NCAA Basketball: This Year's Most Compelling Matchups
There's a reason that the road to the NCAA basketball championship is called "madness." Every year, there are huge upsets, unexpected hot streaks and buzzer-beating, game-winning shots that either propel teams to greatness or end a team's title dreams.
The famous Christian Watford three-point shot that propelled unranked Indiana past Kentucky in Bloomington was probably the most memorable moment of last season.
Which teams will give us the most exciting moments of 2012-2013?
Kentucky vs. Louisville
In what is sure to be a thrilling matchup of two preseason top 25 teams, we might get to see the best game of the entire year in the regular season.
Two big-time head coaches in Rick Pitino and John Calipari, two big-time conferences in the Big East and the SEC and two big-time programs with a combined 10 national championships between them will do battle.
After six of their impact players left through the NBA draft, Kentucky has re-tooled for this season with one of the nation's top recruiting classes.
Since Louisville is returning many of their impact players from last season, it will be interesting to see how another Calipari-run team consisting of mainly freshmen will compete with an experienced Louisville squad.
Big 10 Regular Season Play
It's hard to argue that the Big Ten is the nation's strongest conference this season. Four of the Big Ten teams (Michigan, Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan State) are worthy of top-10 consideration, and two more (Wisconsin and Minnesota) are worthy of top-25 consideration.
Indiana will start the season as the team to beat due to their status as the preseason No. 1 in many rankings, but Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State are bringing in strong freshmen classes to complement their already competitive rosters (all three shared the Big Ten regular season title last season).
The good news for viewers is that all six of these teams will play each other at least once and some will play twice, creating many compelling matchups coming out of this conference in 2012-2013.
UCLA vs. Arizona
After bringing in the nation's top recruiting class, UCLA hopes to propel itself back to national title contention.
One of the first steps toward doing that will be to establish itself as a Pac-12 power. To go about that, they will have to get past a strong Arizona team that will be hungry for a national championship as well.
This will be yet another example of a freshmen-loaded team squaring off against a team with more upperclassmen and experience.
Duke vs. North Carolina
In one of the more storied rivalries in college basketball history, Duke vs. UNC will be competitive yet again this year.
Although Duke star Austin Rivers departed for the NBA, Duke still boasts a deep team to compete with North Carolina and NBA-prospect James Michael McAdoo.
This matchup also features two of the nation's greatest coaches in Roy Williams and Coach K, who is fresh off of a championship in the Olympics with Lebron James and team USA.
NC State vs. Michigan
In one of the better early season matchups this year, the Michigan Wolverines, hungry after last season's early-round tournament exit, take on the NC State Wolfpack—who are returning four starters and are bringing in a top-five recruiting class.
It will be interesting to see how NC State responds to their preseason expectations as well as how Michigan responds to losing senior leaders Zack Novak and Stu Douglass in its first real challenge of the season.
The outcome of this game could end up defining each of these preseason top 10 teams this season.
Kansas vs. Michigan State
A matchup of two perennial powerhouses, Kansas vs. Michigan State in November will surely provide some excitement, and similar to the Michigan vs. NC State matchup, will show these teams who they really are relative to some of the best teams in the country.
Michigan State will be looking for an identity on offense after the departure of forward Draymond Green, hoping that incoming freshman Gary Harris can provide scoring for the Spartans.
Kansas will return many of their impact players and bring in many touted freshman, including two from the ESPNU top 100 to drive towards another Big 12 title.
Duke vs. Kentucky
Could you pick out two more different programs in the country?
Coach K has established Duke as a national title contender every year by focusing on player development and players who stay and develop chemistry for two-plus years.
Coach John Calipari has established Kentucky as a contender after winning last year's title by bringing in the nation's top talent every year and focusing on "one-and-done" players. There is a lot of turnover from year to year, but there is never a lack of raw-NBA talent on the Wildcats roster.
It will be interesting to see which strategy will come out on top in this matchup of two historic powers.
North Carolina vs. Indiana
North Carolina lost many of their starters after last season, with PG Kendall Marshall and SF Harrison Barnes departing for the NBA.
Indiana, on the other hand, returned seven-footer Cody Zeller and will look to establish dominance in the Big Ten and nationally.
This is yet another example of two teams who are not battle-tested and will need to measure themselves with other contenders to grasp their own identity.