Let’s Kick It Off: Observing a College Football Weekend Through A Hoops LensPosted by rtmsf on September 2nd, 2010
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 Conferences and an occasional contributor.
Hooray! Today is the official end of the Great Sports Desert – you know, that period of time between the first Monday in April and the first weekend of the college football season. Beginning tonight, there are actual meaningful sporting events that I am interested in. Let’s be clear, I love college football. Easily my second favorite sport. But, I’m a college hoops junkie first and foremost, and part of the reason I love the start of college football season is because that means that the start of college basketball is within shouting distance from here. And, while looking over the slate of college football games this weekend, I couldn’t help but imagine some of these matchups as college basketball games. So, here I have, in reverse order, the ten most intriguing matchups of the college football weekend, provided they are re-imagined as season openers in basketball season. (ed. note: yes, he is sick, but we love him for it)
First, a nod to a handful of games which, being a junkie and all, definitely appeal to me, but were just a bit off of my top-10 list:
Pittsburgh @ Utah – on Thursday night, with only six other games on. If this was basketball season, and there were only six other games on, you could bet I’d watch some of this. Sure, Utah isn’t going to be very good, but it would be interesting to see Pitt go on the road early into a hostile environment.
Murray State @ Kent State – a very good mid-major matchup between one of last season’s Cinderellas and one of the MAC’s always competitive teams.
Connecticut @ Michigan – this game just sounds really good, but in reality, UConn is down and Michigan is, well, I would say Michigan is down, but its been awhile since they’ve been up.
Richmond @ Virginia – a big intrastate matchup between the A-10 and the ACC. If Virginia was just a little bit better, this may have made the cut, because UR will be very good again, but a road trip into the John Paul Jones Arena would be a good early test for Kevin Anderson and company.
Northwestern @ Vanderbilt – as enticing as this Wildcat/Commodore matchup would be between two talented teams with NCAA Tournament hopes, this just misses the cut.
And on to the top 10:
#10 – Washington State @ Oklahoma State – Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto invade the Gallagher-Iba Arena to provide a good early season test for a young Cowboy squad minus last season’s two leading scorers. While the young Cowboy guards Ray Penn and Keiton Page keep this close throughout, too much Thompson eventually does them in.
Predicted Football Score: Oklahoma State 31 Washington State 10
Predicted Basketball Score: Washington State 72 Oklahoma State 66
#9 – UCLA @ Kansas State – Kansas State is one of the teams on the short list of national title contenders. UCLA is, well, honestly, not very good at least judging by last season’s performance. But, they’re still UCLA. And their frontline of Reeves Nelson, Josh Smith and Tyler Honeycutt will test Curtis Kelly, Wally Judge and company, perhaps even to a draw. We’ll also get a first chance to see if the Bruins have even remotely solved their problems at the point, an area of concern that will eventually be the deciding factor in this matchup as Jacob Pullen eventually gets over on Malcolm Lee and the Wildcats pull away in the second half.
Predicted Football Score: UCLA 23 Kansas State 17
Predicted Basketball Score: Kansas State 70 UCLA 60
#8 – Syracuse @ Akron – Jim Boeheim taking his Orange on the road early against a Midwest mid-major? Sure, that’ll happen. But, if it did, I’d be thrilled to see my first glimpse of Syracuse freshman center Fab Melo battling the Zips own young center, sophomore seven-footer Zeke Marshall. Sure, the Orange’s talent would probably win out in the end with Akron not having an answer for Kris Joseph, but I’m pretty sure that we’d get at least 30 minutes of pretty compelling basketball here.
Predicted Football Score: Syracuse 24, Akron 20
Predicted Basketball Score: Syracuse 67 Akron 55
#7 – Memphis @ Mississippi State – Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney will still not be eligible for this game (he’ll sit out the first nine games of 2010-11), and it is likely that Dee Bost will not ever wear a Bulldog uniform again, but we will get a good first look at Memphis’ heralded incoming freshman class. Will Barton, Joe Jackson and Jelan Kendrick are just three of Josh Pastner’s new faces, but they’ll get a good challenge heading into Starksville, with Ravern Johnson and Kodi Augustus giving the Tiger frontline a serious challenge. But, the Bulldogs have to replace too many pieces, and despite the raucous crowd at Humphrey Coliseum giving the Memphis youngsters pause early, the Tigers talent allows them to runaway at the end.
Predicted Football Score: Mississippi State 20 Memphis 13
Predicted Basketball Score: Memphis 71 Mississippi State 61
#6 – Kentucky @ Louisville – I almost feel bad putting this good-looking of a game this low, especially since this is one that will actually happen (New Year’s Eve, at Louisville), but frankly it looks like an uphill climb for Rick Pitino and his Cardinals this season. But getting a first glimpse of this new batch of Kentucky freshmen in John Calipari’s system will of course be very interesting, and given the level of dislike between these two programs, this can’t be anything less than a good one. The Cardinals keep it close out of sheer determination, with guys like Terrence Jennings and Rakeem Buckles owning the glass against an undersized Wildcat team missing still ineligible freshman Enes Kanter, but in the closing minutes, the Kentucky guards and wings are too much for the Cards and UK ekes one out.
Predicted Football Score: Kentucky 34 Louisville 27
Predicted Basketball Score: Kentucky 73 Louisville 69
#5 – Purdue @ Notre Dame – a big intrastate matchup is big news in Indiana football. But really, isn’t Indiana a basketball state? These two schools will play in the second year of the Crossroads Classic in December 2012, so for now, we’ll have to imagine this season’s matchup. Purdue will enter the season likely among the top five teams in the land, but an early-season road trip to the Joyce Center will not be easy. However, the Irish will still be getting used to playing without their recent fixtures Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson, breaking in a new point guard to boot, likely freshman Eric Atkins. But using Mike Brey’s “burn offense” and defensive pressure from their athletic wings, the Irish keep this one tight right down to the wire. In the end, however, too much Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and especially JaJuan Johnson are the difference in this game as the Boilermakers escape with a tight win.
Predicted Football Score: Notre Dame 28 Purdue 24
Predicted Basketball Score: Purdue 55 Notre Dame 52
#4 – Illinois vs. Missouri (in St. Louis) – the football Arch Rivalry may not be much to write home about this year, but the Braggin’ Rights basketball game (played on 12/22 this season), should be a good one. Missouri will bring its 40 minutes of hell with its athletes diving after loose balls and scrapping for rebounds and just generally annoying the opposition, but the Illini have a deep and talented roster of their own. In this game, we’ll get a chance to check out a bunch of new and highly regarded freshman, including Illini wing Jereme Richmond and Tiger point guard Phil Pressey. The key for the Illini in this game, and really, for their whole season, will be the play and leadership of Demetri McCamey. If McCamey is able to maintain his poise and play up to his abilities, the Illini will have plenty of success. But until McCamey actually does that on a regular basis, let my predicted basketball score show my opinion.
Predicted Football Score: Missouri 31 Illinois 17
Predicted Basketball Score: Missouri 70 Illinois 65
#3 – Wisconsin @ UNLV – the big bad Badgers from the Big Ten take head to Vegas for a last bit of sunshine and warm weather before the reality of Wisconsin winter sets in. The big question here will be whether Tre’Von Willis will play, and my expectation would be that, given that this is the season opener, Willis will be taking a break for at least a few games, if he ever puts on a Rebel uniform this season. But, even without Willis, a trip to the Thomas & Mack Center is an easy trip for no one. Rebel guards Oscar Bellfield, Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall don’t make things easy on Jordan Taylor in his first game as “the man” at point for the Badgers, and Chace Stanback and Derrick Jasper are able to use their quickness against the bigger Wisconsin frontline. But quickness only goes so far as the inside/outside games of Wisconsin bigs Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil are the difference as Wisconsin is able to pull out a big RPI-boosting road win.
Predicted Football Score: Wisconsin 41 UNLV 6
Predicted Basketball Score: Wisconsin 61 UNLV 60
#2– Washington @ BYU – this is perhaps the matchup that is most appealing in both sports, and the basketball version in particular would be a wild affair. Both teams love to get up and down the floor, both teams like to bomb it from deep, and both teams have excellent guard play. Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy matching up with Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery? Yes, please. This is the kind of game you circle on the calendar at the start of the season. Each team goes on some runs, with each team answering, and at the end, 40 minutes isn’t enough to decide matters. In overtime, BYU rides the emotion of their Marriott Center crowd and Fredette hits a game-winner at the buzzer to seal the deal.
Predicted Football Score: Washington 27 BYU 23
Predicted Basketball Score: BYU 88 Washington 87 (OT)
#1 – Villanova @ Temple – when the football schedule comes out, this is an easy enough game to just skip right over. When it’s basketball, you break out the highlighter. Philadelphia Big 5 rivals, each with plenty of hoops history, battling it out for city supremacy? Oh yeah. Last season, Temple handled Villanova their first loss of the season, and in the process swept their games against the Big 5 competition. This season, the Wildcats will again be favored, but the Owls have more than enough talent to spring an upset. Temple’s defense will keep the score down, and big man Lavoy Allen can hold his own against a talented Nova frontline, but there are just too many talented scorers in the Wildcat backcourt for the Owls to contain, and Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Maalik Wayns get off as Villanova pulls away late on its way to regaining the Big 5 title.
Predicted Football Score: Temple 27 Villanova 16
Predicted Basketball Score: Villanova 69 Temple 60