Kentucky's John Calipari is more than excited to be playing Baylor over the next two years.
We're in the middle of June. There's virtually nothing to talk about in college basketball. Maybe a high school prospect erroneously announces his commitment to a school or maybe a player at a visible program decides to go all out to celebrate his 21st birthday. These headlines have only a day of staying power to matter to the college hoops fan.
Inspired by Jeff Goodman's blog post of the top non-conference games for this upcoming season, I've decided to take a swipe at arranging the matchups that involve Big 12 teams. These after the jump.
14. South Florida at Oklahoma State: December 5 in Stillwater, Oklahoma
USF barely squeaked into the tournament in 2012 and, yeah, they played like they belonged. Other than that, they have had a largely dormant basketball program. In 2009-10, the Bulls had a 20-win season and then went 10-23 the very next season. Then there's Oklahoma State who haven't been good since James Anderson left. The only thing I could sell to you is the battle between small, dynamic PGs Anthony Collins and Cezar Guerrero.
13. Temple at Kansas: January 5 in Lawrence, Kansas
Don't get me wrong: this is a really attractive matchup on paper. But I'm down on it because the game is played at Kansas. The Jayhawks tend to embarrass anyone who dare enters The Phog, whether it's Kennesaw State or Kansas State. Also, the Owls will miss mainstays Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore, who have since graduated.
12. Gonzaga at Oklahoma State: December 31 in Stillwater, Oklahoma
These same two teams met on New Year's Eve 2010 when Gonzaga throttled the Cowboys. The Bulldogs are very much the better team but they're playing at Gallagher-Iba Arena, a notoriously notorious environment for visiting clubs. Along with that, Le'Bryan Nash and freshman Marcus Smart can pose matchup problems for the Zags.
11. Texas vs Georgetown: December 4 in New York, New York
Texas and Georgetown were in similar places at the start of the 2011-12 season. They both lost huge percentages of their offense to the NBA Draft or graduation and had to quickly find an identity. The Horns will certainly miss J'Covan Brown's 20 per game but returning are Sheldon McClellan, who can blossom into a premiere scorer in year two and Myck Kabongo, who can be one of the best PGs in America if he can cut down on turnovers. G'Town can expect more production from their own crop of talented underclassmen including Otto Porter, Jabril Trawick and Greg Whittington.
10. North Carolina at Texas: December 19 in Austin, Texas
They've given us memorable games in 2009 and 2010. But there seems to be a little less juice in this year's version. UNC has lost a lot of talent from their back-to-back Elite 8 teams. Sure they have some left over but couple that with the game being played at Texas, and this game can play out favorably for the Longhorns.
9. Kansas State vs Gonzaga: December 15 in Seattle, Washington
The Battle in Seattle almost always brings us a good game. Back in '06, Adam Morrison hit a bankshot three with about two seconds left to beat Oklahoma State and two years later, in a battle of top 10 teams, UConn needed extra time to outlast the Zags. I disagree with Goodman's low ranking of this game. Both teams still have the majority of their core from last year in place and the freshmen (now sophomores) on these teams will take on more prominent roles.
8. Texas at Michigan State: December 22 in East Lansing, Michigan
No matter what you think about Rick Barnes, one thing he does well is challenge his team in the non-conference, regardless of what the roster looks like. December could be tough sledding for Texas as they face Georgetown, UCLA, North Carolina and the Spartans all between the 4th and 22nd. Getting a win at the Breslin Center, like they did in 2010, will be a great barometer of where Texas is as a basketball team.
7. Florida vs Kansas State: December 22 in Kansas City, Missouri
Already an unpopular hire, Bruce Weber is helping put his own feet to the fire early next season. Florida is coming off back-to-back Elite 8 appearances and for all I know, Billy Donovan is probably the only head coach from the 1990s that can eventually reach Coach K's career win total. The individual matchups are what really make this game compelling: Rodney McGruder v. Kenny Boynton in a battle of scoring guards and down-low, how K-State sophomore Thomas Gipson will handle one of the SEC's better big guys in Florida's Patric Young.
6. Texas vs UCLA: December 8 in Houston, Texas
College basketball is better when the Bruins are relevant. They have arguably the top recruiting class coming in with Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams, who are all ranked in the top-10 at their positions according to ESPN. Kinda made us forget all about that whole SI exposé on how UCLA basketball seemed to be falling off the map. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen, but as for the matchup itself, there is a possibility of a few NBA scouts attending the game at Reliant Stadium.
5. West Virginia vs Michigan: December 15 in Brooklyn, New York
Michigan coach John Beilein will be coaching against his former school for the first time since leaving for Ann Arbor in 2007. And the team he'll bring to Brooklyn are definite national title contenders. PG Trey Burke turned down millions in the NBA to return to school, add in the athletic Tim Hardaway Jr., a stout recruiting class (including Glenn Robinson, Jr.) and the young Mountaineers will find themselves with their work cut out for them. But knowing Bob Huggins coached teams, they won't go down easy.
4. Kansas vs Michigan State: November 13 in Atlanta, Georgia
How in the world did college hoops get along without the Champions Classic? The Jayhawks will be missing Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor but they have tons of talent coming into Lawrence, including 2011 top prospect Ben McLemore who was declared ineligible before last season. Even if they had no one coming back, would you doubt Bill Self? Michigan State's still in good shape despite Draymond Green's departure. Tom Izzo has an emerging PG in Keith Appling and Branden Dawson who should get more PT this year.
3. Baylor at Gonzaga: December 28 in Spokane, Washington
Gone is Perry Jones III and the Quincies, Acy and Miller. Arriving is 7-footer Isaiah Austin and ex-St. John's commit Ricardo Gathers. When you throw in the dynamic Pierre Jackson, three-point specialist Brady Heslip and the high-flying Deuce Bello, this team can be dangerous again. But playing this game at The Kennel will be a true test for Scott Drew's club. The Bears had a similar test when they played at BYU last year and won. We'll see what they can do this time around.
2. Kansas at Ohio State: December 22 in Columbus, Ohio
Last December, KU blew out Ohio State without Jared Sullinger in Lawrence. They later met in the Final Four where Kansas bested the Buckeyes again. These two play so often you would think Kansas is in the Big Ten too.
1. Baylor at Kentucky: December 1 in Lexington, Kentucky
I know exactly what to call this game: The Hated Coaches Classic. John Calipari and Scott Drew are rumored to be not very well-liked in coaching circles. So they thought, why not schedule a series between the two? What a brilliant idea! While you may think they are sleazy guys (and they could be), they are pretty good at what they do. This is the first of a two-year series between UK and Baylor. The winner: college hoops fans.
Which is the best non-conference game involving a Big 12 team?
South Florida-Oklahoma State (0 votes)
Texas-Georgetown (11 votes)
West Virginia-Michigan (37 votes)
Temple-Kansas (2 votes)
Kansas State-Gonzaga (10 votes)
Texas-UCLA (14 votes)
Gonzaga-Oklahoma State (7 votes)
North Carolina-Texas (22 votes)
Florida-Kansas State (20 votes)
Texas-Michigan State (7 votes)
Baylor-Gonzaga (7 votes)
Kansas-Ohio State (90 votes)
Baylor-Kentucky (57 votes)
Kansas-Michigan State (160 votes)
444 total votes