Big East/SEC Challenge Wish List
Posted by sawdog on December 17, 2010
The SEC and Big East announced today a two-year agreement to play one another in an annual challenge. This follows on the heels of back-to-back seasons in which a mini-version of this challenge existed, in which four teams from each conference competed for the challenge bragging rights. There was enough momentum from this subsample for the conferences to agree on including all members in the SEC (12 teams) against twelve (out of 16) teams from the Big East. The twelve teams from the Big East will be chosen at a later date.
The fact that we still don’t know which Big East teams will compete makes for a great opportunity to blog. As with any challenge it’s all about the matchups. You have to select matchups that will ultimately be competitive but also have as much marketability as possible in order to draw the highest ratings. I put pen to pad tonight and did my best to break down the matchups I would want to see and some logic behind the choice. Below is my personal wish list. The conferences are free to use this in their decision making.
Kentucky vs Syracuse
Hype factors: Both are perennial power basketball schools; the teams met in the 1996 Championship game; they almost never meet adding to the sexy matchup factor; perhaps most importantly they are #1 or #2 in annual home attendance every year, something the announcers can hype up until you vomit; the famed Syracuse 2-3 zone defense against the Dribble Drive Motion Offense of Kentucky.
Tennessee vs Connecticut
Hype factors: I went with this matchup mainly because Tennessee has already played Pittsburgh and Villanova this year, so I feel like there’s some process of elimination here. Next year’s matchup should have new blood. Now that UConn has rebounded from last year’s disappointing campaign this matchup oozes excitement. Tennessee continues to be a giant-killer with wins over several Top 10 teams in recent years. Lets throw the Vols another chance to add a feather to the hat.
Florida vs Louisville
Hype factors: Lock this up. Done deal. Ricky P vs Billy D. Mentor vs Pupil. Championship winning coaches. This is long overdue. Marketing dream.
Vanderbilt vs West Virginia
Hype factors: This is a coaching decision for me. I appreciate what Stallings and Huggins get out of their players. The Mountaineers stifling defense pitted against Vanderbilt’s persistent offense. I really think this could be the best matchup of the entire challenge. Both coaches are gracious competitors and I think they would provide a great scene for college basketball fans.
Mississippi State vs Georgetown
Hype factors: Mississippi State’s history of big men patrolling the paint is the closest thing the SEC has to Georgetown’s identical history. Hype that up. Hype up Varnado, Dampier, Sidney, etc vs the likes of Ewing, Mutumbo and Mourning. Mississippi State has been the most consistent program from the SEC West in recent years, so I think they deserve a matchup against an upper-level Big East program like Georgetown.
Arkansas vs Villanova
Hype factors: Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey likes a break neck speed, which should prove to be entertaining against the likes of Villanova and their stellar guard play. I just see guards running fast in this one and it pushes that needle a little higher on the excitement barometer.
Georgia vs South Florida
Hype factors: South Florida is a school relatively new on the Division I big-time scene. They have already shown, however, that their resources and funding run deep which has allowed them rapid success in football and the hiring of a big name basketball coach in Stan Heath. I see a program on the rise in South Florida, and I also see that in the Georgia Bulldogs. With the addition of head coach Mark Fox there’s a new sense of excitement in Athens, Georgia. It helps to have the most athletic player in college basketball, Travis Leslie, on your squad. These schools are not natural rivals but their proximity on the grand scale could spark an inter-conference battle down the road. I’d like to see these two budding programs clash!
South Carolina vs Pittsburgh
Hype factors: Pittsburgh and “toughness” are intertwined these days. It started in the Ben Howland era and continues today in under Jamie Dixon. I see a similar repertoire being built by head coach Darrin Horn in Columbia, South Carolina. The Gamecocks of USC are a top ten rebounding team as I type, and players like Devan Downey last season carried a winner’s mentality on the court no matter the opponent (remember their hard-earned win over #1 Kentucky last year??!). Let’s see what these two hard-nosed teams do against each other.
Alabama vs Notre Dame
Hype factors: You had to know this was coming. Perhaps the two greatest football programs meeting on the basketball court. This is a slam dunk. Book it. The announcers will have plenty of football to talk about in between any lulls in the basketball action. Other than Florida vs Louisville this is the easiest call!
LSU vs St. John’s
Hype factors: I really like this one. It pits two programs that have had tremendous historical success (and individual players) but it also pairs two programs that are remarkably different in geography and lifestyle. The announcers will have a wealth of ideas for commentary when describing the contrasts of New York City with the bayous of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. When the locale contrasts are exhausted just talk about Shaquille O’Neal, Pete Maravich, Chris Jackson, Walter Berry, Chris Mullen and Ron Artest. In some ways I feel like this is the best regional matchup that can be offered, filling the stereotype of the country boy vs the city boy. Play that angle and run with it!
Mississippi vs Cincinnati
Hype factors: In case it slipped your mind Mississippi head coach Andy Kennedy was once a brief interim Cincinnati head coach in 2005-2006 after Cincy legend Bobby Huggins resigned. Despite a 20 win season for the Bearcats Kennedy was not retained and thus found his way to Mississippi. I think that makes a good story line and gives the schools a chance to tap into that hype machine. We’ll forget about that pesky incident in which Kennedy was arrested in Cincinnati.
Auburn vs Marquette
Hype factors: Auburn’s putrid start under new head coach Tony Barbee this season isn’t helping me or anyone hype them in basketball action against another power conference school, but someone had to bring up the rear. Marquette has a solid basketball tradition and I felt like their inclusion would make the casual basketball fan a little more interested. I wish I could add more, but this is a tough one to sell people! Hey, bring Cam Newton back and showcase his Heisman trophy at halftime. There you go!