Kentucky Basketball: Top 10 Games to Watch in the 2012-13 Season

Matt Overing@@MOveringContributor IIIOctober 17, 2012

Kentucky Basketball: Top 10 Games to Watch in the 2012-13 Season

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    There are 26 teams that will play the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2012-13 regular season. All 26 want to boast that they were able to take down the defending national champions.

    Not all will be successful. 

    John Calipari knows his Wildcats are every team's Super Bowl. And he'll be playing four freshmen in those "Super Bowls," and as fabulous as they are, they will not finish the regular season 31-0.

    Here, we'll take a quick look at the 10 games that will be ones to watch—as in, the games that will be both telling and challenging—for these young Wildcats this year.

Nov. 9: Maryland

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    Maryland is a team that has a lot to prove this season. What better way to start a season than to beat the defending champs?

    You can bet the Terrapins will be coming out swinging in this game, and they have something to prove.

    Head coach Mark Turgeon wants to prove to Aaron and Andrew Harrison that they made the wrong decision to attend Kentucky. Maryland as a team wants to prove they are a team that can be reckoned with.

    Playing at the Barclays Center is a huge stage for the first game of the season.

    Will Kentucky be up to the task? 

Nov. 13: Duke

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    Right after a game in the Barclays Center, the young Wildcats will be tested again on a neutral court. 

    This time, they'll be playing in the Georgia Dome. John Calipari vs. Mike Krzyzewski. Kentucky vs. Duke.

    Duke will pose an interesting threat to the Wildcats. They aren't ranked as high to start the year, but this is a team that was a two-seed in the 2012 NCAA tournament, removed a guard that didn't pass and added two strong freshmen to an already deep rotation.

    The Marshall Plumlee injury hurts Duke down low, particularly when Kentucky boasts three players above 6'10" who will all see huge minutes.

    Guard play will be key for the Wildcats. If Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin, Julius Mays and Twany Beckham can defend the perimeter well, Kentucky should escape with a win.

Nov. 29: at Notre Dame

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    The first true road test of the year comes against a Notre Dame squad that overachieved in 2011-12.

    Can they do it again?

    The Fighting Irish are a fundamentally sound team, one that rarely makes mistakes. Last year, they finished the season with 331 turnovers. Only five teams had fewer turnovers on the year. 

    Kentucky will head into a hostile environment, and it will be important for Ryan Harrow to keep the team moving in the right direction on offense. Turnovers, fouls and miscues are only compounded in a road game.

    The Big East/ SEC challenge is lacking in high-profile matchups this year, but Kentucky at Notre Dame will be one to watch.

Dec. 1: Baylor

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    First true road test? Covered.

    On Dec. 1, the Wildcats will face their first true home test against the Baylor Bears.

    Baylor is a team looking for redemption after their Elite Eight loss to the eventual national champions. Pierre Jackson, potential Big 12 player of the year, will lead an ultra-talented team into Lexington.

    The battle between Isaiah Austin and Nerlens Noel/ Willie Cauley-Stein makes this game one that NBA scouts are already salivating over.

    Kentucky's home win streak will likely be intact at this point. This will be the first true test for that streak in 2012-13.

Dec. 29: at Louisville

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    Where should we begin?

    If Kentucky and Louisville are undefeated on Dec. 29, this game could be a matchup of the top two teams in the country. 

    It's almost guaranteed to be a battle of top-10 teams.

    It will be a battle of two Final Four teams from last year. One team lost their starting five, the other brings back three starters and a very deep bench.

    Playing at Louisville won't compare to playing at Notre Dame earlier in the year. Kentucky needs to be prepared for this battle of behemoth basketball programs at the end of the calendar year.

Jan. 10: at Vanderbilt

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    To start the SEC schedule, Kentucky will play at Vanderbilt on a Thursday night and Texas A&M two days later.

    Kevin Stallings got his wish.

    Vanderbilt lost loads of talented players, but the Commodores will never be a pushover in Memorial Gym. Stallings will have his players ready, and you can bet he has circled this game on his calendar.

    Both teams have eight days to rejuvenate before the SEC play heats up. At this point in the year, both teams should know what to expect from the other on the court—it comes down to execution.

Feb. 2: at Texas A&M

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    Kentucky will be favored in this game. There's no question about it.

    But this will be the Wildcats' fifth game in 15 days, and four of those games will have been on the road. 

    Will the Wildcats be road warriors and win these games on the road? Will they stay focused in tough environments, even after playing and traveling so much in such a short amount of time? Can they beat the teams they are favored to beat?

    Those questions are what separated the 2011-12 Wildcats from the years previous. They were able to win in tough environments against teams that had nothing to lose.

    We'll see what this Kentucky team is made of in this game.

Feb. 12: at Florida

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    Playing in the Swamp is always difficult.

    Playing against a team that could be in the top 10? Even more challenging.

    Florida has one of the best guard rotations in the country. The trio of Ryan Harrow, Julius Mays and Archie Goodwin will have their hands full on Feb. 12, and the game will likely be dictated by how well they play.

    That said, this Kentucky team can play in an up-tempo style with the Gators. Both teams could score in the 80s in this game. It will be a fun one to watch.

Feb. 16: at Tennessee

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    If the 2011-12 Tennessee Volunteers can hang within three points of the 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats, then the 2012-13 team should be able to do the same.

    Tennessee doesn't have the talent that Kentucky has—that much is clear in the preseason rankings.

    But at this point in the season, so many things will have changed. Kentucky could be a team that struggles on the road. Tennessee could have a breakout year. Roles could be reversed.

    That said, this will be another game that the Wildcats should win. If anything else, it will be an exciting game to watch. 

Mar. 9: Florida

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    Florida again?


    This is the last game of the regular season for the Wildcats, just two days after playing Georgia in Athens. It will also be a game that will have a heavy influence on the SEC tournament or NCAA tournament—or both. 

    The home winning streak might have ended by this point for Kentucky. But if not, that adds another storyline to what should be a matchup of two top-15 teams.

    How will Kentucky defend their national title? Who will have won the first game between these two SEC powers? What bearing will that have on this game? Can Kentucky keep the home win streak alive?

    We will see.