Circle Your Calendar: The 68 Must-See Games Of 2012-13, Part FourPosted by Brian Otskey on November 9th, 2012
Brian Otskey is a contributor for Rush the Court. Let him know what you think at @botskey on Twitter.
The final part of our countdown is the best of the best. Here are your top 17 games of the 2012-13 college basketball season. Check out the previous editions of 68 Must-See Games here: #68-52, #51-35, and #34-18. (h/t to Zach Hayes for his assistance in building this list.)
17. November 27: North Carolina at Indiana (9:30 PM, ESPN) – An ACC/Big Ten Challenge tilt is the nightcap to game #18 on our list from Part Three of the countdown. Indiana’s non-conference schedule is incredibly weak for the top-ranked team in the nation but this game gives us an opportunity to see the Hoosiers against quality competition. James Michael McAdoo is the player mentioned by many observers to be the man at UNC this year. Going up against Christian Watford and Cody Zeller will give him a big time test early in the season.
16. February 24: Michigan State at Ohio State (TBA) – There’s a lot of Big Ten flavor to our list and the reason is simple: It should be the best conference in college basketball this year. These two teams meet twice this season but this game in late February is in the middle of a brutal closing stretch for Michigan State. The Spartans have games against Michigan (twice), Indiana and Wisconsin sandwiched around this meeting in Columbus. It’s no picnic for Ohio State around that time either so a win here would be massive for either team.
They also meet: January 19 in East Lansing.
15. December 15: Louisville at Memphis (2:30 PM, FSN) – This former Conference USA rivalry will be transitioning back to a conference battle in the Big East next season (as long as Louisville sticks around, never a given in today’s climate) but they will still meet in Memphis this season. Little has been said about Memphis but the Tigers will be very good. Joe Jackson can match Peyton Siva while Memphis’ frontcourt of Adonis Thomas and Tarik Black is talented and good enough to play with Louisville’s loaded front line. This game could be higher on the list because of all the great individual match-ups involved.
14. November 28: Ohio State at Duke (9:30 PM, ESPN) – The Buckeyes throttled Duke last year in Columbus and it’s a safe bet the Blue Devils will be looking to exact some revenge this year at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Quinn Cook will take on point guard duties for Duke and will be pestered to great lengths by Aaron Craft. Duke has the advantage up front with Mason Plumlee but Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas is the best player on the floor for either team. This should be a great one in Durham.
13. December 22: Kansas at Ohio State (4:00 PM, CBS) – Ohio State has one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country with games against the likes of Marquette, Duke and Kansas mixed in with a few other decent teams. Winning these important non-conference games would enhance Ohio State’s resume in a big way come tournament time but beating Kansas won’t be easy. They Buckeyes lost in Lawrence last year but they were missing Jared Sullinger. He’s not around this year either but they get one break: Kansas no longer has Thomas Robinson.
12. February 9: Louisville at Notre Dame (6:00 PM or 9:00 PM, ESPN2 or ESPN) – Can Notre Dame complete the Kentucky sweep at home this year? They host both UK and Louisville in what has been a house of horrors for highly ranked foes over the years. Beating Louisville is difficult because the Cardinals have no problem playing and excelling in the slow tempo style preferred by the Irish. This is pretty much guaranteed to be a low-scoring affair but what a good one it will be.
They also meet: March 9 in Louisville.
11. February 10: Indiana at Ohio State (1:00 PM, CBS) – Indiana’s first major road test in Big Ten play doesn’t come until this game 10 days into the month of February. Expect the Hoosiers to enter this game with a gaudy record, making them a prime target for the always tough Buckeyes. Indiana is a veteran team but it’s always tough to respond to a challenge on the road in conference play. Indiana plays road games against the likes of Iowa, Illinois and Purdue before this one but none of that will prepare the Hoosiers for what they’ll encounter in Columbus.
They also meet: March 5 in Bloomington.
10. March 2: Arizona at UCLA (9:00 PM, ESPN) – The depth of young talent on display in this game will rival or surpass any other game played this season. A combined seven highly-rated freshmen recruits line the rosters of these two Pac-12 schools, the two favorites in the league this season. It has been a turbulent past few years for UCLA but the Bruins have a chance to get back on the winning track in 2012-13. Sean Miller is building Arizona back up to powerhouse status while Ben Howland is enjoying newfound recruiting success as well. The arms race between these two out west is captivating, but so are the games on the court. This one will be no exception and will have major Pac-12 title implications.
They also meet: January 24 in Tucson.
9. February 5: Ohio State at Michigan (9:00 PM, ESPN) – While the main rivalry is on the gridiron, rest assured both fan bases would love none other than to beat each other to a pulp in the depths of a cold Midwest winter. Both teams should be in the thick of the Big Ten race here in early February and the matchup at point guard between Trey Burke and Aaron Craft is a fantastic one. You probably won’t find one better than that all season long. The teams split their regular season meeting last year but Ohio State took the rubber game in decisive fashion at the conference tournament.
They also meet: January 13 in Columbus.
8. November 13: Duke vs. Kentucky at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA (9:30 PM, ESPN) – The second game of the night at the Champions Classic pits two blue-blooded programs who haven’t met in quite some time against each other. Kentucky fans still despise all things Duke because of the Christian Laettner game in 1992 and nothing has changed since. With this game being played within relatively close proximity of both schools and many of their alumni, there will be tons of fans of both sides there. However, expect Big Blue Nation to come through and win a majority in the crowd. On the court, lots of elite talent will be on display. We can’t wait to see what Mason Plumlee and Nerlens Noel bring to the table in the infancy of the college basketball season.
7. March 2 or March 3: Michigan State at Michigan (TBA) – This is one of those rivalries that doesn’t get enough hype. It’s a fierce in-state battle but it is rarely appreciated outside of the state of Michigan. This year, both teams are highly ranked and expected to contend not just for the Big Ten title but also for a Final Four appearance. They split the two meetings last year but Michigan took the game in Ann Arbor by a point in what was somewhat of a cathartic release of energy at the Crisler Center. Tom Izzo welcomes star-studded freshman Gary Harris to his program this season and he’ll have to fill it up in this game because Michigan has the firepower to do just that.
They also meet: February 12 in East Lansing.
6. February 19: Indiana at Michigan State (7:00 PM, ESPN) – The second of three massive Big Ten road tests for Indiana comes nine days after Ohio State and 19 days before Michigan. This closing gauntlet will make or break Indiana’s chances to win the Big Ten crown while giving opponents like Michigan State a huge chance to take control of their own destiny. The Izzone will be off the charts for this game, even if it’s just a Tuesday night.
They also meet: January 27 in Bloomington.
5. March 9: Florida at Kentucky (12:00 PM, CBS) – The SEC has a number of title contenders and two of them will meet on the final Saturday of the season in Lexington. Billy Donovan has many veterans on his team and that will come in handy down the stretch in a tight game on the road against the young Kentucky Wildcats. If Florida can steal this one, the Gators will be primed for another March run, something that’s become commonplace over the last seven years.
They also meet: February 12 in Gainesville.
4. December 29: Kentucky at Louisville (4:00 PM, CBS) – The only reason this game is fourth on the list is because it occurs before the New Year. If these teams were in the same conference and played later in the season, this would have been our top choice. It doesn’t get much better than this. Two fan bases that hate each other with a passion and two coaches that have had a rift between them over the years, to put it lightly. Kentucky got the best of Louisville last season in the Final Four and in Lexington but the Cardinals return much of the same team, in stark contrast to UK. The big question for Louisville, who will defend, is can they score enough to win? Louisville’s offense wasn’t great last year and it would be unrealistic to expect that to change much this time around.
3. March 9: Duke at North Carolina (9:00 PM, ESPN) – The best rivalry in college basketball closes the ACC regular season in Chapel Hill. It remains to be seen which (or both) of these teams will be in the conference title hunt on the final day but it’s a safe bet to say at least one of them will be. Duke is the more highly regarded team in the preseason but take that with a grain of salt. When 30+ games will be played between now and then, anything can happen. The teams split last year’s two meetings thanks to Austin Rivers’ heroics in Chapel Hill but the Tar Heels responded by blowing the Blue Devils out of Cameron Indoor Stadium on the final day of the regular season.
They also meet: February 13 in Durham.
2. March 2: Louisville at Syracuse (12:00 PM, CBS) – The two preseason favorites for the Big East title will meet twice this season but the most important meeting may be this one in early March at Syracuse. Rick Pitino has had success against his former boss Jim Boeheim over the years due to his ability to attack the 2-3 zone with great precision. However, Syracuse won both meetings last year to break the hex. Gorgui Dieng will have his hands full with a huge Orange front court and you should see Louisville play some 2-3 zone as well to keep their big man out of foul trouble. While it isn’t the final day of the season, it’s darn close and the two meetings between these teams should decide who wins the Big East.
They also meet: January 19 in Louisville.
1. March 10: Indiana at Michigan (TBA) – March 10 is the final day of the regular season anywhere and the Big Ten title could be decided in Ann Arbor. Both teams have received a ton of preseason hype and, should they live up to that, it means this has the potential to be the game of the year. Great matchups come together all over the floor from Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary trying to contain Cody Zeller to Trey Burke and Jordan Hulls battling at the point. For a time, Tom Crean and John Beilein used to lock horns in the Big East in Marquette/West Virginia games but this is now a whole lot bigger. We can’t wait for this one and all the fanfare that will come with it at the Crisler Center.
They also meet: February 2 in Bloomington.