Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.
It’s about time the SEC and Big East followed suit.
Last week, those two esteemed conferences made it official: they plan on following the path set by the ACC and Big Ten, expanding their annual showdown to include (nearly) all members in a nationally televised spectacle creating enticing matchups that most cautious coaches would normally eschew (exception: Tom Izzo). The ACC/Big Ten Challenge, buoyed by ESPN’s services and the strangely captivating quest for the Big Ten to finally upend their ACC counterparts, has been a roaring success since its inception even through peaks and valleys in terms of talent level.
The lone saving grace once the excitement of the Thanksgiving tournaments have died down is remembering that the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and all it offers is right around the corner. Next December, the SEC and Big East have agreed to double our fun, expanding to 12 teams each. Although the dissection of each game won’t fully get underway until well after the leaves change colors, here are some of the matchups, individual and team, that jumped out to me as soon as the games were announced:
Florida backcourt vs. Syracuse backcourt - Two teams with Final Four aspirations next season for one primary reason: the strength of returnees and newcomers in their backcourts. Florida, periodically to their detriment, are overly reliant on their diminutive backcourt duo of point guard Erving Walker and three-point gunner Kenny Boynton, a trend that won’t recede with the departure of both Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin from the front line. Two-guard extraordinaire Brad Beal might be the best of the pack the minute he steps on campus as a pinpoint shooter and ace defender and Scottie Wilbekin saw ample time as an underage freshman. Syracuse has Big East title aspirations mostly due to their experienced backcourt returnees and double digit scorers: two-year starter Brandon Triche and fifth-year senior Scoop Jardine. Throw in combo guard Michael Carter-Williams, a McDonalds All-American that can spell Triche at the point and also fill it up, elite shooter Trevor Cooney and scorer Dion Waiters (provided he smoothes things over with his coach) and the Orange are even more stocked than the Gators in their backcourt. As it almost always the case: it’s a guard’s world, we’re just living in it.
Scoop Jardine spearheads a loaded Cuse backcourt
Jeffery Taylor vs. Kyle Kuric - Other than possibly Duke-Ohio State (couldn’t Carolina have paid a visit to Columbus or was Roy Williams not too anxious to embark?), the best matchup set by the powers-that-be are potential #1/#2 seeds Louisville and Vanderbilt butting heads. This winter is shaping up to be the most exciting season in Vandy basketball history provided they tighten up their defense and avoid yet another first round collapse. Those expectations were set when John Jenkins, Festus Ezeli and Jeffery Taylor, the latter a possible lottery pick, elected to skip the draft waters and return to Nashville. Taylor’s offensive repertoire has expanded since arriving on campus, but he’s always been known as a star defender because of his outstanding athleticism, length and ability to guard multiple positions. He may not face a more imposing threat in 2011-12 than Kyle Kuric, the sneaky quick and bouncy sharpshooter from Louisville that connected on 45% of his treys as a junior. Watching Taylor chase around Kuric for 35 minutes should be a sight to behold.
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