Games That Will Make or Break Andrew Wiggins' Freshman Season with Kansas

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IMay 14, 2013

After what seemed like lifetimes of speculation about where the best high school player on the planet would attend college, Andrew Wiggins is officially heading west. 

The news of the young superstar's commitment to Bill Self comes from The Herald-Dispatch's Grant Traylor:


Now, instead of endless predictions and debate that meant very little in the end, we can begin to actually look forward and analyze what's in store for Wiggins—the most highly decorated recruit since Greg Oden—in Lawrence. 

His freshman season will be scrutinized and evaluated under a watchful eye, and what follows will be some of the most crucial games in deciding his potentially grand legacy. 


The Game: Kansas vs. Duke, The Champions Classic, November 12

Why It's Important: The rivalry

People often forget that just a year ago, it was Jabari Parker being called the best high school baller since LeBron James (via Sports Illustrated's Andy Gray):

But senior year was all about the Wiggins, as he bunny-hopped Parker in the recruiting rankings and established himself as the new next best thing. 

Nevertheless, whichever one is the "next LeBron" (spoiler: neither, but that's not a criticism), Wiggins and Parker make up arguably one of the best high school duos from the same class in recruiting history. Whether or not they like it, they will forever be compared to each other.

Many were hoping to see Wiggins attend Florida State or North Carolina to add some fuel to the rivalry with two conference games against Parker's Duke squad, but his selection of Kansas just means we don't have to wait as long.

The Jayhawks and Blue Devils will go to battle on November 12 in The Champions Classic, and as if it needed any more story lines, it will take place in Parker's hometown of Chicago.

College basketball has been waiting for this generation's version of Larry vs. Magic. Could this be the start of it?


The Game: Kansas at Florida, Big 12 vs. SEC Challenge, December 10

Why It's Important: Top-10 Road Battle

Welcome to college basketball, Andrew. 

Just over a month into his collegiate career, the hyped prospect gets to travel to The O'Dome and take on a Florida squad that returns Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin and Will Yeguete (among other key contributors), adds elite freshmen Kasey Hill and Chris Walker and will once again be a legitimate national title contender. 

Watching Wiggins beat up on Pitt State and Fort Hays (sorry, Pitt State and Fort Hays) will undoubtedly be entertaining, but it's games like these in hostile environments that help separate the great players from the superstar players. 

Should the young Canadian thrive against Billy Donovan's physical, athletic squad on the road, there will be no more doubting his talent. 


The Game: Georgetown at Kansas, December 21

Why It's Important: First Key Game at The Phog

Wiggins will have some early opportunities to get accustomed to the bright lights of Allen Fieldhouse, but the first of real meaning will be against John Thompson III's Hoyas just before Christmas.

The Phog makes for one of the best environments in all of college sports, but during important games, it gets take to a whole new level. 

Not only will it be intriguing to see how Wiggins is able to thrive in that kind of setting, watching him showcase his daunting athleticism and gaudy scoring ability against Georgetown's length and frustratingly stingy defense will be an important sign for his future. 


The Game: Kansas vs. Oklahoma State, Sometime During Big 12 Play (schedule not yet released)

Why It's Important: Battle for the Big 12

This works on several levels.

First, Kansas and Oklahoma State are unquestionably the favorites to win the conference, and as such, each battle will be crucial.  

Oklahoma State became everyone's pick when Marcus Smart surprisingly joined Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte as returning studs. But despite losing all five starters, the addition of Wiggins gives Bill Self an extraordinarily talented young team that can compete with the Cowboys.

Self has turned teams with far less talent into Big 12 championships before. Now he has a superstar to add to his already gaudy incoming class

Second, it's Wiggins vs. Smart: two top candidates for Big 12—and NCAA—player of the year; two likely top-five picks in the 2014 NBA draft; two entertaining, burgeoning superstars. 

Or, you know, we could just let the other eight players hit the bench and have a dunk contest between Wiggins and Brown:

I'm on board with that, too. Either way, when these two teams face off, it will be both vital and electrifying. 



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