Common teams in this season's top 50 games? Think blue

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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The number one 'can't miss' game features a rematch from 2011's Elite Eight. (Getty Images)  
The number one 'can't miss' game features a rematch from 2011's Elite Eight. (Getty Images)  

I've gone ahead and make your life easy, compiling the ultimate checklist of the Top 50 games of the 2011-12 college basketball campaign.

It begins with a matchup of No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation -- and is followed by the two most heated rivalries in the country.

Print this out and keep it around, because you won't want to miss any of these:

Top 50 "can't miss" games

1. North Carolina at Kentucky, Dec. 3 (noon ET on CBS) -- The ultimate heavyweight bout as nearly everyone will have these two teams at No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation entering the season. Rematch of a 2011 Elite Eight contest.

2. Louisville at Kentucky, Dec. 31 (noon ET on CBS) -- There's nothing like a New Year's Eve tilt between these two hated rivals. The fan bases despise one another -- and there's no shortage of disdain between the coaches, either. The fact that they only play once puts them in front of Duke-UNC.

3. North Carolina at Duke, March 3 (7 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- Arguably the top rivalry in college basketball, this could be the game that decides ACC supremacy.

4. North Carolina vs. Michigan State in San Diego, Nov. 11 (7 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- The game itself is a terrific matchup, but what makes it so unique is that it takes place in San Diego on the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier.

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5. Duke at Ohio State, Nov. 29 (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- This is the top matchup in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. It'll be interesting to see if the Blue Devils have an answer for Jared Sullinger.

6. Kansas vs. Kentucky in New York City, Nov. 15 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- Two of the most successful college hoops programs in history. This game is part of the Champions Classic and we'll see how John Calipari's freshmen look early in the season.

7. UConn at Syracuse, Feb. 11 (1 p.m. ET on CBS) -- Could this be the final time these two programs play in the Carrier Dome as members of the Big East?

8. Memphis at Louisville, Dec. 17 (4 p.m. ET on CBS) -- The former C-USA rivalry has been renewed and the timing is ideal -- as both programs have no shortage of talent.

9. Kentucky at Florida, March 4 (noon ET on CBS) -- This could determine the SEC regular-season champion. No shortage of talent on the court for this one. Personally, I can't wait to see Patric Young vs. Anthony Davis.

10. Florida at Ohio State, Nov. 15 (8 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- It'll be overshadowed by the Champions Classic, but this is one of the best early games of the year. The Gators are loaded on the perimeter while the Buckeyes just remain flat-out loaded.

11. Vanderbilt at Louisville, Dec. 2 (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- Vandy has everyone back and this is Kevin Stallings' best chance to contend for a Final Four. Rick Pitino's team has a blend of experience and talented young freshmen.

12. Gonzaga at Xavier, Dec. 31 (8 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- Here's another terrific New Year's Eve contest, this one involving a pair of the top non-Power Six programs.

13. Duke vs. Michigan State, Nov. 15 (7 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- This is the undercard in New York at the Champions Classic -- and involves arguably the two best active coaches in the game: Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo.

14. Florida at Syracuse, Dec. 2 (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- Billy Donovan has stepped up his schedule and will travel to the Carrier Dome -- where Jim Boeheim has had a pretty good track record over the years.

15. Kentucky at Vanderbilt, Feb. 11 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- The Wildcats go to Nashville and face an experienced and talented Vandy team in one of the league's toughest venues. Two of the nation's top perimeter shooters, John Jenkins and Doron Lamb, on the floor.

16. Ohio State at Kansas, Dec. 10 (3:15 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- The Buckeyes travel to Phog Allen and face a Jayhawks team that many figure to be down. Could be a big-time battle between Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullinger.

17. Xavier at Memphis, Feb. 4 (1 p.m. ET on FOX) -- Two of the elite non-Power Six programs square off -- and two of the rising young coaches in the game, Xavier's Chris Mack and Memphis' Josh Pastner.

18. Wisconsin at North Carolina, Nov. 30 (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- This is another intriguing ACC-Big Ten matchup involving two of the elite veteran coaches, Bo Ryan and Roy Williams. It'll also feature two of the top point guards, Jordan Taylor and Kendall Marshall.

19. Cincinnati at Xavier, Dec. 10 (12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- This probably should be even higher with both teams ranked, the proximity and the hatred between fan bases and coaches.

20. Butler at Indiana, Nov. 27 (7 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network) -- Hoosiers coach Tom Crean will have some pressure this year -- and if he doesn't win, many feel as though the guy on the other sideline, Brad Stevens, will eventually take his job.

21. Xavier at Temple, Feb. 11 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- The two premier programs in the A-10 go head-to-head in Philly.

22. Texas A&M at Florida, Dec. 17 (2:30 p.m. ET on FSN) -- Maybe I'm nuts, but I've got the Aggies -- despite a coaching change -- as a legitimate Top 15 club. Texas A&M will face another Top 15 team, Florida, in Sunrise, Fla., at the Orange Bowl Classic.

23. Marquette at Wisconsin, Dec. 3 (4:30 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network) -- Another big-time in-state rivalry with both programs likely being in the Top 25 this season. Two great guards in Jordan Taylor and Darius-Johnson Odom.

24. Xavier at Vanderbilt, Nov. 28 (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- This could be a matchup of Top 10 teams. Xavier is led by Tu Holloway while Vandy has a strong trio of John Jenkins, Jeff Taylor and Festus Ezeli.

25. Florida State at Florida, Dec. 20 (7 p.m. ET on ESPNU) -- It's a familiar theme among the top non-league games. A pair of Top 25 teams close in proximity that don't care much for one another.

26. Arizona at UCLA, Jan. 5 (11 p.m. ET on FSN) -- The West Coast rivalry is back. Does Arizona have enough up front to slow down Reeves Nelson and Josh Smith?

27. Ohio State at Michigan State, March 4 (TBA on CBS or ESPN) -- This one could well determine the Big Ten regular-season title.

28. Louisville at Syracuse, March 3 (4 p.m. ET on CBS) -- The regular-season finale could hold championship implications. Peyton Siva and Scoop Jardine will be two of the league's top point guards.

29. Ohio State at Wisconsin, Feb. 4 (2 p.m. ET on ESPN or ESPN2) -- The Kohl Center is a brutal place to play. We'll see if Jared Sullinger & Co. can bring home a victory from Madison.

30. Duke vs. Washington in New York City, Dec. 10 (noon ET on CBS) -- Coach K and the Blue Devils will welcome a talented Huskies squad to NYC. We'll see how U-Dub frosh Tony Wroten handles the big stage at Madison Square Garden.

31. Harvard at UConn, Dec. 8 (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- Call me crazy, but I think the Crimson can give UConn a game in Gampel. Especially with a healthy Kyle Casey.

32. Pittsburgh at UConn, March 3 (noon on ESPN or ESPN2) -- Terrific Big East battle between Jamie Dixon and Jim Calhoun. So much talent -- especially on the both frontcourts.

33. Baylor at Kansas, Jan. 16 (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- The Bears may have the most talented team in the league with guys like Perry Jones and Quincy Miller, but the Big 12 title goes through Lawrence.

34. Louisville at Pittsburgh, Jan. 21 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- This is another one of those Big East can't-miss games. It's awfully tough to win on Jamie Dixon's homecourt.

35. Arizona at Florida, Dec. 7 (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- Sean Miller takes his young backcourt out to Gainesville against Billy Donovan's deep set of guards. Patric Young could have a field day in this one.

36. Kansas at Kansas State, Feb. 13 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- One of the best games of the season, no matter what the rosters look like. Big-time atmosphere.

37. Michigan State at Gonzaga, Dec. 10 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- No one plays a more difficult non-conference slate year after year than Tom Izzo and Mark Few.

38. Vanderbilt at Marquette, Dec. 29 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- Two tough, hard-nosed coaches go up against one another in Kevin Stallings and Buzz Williams. These two have developed a strong friendship.

39. Memphis vs. Michigan, Nov. 21 in Maui (3 p.m. ET on ESPNU) -- This is a big-time first-round matchup in the Maui Invitational. Memphis' talent vs. John Beilein's system. Interesting.

40. Louisville at Butler, Nov. 19 (2 p.m. ET on ESPN3) -- We'll see how good Brad Stevens' team is right out of the gates when they face Pitino's Cardinals.

41. Texas A&M at Baylor, Jan. 2 (7 p.m. ET on ESPNU) -- We'll see whether Billy Kennedy can get his new guys to buy in against Scott Drew's loaded Bears. This would be a huge victory for the Aggies in Big 12 play.

42. Missouri vs. Villanova, Dec. 6 (7 p.m. ET on ESPN) -- This is an intriguing matchup as part of the Jimmy V Classic. Love the Phil Pressey-Maalik Wayns matchup at the point.

43. Butler at Gonzaga, Dec. 20 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- Two of the elite mid-major programs in America. Also, two of the more mellow head coaches in the country.

44. Xavier at Butler, Dec. 7 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- Can't wait to see if Ronald Nored, one of the nation's top perimeter defenders, can slow down Xavier star guard Tu Holloway.

45. Texas at UCLA at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, Dec. 3 (4:30 p.m. ET on FSN) -- Ben Howland has a big-time frontcourt while the Longhorns' strength is on the perimeter. Mismatch.

46. Gonzaga at Saint Mary's, Jan. 12 (11 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- The WCC's two top programs (no disrespect to BYU) go at it. The 'Zags will try and pound it down low.

47. St. John's vs. Arizona in New York City, Nov. 17 (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2) -- Steve Lavin's young team plays Arizona at MSG in the 2K Sports Classic. The Red Storm will take their lumps this year due to inexperience.

48. VCU at Alabama, Nov. 27 (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU) -- Anthony Grant welcomes his current program and Shaka Smart to Tuscaloosa.

49. George Mason at Drexel, Jan. 12 (TBD) -- These will likely be the two top teams in the CAA. Can Paul Hewitt win the league title in his first season at Mason?

50. Northern Illinois at Purdue, Nov. 11 (7 p.m. ET on ESPN3) -- Purdue star Robbie Hummel plays his first game in nearly two years after a pair of torn ACLs.

2011-12 Season Preview
DateFeatureDateFeature
Oct. 13Preseason Top 25 (and one) Nov. 1Top freshmen
 Projected NCAA tournament field Nov. 2Top transfers
 Goodman and Parrish bracket picks Nov. 3Under the radar players
Oct. 14Team profiles: 'Cuse | UConn | UK | UNC Nov. 4Breakout players
Oct. 17Preseason All-Americans Nov. 5Best shooters
Oct. 18Top 100 players Nov. 6Best defensive players
Oct. 19Positional rankings: Point guards Nov. 768 things ...
Oct. 20Positional rankings: Wing men Nov. 8Ranking the preseason tourneys
Oct. 21Positional rankings: Big men Nov. 950 can't miss games
   Nov. 10Coaches on the Hot Seat

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