The 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11 (#54-41)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2010

College basketball fans: get your calendars out. Over the next five Wednesdays until opening night arrives on November 8, we’ll unveil a portion of our 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11, a countdown of the matchups that you need to make sure to see this season. From the early season headliners to the best rivalries conference play has to offer, this list has you covered with the game, date, time (ET), network and a brief synopsis of what to expect. Remember, folks: this list doesn’t even include another eight to ten must-see early-season tournament games, for which we’ll have a separate post later this month.  Without further ado, here is the second installment on the list — set your Tivos/DVRs now.

To see the #55-68 games on this list, click here.

#54. January 29 – Florida at Mississippi State, 1 pm (CBS)- This matchup just got even juicer with the NCAA ruling that Dee Bost can join Renardo Sidney after sitting out the first nine games of Mississippi State’s season. The inclusion of an experienced point guard and an ultra-talented center vaults the Bulldogs into clear SEC West preseason favorite status. One of the highlights of their conference slate is Florida visiting The Hump for a late January clash on national TV. The Gators return all five starters and add a dynamite recruiting class led by Patric Young and Casey Prather, so expectations couldn’t be higher for Billy Donovan’s squad.

#53. February 22 – Michigan State at Minnesota, 9 pm (Big Ten Network)- We already covered Purdue’s trip to Minneapolis earlier in the series, but this late-season clash could potentially determine the fate of the Gophers’ NCAA Tournament hopes. Tubby Smith’s team projects to be a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team that could be clawing for a tournament bid in late February. What better opportunity for a bid-clinching win than the Spartans rolling into town? The problem for Smith and Minnesota: Tom Izzo’s squads normally play their best basketball late in the season. Opposing teams on the Spartans’ schedule should also try to knock them down early before Kalin Lucas inches closer and closer to 100% health.

These MWC Battles Are Epic Must-Watch Hoops

#52. January 5 – BYU at UNLV, 10 pm (CBS College Sports)- One of many banner matchups in an intriguing Mountain West conference this season. Jimmer Fredette can single-handedly carry the Cougars at any point, giving BYU a fighting chance should he find his stroke from outside and/or start penetrating effectively in the lane. Sidekicks Jackson Emery, Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies are also back for Dave Rose. With the news passed down a couple weeks ago that UNLV star Tre’Von Willis will only miss 10% of UNLV’s games following a plea deal in a domestic violence case, the Rebels can have realistic hopes of winning the MWC. It’ll be worth staying up late for any game involving UNLV, BYU, San Diego State and possibly New Mexico/Wyoming this winter.

#51. December 23 – Georgetown at Memphis, 8 pm (ESPN2)- The final delectable bite of the appetizer that is non-conference competition before conference play gets underway: a battle of two potential top-20 teams at FedEx Forum. The guards in this contest are tremendous — from the Hoyas’ three-headed monster of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark to the Tigers fabulous freshmen Joe Jackson, Will Barton and Jelan Kendrick. It’s fairly clear this would be a huge resume-building triumph for the victor come seeding debates in March.

#50. December 18 – Gonzaga vs. Baylor, 4:30 pm (ESPN2)- In typical Mark Few fashion, Gonzaga’s pre-WCC slate is loaded with quality competition. He’s never been afraid to take his Zags on the road for marquee games on semi-neutral floors. This matchup at American Airlines Arena in Houston will prove a quasi-home game for the Bears, but Few has the talent at his disposal to pull off the victory. The versatile, inside/outside play of two potential lottery picks — Baylor’s stud freshman Perry Jones and Gonzaga’s German import Elias Harris — is reason enough to tune in.

#49. March 2 – North Carolina at Florida State, 7 pm (ESPN)- Barring unforeseen injuries or a complete implosion, Duke will win the ACC. They’re just way too loaded to believe otherwise, especially at this preseason stage. Still, both the Tar Heels and Seminoles have a legitimate chance to grab the silver medal in the conference, giving this early March matchup plenty of juice. Two of the more gifted forwards in the country meet with the ‘Noles Chris Singleton and breakout candidate John Henson. Positioning for the ACC Tournament will be on the line.

#48.  January 16 – Purdue at West Virginia, TBA (CBS)- Here’s a rematch of last New Year’s Day when Purdue smacked the Mountaineers in West Lafayette, although it was Bob Huggins’ team standing last in the Final Four. Purdue’s visit to Morgantown won’t be any type of brief reprieve in the middle of a challenging  two months of Big Ten play, not with all-Big East candidate and Naismith snub Kevin Jones returning for another season. Of course, Purdue has three possible all-conference players — Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. Depending on Purdue’s ranking, this has Rush the Court potential written all over it.

#47. January 30 – Washington at Washington State, 10 pm (FSN)- How could the only Pac-10 game on this list (which is sad in itself) include the last place finisher in 2010? Here’s why: Ken Bone returns his top three players — sweet shooter Klay Thompson, point guard Reggie Moore and defensive stalwart DeAngelo Casto — to a wide open Pac-10 where a march from the cellar to the penthouse isn’t completely unfathomable. In-state rival Washington, complete with a loaded backcourt of Isaiah Thomas, Abdul Gaddy and Venoy Overton, may have something to say about that, though.

#46.  February 23 – North Carolina at NC State, 9 pm (ACC Network)- Speaking of cellar to the penthouse, NC State’s expectations have escalated quickly this summer with the recruiting coup of local product C.J. Leslie to go along with point guard Ryan Harrow and two-guard Lorenzo Brown, giving Sidney Lowe three five-star incoming freshmen when he needed them most. They’ll join one of the more underrated big men in the nation in Tracy Smith, a foursome that should give Roy Williams’ talented squad quite the push in this rivalry duel. How the Wolfpack find a way to guard Harrison Barnes may be the deciding factor in this game.

It's Always Exciting When These Two Match Up

#45. December 4 – Kentucky at North Carolina, 12 pm (CBS)- Surprisingly, the Wildcats narrowly avoided a second half collapse and survived the eventual NIT bound Tar Heels by two points in Lexington last year. The two squads should be more evenly matched throughout the 2010-11 season — especially because incoming Kentucky big man Enes Kanter’s eligibility is in limbo- – and this could prove one of the best headline non-conference matchups. Carolina, featuring the likes of Larry Drew, II, Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall, should be able to match up with Kentucky’s perimeter clout.

#44. February 17 – Richmond at Temple, 7 pm (CBS College Sports)- Similar to the Mountain West, the Atlantic 10 should boast some high quality hoops for the second straight season. Although it would be foolish to ever count out Xavier, these two schools may emerge at the top of the conference and once again garner single-digit seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Temple’s expectations were boosted by the withdrawal of Lavoy Allen from the NBA Draft, while the Spiders return reigning A-10 POY Kevin Anderson. Chris Mooney spurning Boston College and other inquiries shows he’s committed to building the Richmond program for the long term.

#43. March 5 – Texas at Baylor, 9 pm (ESPN)- This game might be overshadowed by a certain primetime clash on Tobacco Road that should show up later on this list, but don’t overlook what Texas-Baylor may mean to the final Big 12 standings. The concept of College Gameday visiting Baylor as recently as five years ago seemed like an impossibility, but last year’s Elite Eight berth and the return of LaceDarius Dunn to school (we’ll assume he plays the majority of the season in light of domestic violence allegations) has continued the program’s momentum. The athleticism on the floor for this battle will be off the charts. Gary Johnson holding his own against the lanky Bears frontline would go a long way towards a Longhorn victory.

#42. February 5 – Memphis at Gonzaga, 4 pm (ESPN)- Two schools that mirror each other in terms of needing marquee out of conference games to bolster weak CUSA/WCC slates meet in the brunt of conference play. The Spokane Arena should be rocking in anticipation of Josh Pastner and his young Tigers making the cross country trip to face the Zags. Memphis will need a yeoman’s effort from big men Angel Garcia and Will Coleman to contain Mark Few’s seven foot center Robert Sacre, while it’s prudent Demetri Goodson and Steven Gray find a way to slow down the young Memphis backcourt.

#41.  December 4 – Butler vs. Duke, 3:30 pm (ESPN)- The anticipation of this national title rematch soured a bit when Gordon Hayward elected to stay in the NBA Draft, but this ranking still might be too low. Butler can hang with Duke, especially if Shelvin Mack emerges into the All-America candidate most evaluators believe he can be. Even if Butler’s Ronald Nored locks up Nolan Smith and Mack has his way with freshman Kyrie Irving, who matches up with Kyle Singler on the wing? Are the Plumlees athletic enough to coax Matt Howard into foul trouble? The Bulldogs will have to slow this game’s pace to a grind to stand a chance of avenging last April’s title bout.

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