Pac-12’s Five Most Watchable Non-Conference Games – Why They’re BetterPosted by Connor Pelton on October 12th, 2012
On Wednesday, Kevin released his list of the five most important Pac-12 non-conference games of the season, and a few weeks back, I released my own rankings. This post will explain why my top five games are better than Kevin’s, but first, let’s see where his games fall on my list:
5. Florida @ Arizona (My Rank: 5)
4. California @ Wisconsin (2)
3. Stanford vs Missouri (28)
2. UCLA vs Georgetown (11)
1. USC vs Illinois (25)
And now, my top five:
5. Florida @ Arizona (December 15) – This is the one game we agree on, so there’s nothing to argue about here. This will likely be a battle of Top 15 teams when the Gators venture into the McKale Center, making it a must-see contest. It will be Florida’s second trip to the desert in the 2012 calendar year, the first being a two-game split in the NCAA Tournament last March. They’ll be looking for revenge after being upset at home last year by Sean Miller and company, 78-72 loss in overtime.
4. Oregon State vs Kansas (November 30) – Without question, this will be Oregon State’s biggest non-conference game in recent memory. And depending on how they do in the 2K Sports Classic earlier in the month, a win could mean a clean non-conference slate for the Beavers heading into Pac-12 play. In their way will be a raucous Sprint Center crowd, not to mention the combination of Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey. This game doesn’t make Kevin’s list, instead it’s California-Wisconsin, a matchup we’ll break down in just a moment.
3. Missouri @ UCLA (December 28) – Surely a Top 25 team when the Tigers make the trip to Pauley Pavilion, it’s tough to see this game not being ranked in the top five. It’s also tough to project whether the Top 10 Bruins will still be undefeated at this point in the season (Georgetown, San Diego State, Texas; are you kidding me?), but being the final game before conference play begins, they’ll need to work out all of the kinks that come with having an abundance of star players on the roster before the slate is wiped clean. The game will also feature some terrific matchups on the court, namely the one between Missouri senior Michael Dixon, Jr., and UCLA freshman Kyle Anderson. With no Pac-12 bowl game or another marquee basketball matchup within the conference, this one should make for some great Friday night television. Kevin’s list also puts the Tigers at this spot, but instead of UCLA, it’s their meeting with Stanford. The time of the game (Thanksgiving morning instead of Friday night), location (sleepy Imperial Arena instead of rowdy Pauley Pavilion), and quality of the Pac-12 team (middle-of-the-pac Cardinal team instead of Top 10 Bruins) are the reasons I ranked Mizzou-UCLA higher.
2. California @ Wisconsin (December 2) – Not much disagreement between Kevin and I on this one. The Golden Bears will likely be on the NCAA bubble come March, so a chance to pick up a Top 20 road win will be huge for them. This will be Cal’s first chance on a national stage to redeem its awful performance against South Florida in last March’s First Four. Junior guard Allen Crabbe will be charged with checking Wisconsin’s versatile fifth-year senior, Ryan Evans.
1. Colorado @ Kansas (December 8) – This game may not be very high on whatever other Pac-12 non-conference rankings are out there, but if Colorado is as good as I’m projecting them to be in 2012-13, they’ll give Kansas one helluva fight inside Allen Fieldhouse. Considering that the only other Top 25 opponent on Colorado’s slate would be a possibly meeting with Baylor, this one is utterly important. Incoming freshman Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson will have had nearly one month to gel within the Buffaloes’ starting lineup, and known quantities Andre Roberson and Spencer Dinwiddie surely can be counted on. Tad Boyle has the defense to match up with not only Johnson and Withey, but guys deeper in the rotation like Travis Releford and Kevin Young. The key will be the unknowns on the Jayhawk sideline. If incoming freshman Perry Ellis and Andrew White are turning in eight points a piece night in and night out, then there’s not a team in the country that has the manpower to matchup with all of Kansas’ offensive weapons.