|Florida and Kentucky will face off on ESPN's College Gameday on Feb. 15. (espn.com)|
I actually have to give the four-letter network some credit here; there's only one "Big East" game and one ACC matchup here. Giving the Palestra some love is a nice touch, too. Of course, they do have the Dukies on twice, and Digger Phelps will have a live microphone, but...let's stay positive! Good set of matchups.
In no particular order, these are the games I would consider to be appointment viewing.
Florida at Kentucky - Feb. 15:
If you only had to pick one SEC matchup, well, yes, this is it...and both teams will know it. For the perpetually baby-faced Wildcats, this will be a chance to make a statement both to the selection committee and the draftniks. If anyone still cares about regular season conference titles, well this game will matter for that as well. The Gators have a couple star frosh coming in, Kasey Hill at point guard and big man Chris Walker will compete for starting spots. Patric Young and Scotty Wilbekin headline the returning class.
At this point, Calipari's boys will have already faced off against Baylor, North Carolina, Louisville and Michigan State in non-conference play, so they won't be too green. Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein are (gasp) sophomores, so you can be sure they'll be looking to rectify the failure to be drafted in the first round last season. I'm only half-kidding on that, because UK has reloaded as usual with a horde of top recruits who are all looking ahead to draft day already, most notably Julius Randle, Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson, James Young, and twins (for real) Aaron and Andrew Harrison. They're all tall and athletic, if that helps. I suggest you buy a program to keep all this straight. The Lexington crowd should be live as well, which always helps when you're watching college hoops.
Michigan at Michigan State Jan. 25:
Oh, if you didn't know - Sparty did NOT like watching the wolverines in the title game. No, sir. Roundball is where they can really throw their weight around against big brother, so that event was a real eye-opener for the MSU folks. This, naturally, is their chance to reassert the old world order: y'all are a football school, and Izzo is king.
As for an impartial fan such as myself, I'm going to enjoy watching Mitch McGary and Adriean Payne thump-thump under the boards. If Keith Appling can get out of the way, Gary Harris and Brendan Dawson could break out to be the superstars they showed potential for last year. Lot of great matchups in this one.
Also will be a great chance for Lil-Big Dog (is that a thing yet?) Glenn Robinson III to make his lotto case against one of the closest NBA-defense simulators that the college game has to offer. Bump-n-grind, young fella. Jump shots are nice, but as the seer Rasheed once declared: "buttholes get tight".
Gonzaga at Memphis Feb. 8:
Okay, fair warning: some hating here...this feels like a fake nod to the "mid majors", and while these are both fine programs in their own right, they shouldn't have to play each other to get ESPN's attention. Like arm-wresting for the wishbone at the kid's table on Thanksgiving. If you want to do a real mid-major spotlight, put Wichita and Creighton on the tube or something bold like that. This has that "Boise St vs TCU" bowl game feel, and while it's a great opportunity for these schools, it feels patronizing from the network types.