Circle Your Calendar: The 68 Must-See Games of 2012-13, Part TwoPosted by Brian Otskey on November 6th, 2012
Brian Otskey is a contributor for Rush the Court. Let him know what you think at @botskey on Twitter.
51. December 1: Baylor at Kentucky (12:30 PM, CBS) – Kentucky has never lost a game at Rupp Arena under John Calipari. Could this be the one? Maybe, but it’s a tall order even for the highly talented Baylor Bears. Scott Drew’s non-conference schedule is lackluster for a team expected to contend in the Big 12, so making the trek to Lexington and coming out with a win would render all talk about a weak schedule meaningless. Two top freshmen big men will go head to head in this one with UK’s Nerlens Noel battling Baylor’s Isaiah Austin in the paint.
50. December 1: San Diego State vs. UCLA at Honda Center in Anaheim, CA (10:00 PM, ESPNU) – The John R. Wooden Classic pits two of the best in the state of California (and the entire west for that matter) against each other in an early season Saturday night showdown. While UCLA has all the hype and uncertainty surrounding its freshmen class, don’t take San Diego State for granted. The Aztecs return four starters from a team that was supposed to be “rebuilding” but wound up winning 26 games in 2011-12.
49. March 3: Florida State at North Carolina (2:00 PM, CBS) – Considering the date it will be played, this game could have a significant impact on the ACC title race. The conference is up for grabs this season and both of these teams should be in the mix. North Carolina went 0-2 against Florida State last season, including the 90-57 blowout in Tallahassee that forced many observers to take notice of the Tar Heels’ flaws. Don’t expect that kind of effort from UNC this time around.
They also meet: January 12 in Tallahassee.
48. February 19: VCU at Saint Louis (9:00 PM, CBS Sports Network) – Two of the better point guards most casual fans don’t know about go head to head in this late-season Atlantic 10 battle. Senior floor general Kwamain Mitchell returns for Saint Louis while VCU’s Darius Theus will look to lead the Rams to a solid finish in their first Atlantic 10 season. This would have been a good BracketBusters game last year but now that these teams are in the same league, everybody wins.
47. March 4: Baylor at Texas (9:00 PM, ESPN) – State bragging rights are on the line as the two best teams in the state of Texas meet in Austin during the final week of the regular season. Baylor should be in pretty good position by the time this game rolls around but the bigger question mark is where will the talented but young Longhorns be? There’s an opportunity to move up in the Big 12 with the departure of Missouri and a team like Texas will be among those vying to fill that void.
They also meet: January 5 in Waco.
46. January 4: Memphis at Tennessee (8:00 PM, ESPN2) – One of the more underrated rivalries in our sport takes place just after the calendar flips to 2013. Remember when Bruce Pearl and John Calipari roamed the sidelines in this game and the subsequent energy generated? You won’t see the same fireworks on the sidelines but the talent and level of play should be just as good between two teams worthy of a preseason top 25 ranking.
45. January 9: UNLV at New Mexico (10:00 PM, CBS Sports Network) – I don’t know about you but I absolutely love staying up late on the east coast for intense Mountain West battles like this one. UNLV will look to avenge last season’s blowout loss at the Pit while the Lobos will have to be on their defensive game to stop the high-powered UNLV offense, which now includes Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch.
They also meet: February 9 in Las Vegas.
44. February 27: San Diego State at New Mexico (10:00 PM, CBS Sports Network) – If one late night Mountain West clash wasn’t enough, here’s another one you can’t miss. This one is even better because it occurs late in the season as opposed to early January. UNLV is the favorite in the Mountain West but both of these teams have the potential to slay the Rebels and claim the conference crown. This game will go a long way towards determining who ends up as UNLV’s true challenger.
They also meet: January 26 in San Diego.
43. March 2: Wichita State at Creighton (TBA) – It would be a shame if this game isn’t picked up by television but it remains TBA as of the time of this writing. Creighton gets all of the preseason love in the Missouri Valley but it was Wichita State who took home the league title last season, buoyed by a balanced attack of strong shooting and stifling defense. Everyone knows Creighton can score but the biggest concern for the Bluejays has to be their defense. Wichita State loses a lot of talent from last year’s team but Gregg Marshall has built a nice program in central Kansas, one that has really hit its stride over the last three seasons. If the Shockers can pull this one out on the road in a conference where it’s notoriously difficult to win away from home, it would be one of the best wins of the season nationally.
They also meet: January 19 in Wichita.
42. February 26: Florida at Tennessee (9:00 PM, ESPN) – Cuonzo Martin has Tennessee on the right track sooner than almost everyone expected. The Volunteers will be a factor in the SEC provided they continue their tremendous play from last year’s stretch run. Jarnell Stokes vs. Patric Young? Sign me up. It’s unfortunate these teams meet only once but that’s the new scheduling reality in the expanded 14-team SEC.
41. February 14: Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s (11:00 PM, ESPN2) – Similar to the Mountain West games referenced above, these West Coast Conference battles have taken on a life of their own. When these teams meet at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, all hell breaks loose. Between the insane crowd in that bandbox gym and the effort exerted on the floor, this is must-see TV despite the late start time on the east coast. Expect both teams to be in the thick of the conference race when this game is played.
They also meet: January 10 in Spokane.
40. February 16: Kentucky at Tennessee (1:00 PM, CBS) – Kentucky will be tested on the road quite a bit this season in places like Louisville, Tuscaloosa, Gainesville, Fayetteville and here in Knoxville. With an entirely new roster of inexperienced players, it would be ludicrous to expect the Wildcats to go undefeated on the road yet again in SEC play. They’re going to fall at least once (or twice, or three times) and it may very well be here. This game is an opportunity to put Tennessee basketball back on the map and jump into the SEC race during the stretch run.
They also meet: January 15 in Lexington.
39. March 9: Syracuse at Georgetown (12:00 PM, ESPN) – There’s a good argument to be made for this game to be higher up on our list just because of the circumstances surrounding it. This will be Syracuse’s last regular season game as a member of the Big East Conference and it’s against none other than their biggest conference rival. Hopefully these teams will meet again in the years to come but the rivalry won’t have the same feel when Syracuse moves to the ACC. For one final go-around, we get this match-up at least twice this season and that’s the way it should be.
They also meet: February 23 in Syracuse.
38. March 9: NC State at Florida State (2:00 PM, ESPN or ESPN2) – NC State fans are longing for an ACC title and this would likely be the game they would clinch it, should they be so fortunate. That will be a huge undertaking playing on the road on Senior Day in Tallahassee. How will Mark Gottfried’s team respond with a target on their collective backs instead of being the hunter? That’s the key for NC State this season, a team that certainly has the talent to win the league.
They also meet: February 19 in Raleigh.
37. December 28: Missouri at UCLA (10:00 PM, ESPN2) – I love this matchup. It’s a great test for each team in a final tune up for conference play which begins the following week. There will be newcomers all over the place as UCLA welcomes six new players to Westwood while Frank Haith adds an astounding 11 newcomers to his roster. Missouri has a very soft non-conference schedule but this game comes within a week of the Braggin’ Rights Game with Illinois. Getting this talented group of players to play with great chemistry like last year’s edition of the Tigers will not be easy.
36. February 2: Duke at Florida State (2:00 PM, ESPN) – Duke has a different look this season but will remain one of the teams to beat in the ACC. Tallahassee has not been kind to the Blue Devils over the years and Leonard Hamilton is very optimistic about this year’s edition of the Seminoles. If Florida State is going to be an ACC contender, this is one of the games it needs to win in order to make that statement.
35. December 5: Florida at Florida State (7:00 PM, ESPN2) – Florida State’s one quality non-conference home game comes against in-state rival Florida in the early part of December. Expect FSU to run off a number of wins in the non-conference but this is one of its very few opportunities to pick up a resume-building victory against a hated rival and top 25 basketball team. Florida State will be strong yet again on defense and that’ll be a challenge for a Florida team that no longer has reliable point guard Erving Walker and scorer Bradley Beal. Florida has talent, but this appears to be a good match-up for the Seminoles.