- Dana O'Neil, College Basketball Reporter
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ESPN's "College GameDay" has announced its stops for the upcoming 2011-12 basketball season.
Which means eight college campuses right now (including the five that have never hosted GameDay) are rejoicing and everyone else is wondering, why not us?
Alas, you can’t please everyone.
You can, however, offer up some very good games and when all is said and done, isn’t that what really matters? The games? (Besides Digger’s matching highlighter, of course). Here's the lineup:
North Carolina at Florida State, Jan. 14
GameDay debuts with a first-time visit to Tallahassee, where Harrison Barnes can expect a warm (ahem) welcome. The last time the two played at Florida State, Barnes drained a 3-pointer with three seconds left for the win. Some things are different for the Seminoles after their Sweet 16 appearance -- no Chris Singleton, no Derwin Kitchen. But some aren’t. FSU will be defense first, making this first GameDay game an intriguing battle of styles.
Louisville at Pittsburgh, Jan. 21
The Cardinals surprised most everyone by finishing third in the Big East a year ago. Pittsburgh never surprises anyone. The Panthers are always expected to be good and they won the league’s regular-season crown. This year the weight of expectation falls to Louisville, where Rick Pitino has a strong nucleus plus two talented freshmen. And Pitt just has Ashton Gibbs, Dante Taylor, Talib Zanna, Travon Woodall and Nasir Robinson. Yep. That’s it.
Washington at Arizona, Jan. 28
So much has changed at Arizona. Derrick Williams has left for the NBA. MoMo Jones has transferred to Iona. The Wildcats' league has added two teams. And one thing remains the same: Arizona is expected to be the class of the now Pac-12. Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom plus freshman Josiah Turner will do that for you. This is the first time GameDay will be in Tucson, which says even more about what Sean Miller already has done and is in the process of doing.
Kansas at Missouri, Feb. 4
This game never plays below fever pitch. Now mix in GameDay (on the Mizzou campus for the first time), a home crowd that smells blood as Kansas is expected to be retooling instead of merely reloading, a Tiger team that returns the better part of its roster including Marcus Denmon, and a fan base that is ravenous for a win -- they are 0-for-their-last-5 against the Jayhawks. Welcome to the Border War, Frank Haith.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt, Feb. 11
Expect the eyes of many to zero in on the paint for what could be a battle for SEC supremacy. Kentucky has yet another loaded recruiting class, including Anthony Davis, the top-rated freshman in his class. He may be listed as a power forward but there’s not a coach in the country who doesn’t think Davis can command the interior. The Commodores have Festus Ezeli, whose ability to rebound and provide an interior presence could be the key to Vandy’s success. Most everyone agrees this is Kevin Stallings’ best Vanderbilt team but to prove its worth, it will have to get through UK first.
Ohio State at Michigan, Feb. 18
So maybe the football game lost its shine amid the scandal this year. The hoops version of this rivalry could make up for it. The Buckeyes are at the top of the Big Ten hierarchy in the preseason, but John Beilein’s team isn’t miles behind. Losing Darius Morris hurt the Wolverines, but having Tim Hardaway Jr. back from a team that won a tourney game last season certainly helps. The big question for Michigan, as it is for everyone in the Big Ten, is who will contain Jared Sullinger?
Syracuse at Connecticut, Feb. 25
By the time this game rolls around, the questions will have been answered for both teams: Has Scoop Jardine become the floor leader that the Orange need him to be? Who’s picked up the scoring for UConn now that Kemba Walker is gone? Have Rakeem Christmas and Fab Melo filled in for Rick Jackson? Is Alex Oriakhi even better than he was through the championship run a year ago? The only question that may remain: Who is the best team in the Big East?
North Carolina at Duke or Texas at Kansas, March 3
A new twist for GameDay this year: the flex pick option. The final site will either be in Durham or Lawrence. Neither will be a bad choice. Austin Rivers against Kendall Marshall. That works. The two teams that have dominated the Big 12 in recent years? Yep. That works, too.
ESPN's "College GameDay" has announced its stops for the upcoming 2011-12 basketball season.Which means eight college campuses right now (including the five that have never hosted GameDay) are rejoicing and everyone else is wondering, why not us?