September 15, 2011
The Dagger's week-long Big Ten preview continues with a look at the conference's 15 most intriguing non-conference matchups next season.
Comment: As if a basketball game held on the same aircraft carrier that buried Osama Bin Laden at sea wasn't reason enough to watch, the matchup itself is also compelling. Michigan State will attempt to put last year's disappointing season in the past by taking down the No. 1 ranked team in almost every preseason poll.
Comment: The premier matchup in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge features a pair of elite programs who haven't met since 2002. Ohio State has a handful of formidable perimeter defenders to throw at Austin Rivers and Seth Curry, but does Duke have an interior player capable of slowing down Jared Sullinger?
3. Wisconsin at North Carolina, Nov. 30
Comment: An inflammatory jab Roy Williams took at ex-Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett after the 2000 Final Four has resulted in lingering resentment in Madison. Even though this game will be in Chapel Hill, that still provides an intriguing backdrop for what already is a matchup of top 15 teams with elite point guards.
4. Ohio State at Kansas, Dec. 10
Comment: Although the Jayhawks have only lost one game in four years at home, beating Ohio State in what may be somewhat of a rebuilding year will be a challenge. The matchup between Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullinger in the paint will be fun to watch, but what may decide this contest is whether the rest of Kansas' roster is good enough to match the production of Ohio State's complementary stars.
5. Marquette at Wisconsin, Dec. 3
Comment: If Louisville-Kentucky and Xavier-Cincinnati are the nation's two premier non-league rivalries, then Marquette vs. Wisconsin isn't far behind. The Badgers have won the last two meetings against their in-state rival including a 69-64 victory in Milwaukee last season.
6. Michigan State vs. Duke, Nov. 15
Comment: Assuming Duke handles Belmont and Presbyterian in its first two games, that will set the stage for Mike Krzyzewski to win his 903rd game and surpass Bob Knight's all-time record at Madison Square Garden against Michigan State. This matchup with the Spartans is a rematch of a Big Ten-ACC challenge game between the two teams that Duke narrowly won a year ago.
Comment: For a game unlikely to feature a ranked team, this still should be a compelling, emotionally charged matchup. Indiana has long been considered the state's top program, but back-to-back national title game appearances by Butler have given the Bulldogs the prestige to challenge the Hoosiers, Purdue and Notre Dame for top in-state prospects.
8. Florida at Ohio State, Nov. 15
Comment: The Florida team Ohio State will face in November will be very different than the one the Buckeyes clobbered 93-75 in Gainesville last year. Frontcourt standouts Alex Tyus, Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin are gone, but the arrival of elite freshman Bradley Beal and Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario will make the Gators' backcourt one of the deepest and most talented in the nation.
9. Michigan at Maui Invitational, Nov. 21-23
Comment: Michigan has a huge incentive to upset Memphis in what should be an intriguing opening-round matchup. Not only would that be a marquee victory that would signal that the Wolverines are still formidable even without Darius Morris, it would also likely earn them a semifinal matchup with the Duke team that eliminated them in the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament last March.
10. Kentucky at Indiana, Dec. 10
Comment: For this annual matchup to become a true rivalry again, Indiana's going to have to win once in a while. The arrival of freshman Cody Zeller and the return of the core of last year's team should make the Hoosiers more competitive, but they're probably a year away from realistically pushing Kentucky.
Comment: If Northwestern is going to win a marquee non-conference game to bolster its chances at the program's first-ever NCAA tournament bid, beating Baylor at home might be their best chance. Intriguing sidenote: Both these teams have major questions at point guard with Northwestern looking to replace Juice Thompson and Baylor still trying to find Tweety Carter's heir apparent.
Comment: The basketball version of the "Arch Rivalry" figures to be bitterly contested once again next December. Big 12 contender Missouri will be seeking its third straight victory over an Illinois team that lost Demetri McCamey, Mike Tisdale and Jereme Richmond off last year's team but probably will have better chemistry.
13. Purdue at Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Nov. 17-20
Comment: Is Robbie Hummel at full strength after two ACL tears? Can Purdue contend in the Big Ten without JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore? This early-season tournament certainly won't answer those questions, but potential matchups with Temple, Alabama and Wichita State will certainly give the Boilermakers a litmus test.
14 Michigan State at Gonzaga, Dec. 10
Comment: One of the best non-conference games in recent memory was Gonzaga's 109-106 triple-overtime victory over Michigan State at the Maui Invitational in 2005. It's unlikely this year's game will live up to that meeting, but the matchup should still feature a pair of battle-tested teams with conference title aspirations.
15. Purdue at Xavier, Dec. 3
Comment: Atlantic 10 player of the year Tu Holloway is one of the nation's best point guards. Purdue senior Lewis Jackson is one of the Big Ten's top on-ball defenders. The matchup between the two of them should be well worth the price of admission when the Boilermakers and Musketeers square off in Cincinnati.
More conference previews from the Dagger:
ACC: Lessons from the pros keep North Carolina humble and hungry, ACC projections and storylines to watch, Ex-Wake Forest star Ish Smith scouts the league, Ranking the 15 best non-league ACC games, Q&A with Florida State junior Michael Snaer
Atlantic 10: Temple's Micheal Eric hopes to seize his chance, A-10 projections and storylines to watch, Ex-Xavier star Byron Larkin scouts the league, Ranking the 15 best non-league A-10 games, Q&A with St. Louis guard Kwamain Mitchell