The Big 12 Week Ahead: Nov. 14-17Posted by dnspewak on November 14th, 2011
GAME OF THE WEEK
Kansas at Kentucky, Tuesday 7:30 PM CT
In the premiere event of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, these two blueblood programs hit the court under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. It’s all a part of the Champions Classic, a new event designed to grab national headlines for college basketball in the month of November. Although the game is slated for a Tuesday night, that won’t hold back the rabid Kentucky and Kansas fan bases from making the trip to the Garden. Both squads feature all sorts of new faces, especially on the UK side: As usual, coach John Calipari has the task of molding a young group together. For the first time, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague and the rest of the crew will showcase their skills to a national audience. The Jayhawks don’t have as many true newcomers, but coach Bill Self is trying to retool a relatively inexperienced team with just one returning starter. Several players are taking on new roles, including Thomas Robinson, who’s no longer a bench player but instead one of the team’s stars. Robinson looked comfortable in a 100-54 win over Towson on Friday, recording a double-double.
The key individual match-up is… Anthony Davis vs. Thomas Robinson. Robinson is the more experienced player, and he’s primed for a breakout season because of his new opportunity in the starting lineup. The preseason All-Big 12 selection will have his hands full with Davis, however. The 6’10” freshman scored 23 points and grabbed 10 boards in his debut against Marist this weekend, and he’s one of the most physically gifted players in the nation.
Kansas wins if… Tyshawn Taylor controls the offense. The senior point guard dished out four assists in the season opener and turned the ball over just one time. That’s the kind of performance the Jayhawks need out of their leader.
Kentucky wins if… It crashes the glass and gets those forwards involved. Sophomore forward Terrence Jones only took seven shots against Marist, scoring eight points. His guards have to get him the ball, and he needs to form a ferocious trio with Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist. These Wildcats are fast, strong and athletic, and they’ve got an advantage on any team if the offense runs through them.
OTHER GAMES OF NOTE
San Diego State at Baylor, Tuesday 1 PM CT
Just a year removed from a dream season, you won’t recognize many of the faces on San Diego State’s roster this season. But that doesn’t mean Steve Fisher won’t rebuild. With a more guard-oriented attack led by Chase Tapley, SDSU is 3-0 after beating up on lowly Bryant, Southern Utah and UC Davis. Even so, the Aztecs will pose the first challenge of the season to Baylor, who also will not face a power conference team until Dec. 4 at Northwestern.
Rhode Island at Texas, Tuesday 3 PM CT
By the end of the season, Rhode Island may materialize into a decent A-10 team. When the second semester rolls around, the Rams will add two high-major transfers, including coach Jim Baron‘s son, Billy (also, of course, the brother of former URI star Jimmy Baron, Jr.) Until then, the roster looks a little thin. The team still managed to push George Mason to overtime in its season opener, so Texas will need to be on upset alert.
Iowa State at Drake, Tuesday 8 PM CT
The state of Iowa rarely receives any national attention, especially with regards to college basketball. Don’t sleep on this underrated rivalry, however. The Knapp Center should be hopping for one of Drake’s most important non-conference home games, and the Bulldogs are getting two starters back from suspension at just the right time. Star guard Rayvonte Rice and senior Kurt Alexander will suit up for the first time this season after an arrest this summer for stealing socks. And yes, that really did happen.
Texas A&M at Mississippi State, Thursday 6 PM CT
Divisive big man Renardo Sidney sat out a victory against South Alabama this weekend with a groin injury, and there’s no word yet on whether he’ll play against Texas A&M. If he does play, we’ll get to see him and his 6’11” teammate Arnett Moultrie in an entertaining match-up against David Loubeau and company. Mississippi State, which has traditionally struggled in November under Rick Stansbury, already lost to Akron last week.