Big Ten title. How Robbie Hummel’s back holds up into this stage of the campaign should reveal plenty about Purdue’s chances of winning this conference and going deep into March. For Michigan State: who will emerge in the frontcourt with the departure of Goran Suton? Will it be Draymond Green, Delvon Roe or an unlikely candidate?
February 27- Kansas @ Oklahoma State (#21 overall)- Gallagher-Iba isn’t a welcoming environment for opposing teams in the Big 12. It should be extra loud for the arrival of the most talented team in the nation. James Anderson is one of the purest scores in the Big 12, but the supporting cast is questionable with Marshall Moses, Obi Muonelo and Keiton Page acting as his main scoring help. The loss of Byron Eaton as a second coach for Travis Ford will prove a devastating loss.
February 27- VCU @ Old Dominion (#63 overall)- VCU lost Eric Maynor. Let’s take a step back and realize how tremendous of a loss that is for the Rams. It’s nearly impossible for a mid-major to replace a 22.4 PPG scorer and first round pick the year after. Not to mention they also lost their up-and-coming coach Anthony Grant. But the next top four scorers for VCU do return, meaning they’re still dangerous in the CAA. Old Dominion is the projected favorite behind 6’10 big man Gerald Lee.
March 2- Villanova @ Cincinnati (#58 overall)- Fan of backcourt play? Take a gander at Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn vs. Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds. This backcourt duel in early March could be huge for both teams. Will Cincinnati need an impact win to punch its ticket to the Dance? Will Villanova need a signature road win to enhance its resume on the eve of the end of the regular season?
March 3- Duke @ Maryland (#43 overall)- What will Maryland fans do for entertainment with Greg Paulus graduated? More ScheyerFaces of course! The Terrapins have a legitimate chance to knock off Duke in College Park since sweeping the Blue Devils in 2006-07. Gary Williams has a talented backcourt led by Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, Adrian Bowie and Sean Mosley that can utilize their physicality to wear down the thin Blue Devils backcourt. Where the Terps could have severe trouble is up front trying to deal with Kyle Singler and the new Duke bigs.
March 3- Connecticut @ Notre Dame (#57 overall)- Quick teaser: I have Notre Dame as one of my last four teams out in next Monday’s preseason bracketology. The loss of Scott Martin to a torn ACL this month hurts and Notre Dame could linger around the bubble once again this season in Luke Harangody’s final hurrah. The Irish could use a signature win in March over a talented Connecticut team in South Bend, where they used to be unbeatable. The key could be Tory Jackson vs. Kemba Walker.
March 6- North Carolina @ Duke (#2 overall)- Just trailing our #1 game, Kansas at Texas, is the finale of the fiercest rivalry in college sports. While Carolina’s had the definite edge in recent years, the two bitter adversaries are more evenly matched and this contest in Durham could prove the most competitive. Lockdown defender Marcus Ginyard racing to catch Jon Scheyer off screens is a subplot to watch. If Scheyer, Singler, Nolan Smith, Andre Dawkins and other Duke shooters get too many open looks, it could be the first win over UNC for the Dukies at home since the Shavlik Randolph era.
March 6- West Virginia @ Villanova (#3 overall)- Another game pitting the two premiere teams in a stellar conference. Both teams feature deep and talented backcourts. Where the game could be won for West Virginia is up front with Ebanks, Kevin Jones, Wellington Smith and freshman Deniz Kilici against a weak Nova frontline that lost Dante Cunningham and Reggie Redding.
March 6- Tennessee @ Mississippi State (#30 overall)- I talked about how excited I was for Kentucky to make their trip to Starkville and challenge a sleeper Mississippi State squad. If Renardo Sidney is eligible, John Riek shows his talent level and Jarvis Varnado continues to improve offensively down low to compliment his shot-blocking prowess, Rick Stansbury has a frontcourt that can certainly play with Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC.
March 6- Tulsa @ Memphis (#42 overall)- The top two teams in Conference USA clash on the last Saturday of the college basketball season. You never know: This game could determine the conference regular season title. For the first time in years, a team other than Memphis is viewed as a possible champion with the Golden Hurricane returning both Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan. Despite the turnover, Memphis could have enough to pull off another championship if Will Coleman plays to his potential and guards like Elliot Williams and Roburt Sallie deliver.
March 6- Kansas @ Missouri (#60 overall)- Remember this game last year? Kansas makes their return to Columbia for another clash with the rebuilding Tigers. Sure, J.T. Tiller, Zaire Taylor and Kim English are back in the fray for Mike Anderson, but their top three scorers and team leaders all are gone following the Elite 8 run of a year ago. Kansas is the #1 team in the nation. But, hey, quoting Chris Berman (and God help me if I ever do again), that’s why they play the games.