68 Must-See Games of 2011-12: #17-1

Posted by zhayes9 on October 31st, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court. You can follow him on Twitter @zhayes9 and check out the previous editions of 68 Must-See Games: #68-52, #51-35, #34-18.

17. February 25: Missouri at Kansas (4:00, CBS)- A rivalry that dates back to the Civil War could soon be extinct due to Missouri’s anticipated move to the SEC, so enjoy one of the last few meetings between these bitter border foes. Both squads have tempered expectations heading into the season – Kansas due to the departures of six main contributors and the ineligibility of two freshmen, Missouri because of Laurence Bowers’ crushing ACL injury. Kansas’ Thomas Robinson and Missouri’s Marcus Denmon are reasons enough to watch, though. Robinson has the tools to make a leap to All-America status, while Denmon is criminally underrated and one of the nation’s true elite guards.

16. December 2: Vanderbilt at Louisville (9:30, ESPN)- I must admit: the powers-that-be who determine the matchups for the ACC/Big Ten and SEC/Big East challenges know exactly what they’re doing (well, except for sending St. John’s to Kentucky). The non-conference schedules for Vandy and Louisville were already daunting before this battle of potential top ten teams popped up on the slate. The absence of center Festus Ezeli, given he doesn’t return in time following a sprained PCL/MCL suffered last week, negates what could have been a major post advantage for Vanderbilt in light of Terrence Jennings’ early departure. The Cards will look for a resume-building win behind a clear point guard edge, a raucous home court advantage and their relentless full-court pressure.

Scoop Jardine and the Orange make quite a few appearances on this list

15. December 2: Florida at Syracuse (7:30, ESPN)- Electric guard play will be on full display at the Carrier Dome with Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and impact freshman Michael Carter-Williams leading the charge for Syracuse and the foursome of Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Brad Beal and Mike Rosario filling it up for Florida. The trump card for the Orange could be 6’7 wing Kris Joseph, a preseason Big East first teamer. Billy Donovan will employ plenty of three or four-guard lineups this season, which could create a mismatch opportunity for Joseph. Cancel all plans for December 2 with this game and Vandy-Louisville on the docket.

14. February 18: Arizona at Washington (4:00, FSN)- Two years ago, Arizona basketball was a program in serious transition with four head coaches in four years, Lute Olson’s awkward departure and an embarrassing coaching search. Heading into 2011-12, the Wildcats are now the favorites to claim their second straight Pac-12 title in what has been an epic turnaround under Sean Miller. One of the stumbling blocks towards that goal could be this mid-February tilt in Seattle. How a backcourt that will depend on significant contributions from two freshmen – point guard Josiah Turner and off-guard Nick Johnson – handles such a raucous atmosphere will go a long way in not only determining the outcome of this game, but how Arizona fares in their first season post-Derrick Williams.

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68 Must-See Games of 2011-12: #34-18

Posted by zhayes9 on October 27th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

In case you missed it, check out games #68-52 and #51-35.

34. February 21: Kentucky at Mississippi State (9:00, ESPN)- Remember the last time Kentucky traveled to The Hump to take on Mississippi State late in the year? The hatred was off the charts before (taunting texts to DeMarcus Cousins from State fans) during (an intense 81-75 overtime win by the #2 Wildcats) and after (fans serenading the officials with a bottle showering) the game. While we can do without the texting and postgame embarrassment, players like Bulldogs point guard Dee Bost still harbor a bitter taste in their mouth from that outcome. If one can pinpoint a weakness with this loaded Kentucky team, it’s the lack of a true post presence. State can trot out the 6’11 Arnett Moultrie and the 6’10 Renardo Sidney. If those two are committed to the post for 40 minutes, this could be one of UK’s SEC stumbling blocks.

Senior Dee Bost is looking for a measure of revenge against Kentucky

33. February 22: Kansas at Texas A&M (9:00, ESPN)- After winning seven consecutive Big 12 titles, it’s fair to label Kansas as the hunted. That makes a very capable Texas A&M team the most threatening hunter. With B12 POY candidate Khris Middleton, Washington transfer Elston Turner and a deep frontcourt, Billy Kennedy is walking into an ideal situation once he gets his health in order. A&M may have a more complete roster, but Kansas was still picked to win the Big 12 in a tie with the Aggies. Until someone knocks the Jayhawks off their pedestal, they deserve to be considered favorites. This game in late February could go a long way towards deciding the regular season crown.

32. February 23: Duke at Florida State (7:00, ESPN)- ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb outlined a compelling case that Florida State is much closer to Duke’s equal than most believe, mostly because of their lockdown defense, absurd athleticism and length at every position. Who wins out when Duke’s star-studded offensive attack – buoyed by the ultra-talented freshman Austin Rivers and the emerging Ryan Kelly – meets the ‘Noles dynamic defenders? Last season, FSU held a Singler and Smith-led Duke team to 61 points in an upset win.

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68 Must-See Games of 2011-12: #68-52

Posted by zhayes9 on October 12th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

26 days. That’s all that separates us and live, meaningful, regular season college basketball.

Every week from now until opening night, I’m here to be your tour guide for the 68 must-watch games of the upcoming season. The list includes 15 conferences from the Pac-12 to the CAA and covers everything from rivalry games dating back a half century, non-conference RPI-boosting tilts and intense battles for state supremacy. Games in February and March, when the margin for error is slim to none, are valued more than contests in November and December. The large majority of these games will have a lasting effect when the bracket is unveiled on that early spring late afternoon in March.

Get your pens and calendars out, folks. These are 68 games that college hoops fans can’t afford to miss (all rankings derived from RTC’s post-draft deadline top 25 and all times EST).

68. January 19: #1 North Carolina at  Virginia Tech (9 PM, ESPN)- The Tar Heels have some challenging tests on their schedule prior to this trip to Virginia Tech, including home/neutral dates with Michigan State, Wisconsin and Texas and road swings to Kentucky and Florida State. If the ultra-talented Heels can navigate those treacherous waters, their #1 ranking will be put to the test in Blacksburg. Tech returns a handful of intriguing players primed to make a leap forward, including double-digit scorer Dorenzo Hudson and breakout candidate Erick Green. Freshman Dorian Finney-Smith is a smooth and skilled freshman forward that could make an immediate impact for the Hokies.

Seth Greenberg won't be so relaxed when UNC comes to town

67.  February 4: Detroit at Butler (12:00, ESPN2)- If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Detroit aims to claim their first Horizon League title since 1999 behind the guard play of Wooden Award watch list honoree Ray McCallum and all-conference second teamer Chase Simon. The Titans hope forward Eli Holman, a double-double threat who is currently on a leave of absence from the team to address personal matters, returns in time to bang bodies with a strong Butler frontcourt bolstered by the skilled Andrew Smith and athletic Khyle Marshall.

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