Circle Your Calendar: The 68 Must-See Games Of 2012-13, Part ThreePosted by Brian Otskey on November 8th, 2012
Brian Otskey is a contributor for Rush the Court. Let him know what you think at @botskey on Twitter.
Part Three of the countdown includes conference rivalries and some intriguing non-conference matchups. Check out the previous editions of 68 Must-See Games here: #68-52, #51-35. (h/t to Zach Hayes for his assistance in building this list.)
34. February 23: Missouri at Kentucky (9:00 PM, ESPN) – Both teams have a roster full of newcomers but expect each to be on top of their games come late February when this game is played. Now a member of the SEC, Missouri will immediately be one of the favorites to win the regular season championship. Of course, it will have to get by Kentucky to do that. Winning at Rupp Arena has never been accomplished by any opponent in the John Calipari era. Missouri just might have to do that in order to bring the SEC crown to Columbia.
33. January 19: Kansas at Texas (2:00 PM, CBS) – The second of a tough three game Big 12 stretch for Kansas comes in Austin where the young Longhorns will try to knock off the old guard of the conference. Despite their personnel losses, the national runner-up will be ready to go again this year. That’s the Bill Self way. A tough early season road test is ideal for a team like Kansas to see how well the returning players have progressed and meshed with the talented newcomers.
They also meet: February 16 in Lawrence.
32. December 29: UNLV at North Carolina (2:00 PM, ESPN2) – The Rebels knocked off top-ranked North Carolina very early last season in Vegas, setting the stage for a 26-win season and elevating the program’s status. To get back to the glory days of the Jerry Tarkanian era, however, UNLV has to advance deep into the NCAA Tournament, something it did not do last season. To be in a better position to do that, your seed has to be pretty good. If UNLV wants a top three seed in the Big Dance, it has to win games like these on the road against good teams.
31. January 26: North Carolina at NC State (7:00 PM, ESPN) – A big home game for NC State comes six games into the ACC season, a time when the title race will start to take shape. If NC State is to win the ACC for the first time since 1989 as the coaches have projected, it has to do well against Duke, Florida State and North Carolina, all of whom NC State plays twice. When one of those teams comes to your building, you have to take care of business.
They also meet: February 23 in Chapel Hill.
30. February 4: Notre Dame at Syracuse (7:00 PM, ESPN) – Notre Dame is one of the few teams that can take on Syracuse’s frontcourt and take the Orange out of transition. Mike Brey loves to use the “burn” offense and it came in handy against Syracuse last season in South Bend. If Notre Dame can set the tone and take the Carrier Dome crowd out of the game, it will force Syracuse to play at a pace it can’t tolerate. The Irish are a tough group and they’ve shown a greater ability to win on the road in recent years as opposed to the past under Brey.
29. January 22: Kansas at Kansas State (8:00 PM, Big 12 Network) – The intensity of the crowd at the Octagon of Doom always ramps up for this heated in-state rivalry (although KU fans might take offense to the usage of the term rivalry). Kansas has dominated this series but Kansas State adds a new coach and returns plenty of talent from a season ago. I have one question for ESPN: Why isn’t this game on national television?
They also meet: February 11 in Lawrence.
28. February 17: Ohio State at Wisconsin (1:00 PM, CBS) – Wisconsin suffered a huge loss in recent weeks as Josh Gasser was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Gasser was expected to start at the point guard position but Bo Ryan will have to play point guard by committee as a result. Despite the Badgers’ dominance at Kohl Center, it’s hard to run a team with inexperienced point guards when going up against Ohio State ace defender Aaron Craft.
They also meet: January 29 in Columbus.
27. January 12: Duke at NC State (12:00 PM, ESPN) – As we mentioned before, NC State has to win games against top ACC competition at the RBC Center. Getting Duke early in the conference season is a great opportunity for the Wolfpack to pick up a quality win and possibly a tie-breaker they may need come March. Duke will be ready too, as will the crowd. A great ACC matchup on a cold Saturday in January.
They also meet: February 7 in Durham.
26. January 22: Michigan State at Wisconsin (7:00 PM, ESPN) – While Wisconsin has issues at the point guard spot, the good news for the Badgers is they will host all of the top Big Ten contenders except Indiana at the Kohl Center where they have been so dominant over the years. This game features a nice post match-up between Jared Berggren and Derrick Nix, two experienced players who are candidates for breakout seasons.
They also meet: March 7 in East Lansing.
25. March 9: Kansas at Baylor (6:00 PM, ESPN) – The last regular season game for both teams could decide who wins the conference. While Kansas has been the class of the Big 12 for many years, some folks think Baylor has a shot to knock them off that perch this year. We’re not sure about that but we can say that the Bears will likely have to win this game in order to have a chance to make that a reality. Kansas has shredded Baylor’s defense in recent meetings between these teams and the Bears must tighten up defensively this year to beat teams like Kansas and make another run in the NCAA Tournament.
They also meet: January 14 in Lawrence.
24. December 15: Florida at Arizona (10:00 PM, ESPN) – One of the top ten non-conference games of the season should give us something to look forward to during the dreaded slow schedule in the middle of December when most schools are administering final exams. Arizona welcomes a talented crop of players to its roster, including Xavier transfer Mark Lyons who should step in and start at point guard. Arizona lacks the schedule heft of a team projected to be in the Top 25 most of the season so beating Florida would look good on an otherwise lackluster non-conference resume.
23. February 9: Michigan at Wisconsin (12:00 PM, ESPN or ESPN2) – Here’s yet another chance for Wisconsin to pick up a great win in front of the home folks, this time against Michigan. However, the one thing the Wolverines have that Wisconsin does not is a quality point guard. Trey Burke will be the focal point of Wisconsin’s defense in this game between two teams that love to shoot the three ball.
22. November 13: Kansas vs. Michigan State at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA (7:00 PM, ESPN) – The first of a double dip at the second Champions Classic, a great event that pits these two teams plus Duke and Kentucky against each other early on a rotating basis early in the season. These two programs develop players like no other and that will be on display for all to see as secondary players last season for both clubs try to become big time scorers and leaders for their respective teams. Michigan State has to replace three key cogs in its lineup last season, including the do-it-all Draymond Green while Kansas needs Elijah Johnson, Perry Ellis and company to step up and fill the void left by Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor.
21. February 19: Florida at Missouri (9:00 PM, ESPN) – The second of two get-togethers between teams that could create a nice SEC rivalry now that Missouri is in the league. Alex Oriakhi and Patric Young will go head to head in a match-up between players with a lot of talent who haven’t put it all together quite yet. Both in the latter half of their college careers, now would be a good time to make the jump. Missouri’s backcourt is among the best in the country but Florida still has Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario around to try to contain Mizzou.
They also meet: January 19 in Gainesville.
20. November 29: Kentucky at Notre Dame (7:00 PM, ESPN2) – The Joyce Center in South Bend, Indiana, has been a death trap for highly ranked teams over the years. Kentucky will walk head-on into it later this month to take on a very good Notre Dame team. These teams met in the Big East/SEC Challenge a few years ago on a “neutral” floor in Louisville but now the same event brings them to South Bend. It’s a great early season test for Jack Cooley going up against Nerlens Noel while Scott Martin vs. Kyle Wiltjer is a good matchup between big men who play smaller and can stretch the defense.
19. February 16: San Diego State at UNLV (9:00 PM, NBC Sports Network) – Here’s another one of those outstanding Mountain West games we mentioned in Part Two of our countdown. This one is the best of the best because it features two teams that should be in the Top 25 all year and are expected to battle each other for the Mountain West crown. Both coaches have their programs improving at a rapid pace and quality games like this one can only help them get recognized throughout the country. Make sure you watch this one because these are two of the best teams on the west coast. They split both meetings last year in two very close contests.
They also meet: January 16 in San Diego.
18. November 27: NC State at Michigan (7:30 PM, ESPN) – A fantastic early season match-up between two top 10 teams occurs as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the end of November. NC State has a decent but not great non-conference schedule and getting a win on the road here would help it in its quest to grab a top three seed in March. Michigan has a similar non-conference schedule with a mix of teams that are good but not great, along with some cupcakes. NC State is the highlight of the Wolverines’ schedule and both teams should be fired up for this one.