To get our readers excited for the endless possibilities of 2009-10, I’ve compiled an extensive list of the top 65 college basketball games of the upcoming season. Any true college hoops fan knows why we selected the number 65. Splitting up this season preview feature into three posts the next three Mondays (November/December, January and February/March), hopefully this list will provide you with the most vital of dates to circle on your calendar. Coaches are realizing more and more the importance of compiling a respectable non-conference slate to boost RPI/SOS numbers and provide their team adequate experience and preparation for the grind of conference play. Let’s lead off with the first batch of potentially memorable meetings during the first two months of the season:
Ed. Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.
November 17- Gonzaga at Michigan State (#59 overall)– The featured game in ESPN’s 24-hour hoops marathon pits a backcourt-laden Gonzaga squad in the first of many difficult road tests against a top-five Michigan State team. The State backcourt of Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen and Korie Lucious will be given a true test from the Bulldogs trio of scoring senior Matt Bouldin, deep marksman junior Stephen Gray and emerging sophomore Demetri Goodson.
November 17- Memphis vs. Kansas in St. Louis (#64 overall)– A young and largely inexperienced Memphis team will receive a stiff test right away with the likely #1 team in the nation- Kansas. Guards Doneal Mack and Roburt Sallie must shoot well from deep for the Tigers to stay competitive. Former JUCO standout Will Coleman and burly senior Pierre Henderson-Niles will have their hands full down low with likely All-American Cole Aldrich.
November 19- North Carolina vs. Ohio State in NYC (#39 overall)– November and December means one thing: plenty of electrifying non-conference action at Madison Square Garden. This semifinal matchup could prove the best. Ohio State has their entire team returning besides the underwhelming B.J. Mullens and return defensive stalwart David Lighty from injury. They could definitely surprise the inexperienced Heels, who should have a distinct frontcourt advantage with Dallas Lauderdale sidelined.
December 1- Michigan State at North Carolina (#10 overall)– The Spartans and Heels meet in a rematch of the national title game that once again headlines this year’s ACC/Big Ten challenge. State may be able to avenge those two harsh defeats a year ago by taking advantage of the point guard mismatch. With Ty Lawson no longer around, Kalin Lucas could dominate against Larry Drew or Dexter Strickland. On the flip side, Draymond Green should have his hands full with a loaded UNC frontline.
December 5- North Carolina at Kentucky (#8 overall)– Notice a trend with this list so far? Roy Williams has challenged his team with an extremely difficult non-conference schedule, and this early season matchup in Lexington should be one of the best on the early season. There will be loads of projected lottery picks on the floor in this one, from North Carolina’s Ed Davis to Kentucky’s John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.