Big Monday Matchups We Are Most Looking Forward To Seeing
Monday Night Football may be the only game in town in late October, but come January, Mondays will be the province of top-flight college basketball competition. Both the Big 12 and the Big East are featured this season on ESPN’s Big Monday, and both conferences will offer some must-see contests in 2013.
One of the most intriguing showdowns is a late-season duel between Kansas and Iowa State in Ames. The Cyclones stunned last year’s Jayhawks on the same floor, and Elijah Johnson and company will be looking for payback this season.
Herein, a closer look at KU-ISU and the rest of the eight most exciting games on this season's Big Monday schedule.
8. Marquette at Georgetown (Feb. 11)
Both the Golden Eagles and the Hoyas suffered severe graduation losses, but both teams have brought in some promising new talent for 2012-13.
Two of the country’s toughest shooting guards will go head-to-head here as Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett (Marquette) takes on Georgetown’s top freshman, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
Lockett will have the benefit of an outstanding point guard in the underrated Junior Cadougan, but he’ll still have his hands full with the hard-charging Smith-Rivera, who outweighs him by nearly 20 pounds.
In what’s likely to be a defensive contest, look for Georgetown’s superior rebounding to make the difference on the Hoyas’ home floor.
7. West Virginia at Kansas State (Feb. 18)
There won’t be any shortage of tough defense when Bob Huggins takes his Mountaineers on the road to square off with one of his former teams, Kansas State.
Shot blockers Aaric Murray (WVU) and Jordan Henriquez (KSU) will make the paint a very unfriendly place for opposing scorers.
In what’s certain to be a black-and-blue contest, look for K-State star Rodney McGruder to shine.
The physical 6’4” guard will be on his home floor and in his element, and his scoring punch (15.8 points per game a season ago) will be the Wildcats’ ace in the hole in this matchup.
6. Texas at West Virginia (Feb. 4)
One of Big Monday’s best point-guard battles will play a major role in deciding the winner in Morgantown.
Texas sophomore Myck Kabongo is ready to lead a Big 12 title contender after averaging 5.3 assists per game as a freshman, but he’ll face a stiff challenge from Dayton transfer Juwan Staten of the Mountaineers (5.4 assists a night in his lone collegiate season).
Both floor leaders will have a wealth of targets in the low post, with Staten looking to feed fellow transfer Aaric Murray (formerly of LaSalle) as well as senior Deniz Kilicli.
The Longhorns, however, counter with an even more impressive arsenal of towering freshmen—highlighted by 6’10” Cameron Ridley in the pivot—that should pour in enough points to come away with a big win on the road.
5. Georgetown at Notre Dame (Jan. 21)
The Big East is typically home to some of the most physical frontcourt battles in the nation, and Big Monday won’t have any better low-post clash than the Hoyas and the Irish.
Georgetown’s hopes will rest heavily on punishing sophomore Otto Porter, who averaged 9.7 points and 6.8 rebounds a night a season ago.
Notre Dame, for its part, looks to ride 6’9” senior Jack Cooley, whose breakout 2011-12 campaign featured 12.5 points and 8.9 boards per game.
With the home crowd behind them, look for the balanced Irish offense (three returnees who each chipped in 12 points per contest) to come out on top.
4. Kansas at Iowa State (Feb. 25)
A year ago, Iowa State got the signature win of its season by knocking off the Jayhawks in Ames.
The Cyclones sprang that upset by winning the frontcourt battle behind Royce White, but their hopes for a repeat performance will lie with their perimeter game.
The latest prizes from Fred Hoiberg’s transfer pipeline are the backcourt duo of Korie Lucious (Michigan State) and Will Clyburn (Utah).
If those two can establish an offensive rhythm against Elijah Johnson and the Jayhawk guards, even Jeff Withey’s presence in the middle may not be enough to save KU from another road defeat.
3. Pitt at Louisville (Jan. 28)
Last season’s biggest Big East flop visits the conference’s biggest success story, but the outcome of this meeting is far from a foregone conclusion. Pitt has reloaded with big-time star power, led by 7’0” freshman Steven Adams in the middle.
Adams and Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler (15.8 points a game in his last season of action) will look to crack the country’s toughest matchup zone, led by shot-blocking whiz Gorgui Dieng.
Of course, this year, the Cardinals should have a serious offense to go with their smothering D, as senior PG Peyton Siva gets to set up speedsters Russ Smith and Wayne Blackshear on the wings.
2. Cincinnati at Syracuse (Jan. 21)
For a rarity, the 2-3 zone might not be the biggest asset on Syracuse’s ledger in 2012-13.
The Orange will boast one of the Big East’s most explosive offenses—even without Dion Waiters—and they’ll take on another of the conference’s highest-scoring teams when Cincinnati comes to the Carrier Dome.
The Orange will be relying heavily on first-time starters, headlined by star freshman DaJuan Coleman down low and sophomore combo guard Michael Carter-Williams outside.
In contrast, the Bearcats will be one of the conference’s most experienced teams, and a backcourt featuring senior PG Cashmere Wright and junior swingman Sean Kilpatrick (a combined 25.2 points and 6.7 assists per game) will have a great shot to trigger a road upset.
1. Baylor at Kansas (Jan. 14)
The Big Monday opener features the matchup with the biggest conference title implications of the season.
Kansas, with three starters back from its national runner-up squad of a year ago, takes on a high-powered Baylor team coming off an Elite Eight finish of its own.
The Bears landed a stellar recruiting class keyed by seven-footer Isaiah Austin, though even he’ll be in for a battle against KU senior Jeff Withey down low.
The Bears’ best hopes for a road upset rest with the sharpshooting backcourt of Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip, but look for Kansas’ devastating defense (38 percent shooting allowed last season) to keep them under wraps in a crucial Jayhawk win.