A Quick Examination of the AAC Non-Conference SlatePosted by CD Bradley on October 28th, 2013
Highlighted by the annual renewal of college basketball’s best rivalry, the American has plenty of compelling games to offer before its first in-conference games tip off on New Year’s Eve. The conference’s teams also play a number of games, that while they might not be showcased on national TV, could prove just as crucial if not more so when the NCAA Tournament field is selected and seeded in March. Let’s take a look at four intriguing match-ups as well as four under-the-radar games that AAC teams will be involved in during the non-conference part of the season.
Four most intriguing AAC non-conference games
- Memphis at Oklahoma State, 8 PM, November 19, ESPN. This match-up of two of the nation’s best backcourts, with Marcus Smart and company squaring off against the Tigers’ fleet of guards, has to be considered among the highlights of the season’s first two weeks. It will also provide, fair or not, an early barometer of how these teams and leagues stack up.
- Louisville at Kentucky, 4 PM, December 28, CBS. It’s the two best teams in the country. The last two national champions. It’s the most important annual sporting event – yes, even bigger than the Kentucky Derby — in a state where college basketball is the most important sport. It’s Russ Smith vs. the Harrison twins, Montezl Harrell vs. Julius Randle, and, of course, Rick Pitino vs. John Calipari.
- Florida at UConn, 7 PM, December 2, ESPN2. Connecticut has one of the best guard tandems in the country in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Florida has talent all over the floor, led by senior center Patric Young. Can the Huskies overcome the Gators’ interior advantages to get the kind of marquee win their non-conference schedule offers few opportunities for? The answer could be key to their March chances.
- Gonzaga at Memphis, 9 PM, February 8, ESPN. This rare February inter-conference matchup is one of two visits to AAC homecourts by ESPN’s College Gameday this year (Louisville at UConn on January 18 is the other). The Zags entered last year’s NCAA Tournament as the nation’s #1 team, but reached only the round of 32 before bowing out to Wichita State. This game should provide crucial insight into whether Gonzaga can begin to approach last year’s success.
Four under-the-radar games that could prove crucial
- SMU at Virginia, 7:30 PM, November 29, CBS Sports Network. The Mustangs are a popular pick to markedly improve in coach Larry Brown’s second season in Dallas. If they can sneak out of Charlottesville with a win, their best-case scenario is fully in play.
- Cincinnati at New Mexico, 4 PM, December 7, CBS Sports Network. The Bearcats leave their hometown for just one road game before 2014, this one out west against the defending MW champs. With an otherwise weak non-conference slate, a win might boost Mick Cronin’s team into the Tournament.
- Harvard at Uconn, 7 PM, January 8, ESPNU. This regional match-up offers the Huskies a shot at what promises to be the rare Ivy that can provide a quality win. Can they get it?
- Temple at LaSalle, 12 PM, January 18, ESPN3. Philadelphia’s Big Five highlights an impressive non-conference schedule for the inexperienced Owls, including this match-up with last year’s Sweet Sixteen Cinderella.