The 68 Can’t Miss Games of 2010-11 (#13-1)

Posted by zhayes9 on November 3rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an RTC editor, contributor and bracketologist.

College basketball fans: get your calendars out. Over the next few Wednesdays until opening night arrives on November 8, we’ll unveil a portion of our 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11, a countdown of the matchups that you need to make sure to see this season. From the early season headliners to the best rivalries conference play has to offer, this list has you covered with the game, date, time (ET), network and a brief synopsis of what to expect. Remember, folks: this list doesn’t even include another eight to ten must-see early-season tournament games, for which we’ll have a separate post later this month.  Without further ado, here is the fourth installment  of the list — set your Tivos/DVRs now.

To see the #14-68 games on this list, click here.

#13. January 18 – Michigan State at Illinois, 7 pm (ESPN) - The Illini are one of the more intriguing teams in the preseason. It’s a big leap of faith to project a team to bolt from NIT to the top 15 without a Harrison Barnes-type impact freshman, but many believe Illinois has the tools to accomplish such a feat, even while playing in the best conference in college basketball this season. With Demetri McCamey back at the point, the improving D.J. Richardson manning the other backcourt spot, incoming McDonalds All-American wing Jereme Richmond and the twin towers of Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale in the post, it’s evident that Bruce Weber has one of the most complete starting fives in the nation. His team knocked off Michigan State last year at Assembly Hall; of course, that victory came without Kalin Lucas on the floor. He should be back to 100% when the rematch occurs in mid-January, an early crucial conference clash in the Big Ten.

Can Moore be the hero in East Lansing again?

#12. February 27 – Purdue at Michigan State, 2 pm (CBS) - Full disclosure: This game was #1 on the list prior to Robbie Hummel’s ACL tear. A late February game possibly for the Big Ten title between two of the top three teams in the preseason was an easy call to head the must-see games of 2010-11. Unfortunately, when Hummel’s knee buckled on the first day of practice, Purdue slid from potential top dog in a loaded conference to third fiddle behind the Michigan State and Ohio State. Even if it’s not the best game of the entire season, the importance cannot be overstated. Counting Purdue completely out of the Big Ten race would be foolish, especially considering preseason First Team All-American JaJuan Johnson is still manning the middle and head coach Matt Painter always receives maximum effort from his troops. Enhancing this matchup even further is the revenge factor that Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and the rest of the Spartans should feel after E’Twaun Moore put on his Superman cape last year at the Breslin Center.

#11. March 6 – Kentucky at Tennessee, 12 pm (CBS) - The last day of the regular season produces one of the top rivalries in the sport: Kentucky vs. Tennessee amidst the shouts of Rocky Top at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville. Question marks surround the Vols program from their head coach to their post play and whether Scotty Hopson can perform at an all-SEC level on a consistent basis. Much like victories over #1 Kansas (and eventual #1 Kentucky) distracted the Tennessee faithful from the Tyler Smith situation a season ago, a successful year on the court will take the spotlight away from Pearl’s past indiscretions off the court. There’s no better way to endear yourself to those orange-clad faithful than downing Kentucky, especially on the final Sunday of the season and with a possible SEC championship on the line. Unless freshman Tobias Harris is an immediate star, Hopson is the entire key for the Vols this season. His periodic disappearing acts from the offense cannot be tolerated.

#10. February 20 – Ohio State at Purdue, 1 pm (CBS) - This Big Ten grinder could come down to which post stud has the superior game. Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson will need to take on an even bigger load this season with the absence of Hummel. The preseason All-America is a lanky, talented shot-blocker extraordinaire that runs the floor and can hit the mid-range jumper for Matt Painter. This is a crucial year for Johnson, not only in taking on  more of a leadership role in West Lafayette, but also vaulting his draft stock into the first round. He’ll be matched up against the Buckeyes’ own stud in the paint, heralded freshman Jared Sullinger. The Columbus native has game beyond his years and can play with the likes of Johnson, Jon Leuer, Rodney Williams, Mike Tisdale and other forwards/centers in the rugged Big Ten. Mark it down: whoever has a better all-around game between Johnson and Sullinger will give their team the edge in what promises to be a physical battle.

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The 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11 (#26-14)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 27th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an RTC editor, contributor and bracketologist.

College basketball fans: get your calendars out. Over the next few Wednesdays until opening night arrives on November 8, we’ll unveil a portion of our 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11, a countdown of the matchups that you need to make sure to see this season. From the early season headliners to the best rivalries conference play has to offer, this list has you covered with the game, date, time (ET), network and a brief synopsis of what to expect. Remember, folks: this list doesn’t even include another eight to ten must-see early-season tournament games, for which we’ll have a separate post later this month.  Without further ado, here is the fourth installment  of the list — set your Tivos/DVRs now.

To see the #27-68 games on this list, click here.

#26. January 26 – San Diego State at BYU, 9 pm (CBS College Sports) – This clash in late January could be an early indicator whether the Aztecs or Cougars will prove the class of a competitive Mountain West this season. While the most gifted pure scorer in the conference is unquestionably BYU’s Jimmer Fredette, one could argue San Diego State boasts the best overall player in sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard. The Riverside native and future pro nearly averaged a double-double during his debut campaign and only improved as the season continued. BYU’s frontline of Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies’ attempts to contain Leonard may prove the difference, while the Cougars’ gameplan will clearly be to make this a perimeter-oriented game behind guards Fredette and Jackson Emery. The victor receives a leg up in the MWC race.

This Has Become a Great MWC Rivalry (K. Johnson/Deseret News)

#25. December 18 – Kansas State vs. Florida, 4:30 pm (FSN) – Two preseason top ten teams will meet in mid-December, the winner emerging with a victory that will look absolutely tremendous on Selection Sunday. No surprise defections and five returning starters from an NCAA Tournament team has Billy Donovan and Gator Nation as excited as any moment since the Noah/Horford-led squad disbanded. The success of Florida this season could come down to whether they improve their three-point accuracy, notably sophomore Kenny Boynton. The five-star recruit came to Gainesville with a reputation for proficiency behind the arc, but he shot just 29% on 245 treys as a freshman. Donovan expects a jump in accuracy from both Boynton and fellow guard Erving Walker this season. They’ll need every three they can get against a K-State squad that will attempt to physically impose their will on the Gators.

#24. December 1 – Purdue at Virginia Tech, 7:30 pm (ESPN) – I had this game higher up on the list until Robbie Hummel’s ACL tear dropped the Boilermakers a few notches on the preseason rankings. Regardless of that devastating blow, it’s still one of the premier contests of the non-conference slate and one of two ACC/Big Ten Challenge headliners on the first day of December. While we’re all pitying Matt Painter and Purdue, remember they still feature two all-Big Ten caliber performers in big man JaJuan Johnson and two-guard E’Twaun Moore, plus a steady point guard in Lewis Jackson that shone as a freshman before injuries derailed his momentum. In all likelihood, though, Purdue slipped from slight favorites to underdogs in this game with Hummel sidelined. Virginia Tech will be playing in front of their rowdy home crowd, boasts arguably the ACC’s best scorer in Malcolm Delaney, an underrated big man in Jeff Allen and the extra incentive to add a portfolio-building win after last year’s disastrous pre-ACC slate.

#23. February 6 – Michigan State at Wisconsin, 1 pm (CBS) – For as much success as Tom Izzo has had since becoming the head coach at Michigan State, there’s one task on his to-do list that has yet to be accomplished: beat Bo Ryan in Madison. Believe it or not, Izzo is 0-6 on the road against Wisconsin since Ryan took the helm. The most recent defeat came last February when the 19-3 Spartans, ranked in the top five in the country, marched into the Kohl Center and departed with a 67-49 beatdown. It was a banner game for two Badgers that will need to step into bigger roles if Ryan wants to have another successful campaign: junior forward Rob Wilson (5-5 FG, 10 points) and junior guard Jordan Taylor (17 points, 3-8 treys). The Spartans are a near-consensus #2 team in the nation behind Duke in the preseason, so there’s reason to believe Izzo’s winless streak could come to an end on this date.

This is a Win Both Teams Need for National Legitimacy

#22. November 16 – Ohio State at Florida, 6 pm (ESPN) – In this writer’s opinion, here’s the most intruging game in the month of November. Can the Buckeyes possibly be better after losing Player of the Year Evan Turner? The answer is yes. Thad Matta brought in a game-changing big man in Jared Sullinger, a frontcourt partner in DeShaun Thomas and a heady, defensive-minded point guard in Aaron Craft. Every significant contributor that played alongside Turner is also back — Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale, David Lighty and breakout candidate William Buford. The toughest test of their non-conference slate is this trip to Gainesville to battle a Gators team with equally lofty expectations. Florida will need defensive stalwart Vernon Macklin to contain Sullinger in the post and avoid an early home loss. This is another huge resume win for either team in March.

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The 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11 (#40-27)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 20th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an RTC editor, contributor and bracketologist.

College basketball fans: get your calendars out. Over the next few Wednesdays until opening night arrives on November 8, we’ll unveil a portion of our 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11, a countdown of the matchups that you need to make sure to see this season. From the early season headliners to the best rivalries conference play has to offer, this list has you covered with the game, date, time (ET), network and a brief synopsis of what to expect. Remember, folks: this list doesn’t even include another eight to ten must-see early-season tournament games, for which we’ll have a separate post later this month.  Without further ado, here is the third installment  of the list — set your Tivos/DVRs now.

To see the #41-68 games on this list, click here.

#40. February 1 – Purdue at Wisconsin, 7 pm (ESPN) – This game, and truly Purdue’s Final Four hopes as a whole, were tempered when Robbie Hummel re-tore his ACL in the second drill of practice last Saturday, but this Big Ten grinder could still have serious implications. While the Badgers are nearly unbeatable at home since Bo Ryan took the helm, Matt Painter’s baby-turned-senior Boilers have had moderate success in the Kohl Center relative to other challengers. And despite the crippling blow that is Hummel’s injury, it’s not a death sentence for Painter and his team. Never underestimate the us-against-the-world mentality in college sports, that same attitude Purdue likely had when they stunned #8 Wisconsin as an unranked, unproven commodity three seasons ago. Facing a perennially overachieving Badgers team will be one of their stiffest challenges on the road towards convincing the doubters yet again.

#39. February 7 – Pittsburgh at West Virginia, 7 pm (ESPN) - Ah, yes. The Backyard Brawl: Hoops Edition. The hatred among these two factions are as deep-seated and emotional as any in the Big East. One thing we know for certain about Bob Huggins’ team post-Final Four is that Kevin Jones should be up to the task of taking over the alpha dog role. If the two-headed point guard monster of Darryl Bryant and Joe Mazzulla can provide more punch offensively, Deniz Kilici can continue to develop into a post presence and freshmen Noah Cottrill and Kevin Noreen are able to contribute immediately, Huggins could have another tough-minded contender on his hands. They’ll need a team effort to down a Pitt squad that returns four starters and has realistic expectations of reaching the school’s first Final Four since the FDR administration.

The Backyard Brawl Went 3-OT Last Year

#38. December 9 – Georgetown at Temple, 9 pm (ESPN2) - Here’s a non-conference clash that may float a bit under the radar. With a top-four Big East team traveling to the preseason Atlantic 10 favorite, this game deserves serious national attention. Contrary to their storied history of producing legendary paint patrollers, the Hoyas will be as perimeter-oriented as ever this season led by the three-headed tandem of Chris Wright (had a strong summer on the USA Select Team), Austin Freeman (this writer’s preseason Big East POY) and the tremendously underrated Jason Clark. With sharpshooting Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore, the Owls have some firepower of their own. To avoid defeat, Georgetown needs Julian Vaughn to contain double-double machine Lavoy Allen on the low block.

#37. November 16 – Virginia Tech at Kansas State, 4 pm (ESPN) - One of the highlights of ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon is a late afternoon matinee pitting two schools with goals of playing on the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend. Despite injuries hurting their frontcourt depth, the Hokies’ Big Three — Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson — have remained intact and 100% healthy heading into practice. The best head-to-head matchup of the entire day may be the Delaney-Jacob Pullen bout at point guard. Play that to a wash and the Wildcats should be able to protect the Octagon of Doom on this afternoon, especially if the reports of Florida International transfer Freddy Asprilla being a potential difference maker in the post are true. Martin also boasts Jamar Samuels, Curtis Kelly and Wally Judge, all integral weapons in a physical, tough, long frontcourt.

VT Has Played Well in Cameron: Will the Octagon Rattle Them?

#36. January 17 – Kansas at Baylor, 9:30 pm (ESPN) - The Jayhawks are a bit of a wild card this season. It’s a credit to Bill Self and the depth he’s assembled that the Jayhawks are even discussed as a potential top ten team after losing Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry and Cole Aldrich. A trip to Waco to face an uber-athletic Bears squad would be challenging for even Self’s team of a year ago. Most expect Marcus Morris to make the leap to all-Big 12 contention, but the length of Perry Jones and Quincy Acy could make this the most difficult matchup of his season. As a result, this clash could come down to guard play, where the Bears LaceDarius Dunn (domestic violence arrest) and the Jayhawks Josh Selby (eligibility) both face question marks regarding their availability. My best guess is that those two all-world talents will be on the floor earlier than January 17.

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The 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11 (#54-41)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2010

College basketball fans: get your calendars out. Over the next five Wednesdays until opening night arrives on November 8, we’ll unveil a portion of our 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11, a countdown of the matchups that you need to make sure to see this season. From the early season headliners to the best rivalries conference play has to offer, this list has you covered with the game, date, time (ET), network and a brief synopsis of what to expect. Remember, folks: this list doesn’t even include another eight to ten must-see early-season tournament games, for which we’ll have a separate post later this month.  Without further ado, here is the second installment on the list — set your Tivos/DVRs now.

To see the #55-68 games on this list, click here.

#54. January 29 – Florida at Mississippi State, 1 pm (CBS)- This matchup just got even juicer with the NCAA ruling that Dee Bost can join Renardo Sidney after sitting out the first nine games of Mississippi State’s season. The inclusion of an experienced point guard and an ultra-talented center vaults the Bulldogs into clear SEC West preseason favorite status. One of the highlights of their conference slate is Florida visiting The Hump for a late January clash on national TV. The Gators return all five starters and add a dynamite recruiting class led by Patric Young and Casey Prather, so expectations couldn’t be higher for Billy Donovan’s squad.

#53. February 22 – Michigan State at Minnesota, 9 pm (Big Ten Network)- We already covered Purdue’s trip to Minneapolis earlier in the series, but this late-season clash could potentially determine the fate of the Gophers’ NCAA Tournament hopes. Tubby Smith’s team projects to be a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team that could be clawing for a tournament bid in late February. What better opportunity for a bid-clinching win than the Spartans rolling into town? The problem for Smith and Minnesota: Tom Izzo’s squads normally play their best basketball late in the season. Opposing teams on the Spartans’ schedule should also try to knock them down early before Kalin Lucas inches closer and closer to 100% health.

These MWC Battles Are Epic Must-Watch Hoops

#52. January 5 – BYU at UNLV, 10 pm (CBS College Sports)- One of many banner matchups in an intriguing Mountain West conference this season. Jimmer Fredette can single-handedly carry the Cougars at any point, giving BYU a fighting chance should he find his stroke from outside and/or start penetrating effectively in the lane. Sidekicks Jackson Emery, Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies are also back for Dave Rose. With the news passed down a couple weeks ago that UNLV star Tre’Von Willis will only miss 10% of UNLV’s games following a plea deal in a domestic violence case, the Rebels can have realistic hopes of winning the MWC. It’ll be worth staying up late for any game involving UNLV, BYU, San Diego State and possibly New Mexico/Wyoming this winter.

#51. December 23 – Georgetown at Memphis, 8 pm (ESPN2)- The final delectable bite of the appetizer that is non-conference competition before conference play gets underway: a battle of two potential top-20 teams at FedEx Forum. The guards in this contest are tremendous — from the Hoyas’ three-headed monster of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark to the Tigers fabulous freshmen Joe Jackson, Will Barton and Jelan Kendrick. It’s fairly clear this would be a huge resume-building triumph for the victor come seeding debates in March.

#50. December 18 – Gonzaga vs. Baylor, 4:30 pm (ESPN2)- In typical Mark Few fashion, Gonzaga’s pre-WCC slate is loaded with quality competition. He’s never been afraid to take his Zags on the road for marquee games on semi-neutral floors. This matchup at American Airlines Arena in Houston will prove a quasi-home game for the Bears, but Few has the talent at his disposal to pull off the victory. The versatile, inside/outside play of two potential lottery picks — Baylor’s stud freshman Perry Jones and Gonzaga’s German import Elias Harris — is reason enough to tune in.

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The 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11 (#68-55)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 6th, 2010

College basketball fans: get your calendars out. Over the next five Wednesdays until opening night arrives on November 8, we’ll unveil a portion of our 68 Can’t-Miss Games of 2010-11, a countdown of the matchups that you need to make sure to see this season. From the early season headliners to the best rivalries conference play has to offer, this list has you covered with the game, date, time (ET), network and a brief synopsis of what to expect. Remember, folks: this list doesn’t even include another eight to ten must-see early-season tournament games, for which we’ll have a separate post later this month.  Without further ado, here are the first 14 games on the list — set your Tivos/DVRs now.

#68. January 22 – Ohio State at Illinois, 12 pm (CBS) - Just prior to the stretch run in what should be the most competitive conference in the land this season, Ohio State travels to rowdy Champaign for a physical, rugged battle. Two of the best freshmen the Big Ten has to offer will be featured on national television in Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Illinois’ Jereme Richmond. Thad Matta should have an idea after this game whether last year’s supporting cast will take a step forward or instead fall on hard times without their former superstar Evan Turner.

#67. February 2 – Duke at Maryland, 9 pm (ESPN) - There’s only a small handful of games where the likely preseason #1 Blue Devils have a chance to fall. This is one of them. The Terrapins knocked off Duke in College Park last season. The difference: they had Grievis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne at their disposal. If the secondary players of a year ago — players like Sean Mosley, Cliff Tucker, Adrian Bowie and freshman Mychal Parker — can produce sufficiently alongside budding star Jordan Williams, Duke could be in for another dogfight against one of their bitter rivals.

Terp Fans Will Be Ready For Duke Again

#66. March 5 – Princeton at Harvard, 7 pm (TBA) - For those of you Ivy League fans out there, this is shaping up to be the best game of the entire slate and one that may decide the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. With Cornell’s three top seniors departing, most believe the conference crowd is Princeton’s to lose considering the Tigers return their top five scorers. Harvard, despite losing all-Ivy performer Jeremy Lin, returns the majority of his supporting cast and Lavietes Pavilion should be rocking on the last Saturday of the regular season.

#65. January 13 – Purdue at Minnesota, 7 pm (ESPN) - Purdue will be returning to the Barn on this January night for the first time since they saw their national title hopes crumble with Robbie Hummel’s devastating knee injury in 2010. More importantly, this is an early statement game for a Golden Gophers team that’s hard to peg in the preseason. They Gophers return some intriguing pieces from a team that made a late push to secure a bid in 2010, notably Devoe Joseph, Blake Hoffarber and Ralph Sampson III, and this shapes up to be a potential early season statement win for Tubby Smith.

#64. February 12 – Old Dominion at VCU, time TBA - Despite the defections of Gerald Lee as a senior and Larry Sanders to the NBA, both the Monarchs and Rams may find themselves atop the CAA standings once again. Shaka Smart brings in an impressive recruiting haul to go with experienced floor leader Joey Rodriguez and fellow guards Brandon Rozell and Bradford Burgess. It’s the same story for ODU’s Blaine Taylor — Lee is gone, but most of his sidekicks are back in the fold. This should be ODU’s stiffest test on the CAA slate.

#63. January 29 – Missouri at Texas, 9 pm (ESPNU) - There’s five teams that could legitimately challenge for the Big 12 title this season. Here’s two of them meeting in a late January battle. The jury’s out on the Longhorns given how the second half of last year played out, but the talent and depth that Rick Barnes assembled still makes a trip to Austin less than ideal for the visitor. Between Kim English, Marcus Denmon and incoming freshman Paul Pressey, it could be guard play and the Tigers’ patented full-court pressure that negates any Texas home court advantage.

#62. March 5 – Florida at Vanderbilt, 6 pm (ESPN) - With Billy Donovan dodging a Mareese Speights/Nick Calathes type unexpected loss this summer, it appears that the Gators and their returning five starters are the odds-on favorites to win the SEC (this could hinge on Enes Kanter’s eligibility for Kentucky). Their regular season finale shapes up to be a challenge at Vanderbilt’s wacky Memorial Gymnasium. Losing A.J. Ogilvy sent the Commodores down a few notches, but potential lottery pick Jeffery Taylor and sharpshooter John Jenkins could be enough to send a late-season punch Florida’s way.

#61. December 11 – Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh, 3:15 pm (ESPN) - The stage is set for these two powerhouses to  battle at the Penguins brand new Consol Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh, giving this “neutral site” game a significant pro-Panthers flavor. Despite losing three key seniors, the Volunteers re-loaded with freshman Tobias Harris and return the talented Scotty Hopson. Many folks think a Pitt team that overachieved tremendously last season has the chops to win a competitive Big East. This would be an early resume-building win for both squads.

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