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Rothstein Files: Previewing The SEC-Big East Challenge

Anthony Davis (credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Anthony Davis (credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

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By Jon Rothstein
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ST. JOHN’S AT KENTUCKY

Why To Watch: The Red Storm have shown signs of promise in the early part of the season but going to Kentucky will represent an entirely new level of challenge. The Wildcats have the size and athleticism to physically overwhelm St. John’s and it will be interesting the see how the Red Storm respond without Steve Lavin on the bench.

Don’t Be Surprised If: Anthony Davis runs wild. The 6-foot-11 freshman big man seems to get better with each game, and could have a major impact because of his length on the front line.

Likely Result: Kentucky rolls big.

PROVIDENCE AT SOUTH CAROLINA

Why To Watch: Both teams need a win. In a year where Providence and South Carolina figure to be at the bottom of the Big East and the SEC, any chance for a victory is one that should be seized.

Don’t Be Surprised If: The Friars guards dominate. Ed Cooley still has serious question marks in the paint but his perimeter trio of Vincent Council, Gerard Coleman, and Bryce Cotton can be a load to handle if all three are in unison.

Likely Result: Council continues to show why he’s one of the better floor generals in his conference the Friars earn a win on the road.

GEORGETOWN AT ALABAMA

Why To Watch: This is the underrated game of the entire event. The Hoyas have been one of the seasons early surprises and Alabama seems poised to make a jump this season in the SEC. It will be interesting to see how Anthony Grant’s generally tenacious team does against the methodical approach of Georgetown.

Don’t Be Surprised If: Alabama pressures Hoyas point guard Markel Starks from the opening tip.

Likely Result: A game that comes down to its final possession.

MISSISSIPPI AT DEPAUL

Why To Watch: Rebels forward Murphy Holloway is the best rebounder in America nobody talks about and Depaul is developing a nice one-two punch with sophomores Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin. Both of these teams have played well to start the season and both coaches, Andy Kennedy and Oliver Purnell feel they have a chance to make a jump in their respective conferences.

Don’t Be Surprised If: The Ole Miss front line of Holloway, Terrance Henry, and Reggie Buckner wear down the Blue Demons on the road.

Likely Result: Ole Miss by double figures.

AUBURN AT SETON HALL

Why To Watch: Both of these teams are mysteries. The Pirates are riding the best stretch of basketball Herb Pope has played in two years but have little support to put around he, Jordan Theodore, and Fuquan Edwin. Meanwhile, Tony Barbee is in the process of trying to make the Tigers into a respectable program and counting on two transfers Varez Ward (Texas) and Noel Johnson (Clemson, eligible second semester) to lead them there.

Don’t Be Surprised If: Auburn ups the pace to magnify Seton Hall’s lack of depth.

Likely Result: The combination of Ward and Frankie Sullivan in the back court lead the Tigers to a solid road victory.

VANDERBILT AT LOUISVILLE

Why To Watch: Kevin Stallings and Rick Pitino are two of the supreme tacticians in all of college basketball. Even with both teams battling injuries, this game is a must watch.

Don’t Be Surprised If: Vanderbilt jumps out to an early lead. The Commodores will still have a sour taste in their mouth after Monday night’s overtime loss at home to Xavier and should be ready to go from the opening tip.

Likely Result: John Jenkins sets the tone early leads Vanderbilt to an impressive win on the road.

CINCINNATI AT GEORGIA

Why To Watch: The Bearcats continue to be a work in progress and this could be the perfect litmus test for Mick Cronin’s team. Georgia has two talented guards in Gerald Robinson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope but lack the pieces to match up with Yancy Gates up front. If Cincinnati is who they hope to be, they’ll win this game on the road.

Don’t Be Surprised If: Sean Kilpatrick continues to blossom. The sophomore combo guard looks primed to be one of the Big East’s better perimeter scorers.

Likely Result: Cronin gets what he’s been craving for two weeks — a complete 40 minutes from his team.

FLORIDA AT SYRACUSE

Why To Watch: It will be truly interesting to see how Florida’s terrific perimeter deals with Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. The Gators have the shooters in Mike Rosario, Bradley Beal, Erving Walker, and Kenny Boynton to space the floor against the Orange defense — but will they be able to keep Jim Boeheim’s team off the offensive glass at the other end of the floor?

Don’t Be Surprised If: Syracuse dominates the Gators on the boards.

Likely Result: A competitive game for 30 minutes before the Orange surge ahead.

PITT AT TENNESSEE

Why To Watch: Travon Woodall is quietly playing as well as any point guard in the Big East. The combination of he and Ashton Gibbs form one of the nation’s more underrated back courts for the Panthers.

Don’t Be Surprised If: Jeronne Maymon takes advantage of Pitt’s inexperience up front.

Likely Result: Volunteers get a marquee win after they should have had one over Memphis in Maui.

ARKANSAS AT UCONN

Why To Watch: The Razorbacks pressure defense and their talented freshmen class have a chance to be a nuisance down the line in the SEC. The problem is they’re playing UCONN on Saturday.

Don’t Be Surprised If: Huskies freshman center Andre Drummond continues to build off his performance last week against Florida State and dominates the paint from start to finish.

Likely Result: UCONN’s massive front line overwhelms Arkansas from the opening tip.

LSU AT RUTGERS

Why To Watch: Mike Rice’s Scarlet Knights desperately need a win over a BCS opponent to build their confidence going into the Big East. The potential match up between Tigers freshman big man Johnny O’Bryant and Rutgers sophomore Gilvydas Biruta could be a classic battle on the block.

Don’t Be Surprised If: This game gets real ugly. Both of these teams have lacked consistent scoring early in the season and this should be a case on both sides where defense is vastly ahead of offense.

Likely Result: Rutgers eeks one out at the RAC.

WEST VIRGINIA AT MISSISSIPPI STATE

Why To Watch: The Bulldogs are incredibly talented at every position and are good enough to finish in the top three of the SEC. It will be interesting to see how the young Mountaineers do on the road in Starkville.

Don’t Be Surprised If: Mississippi State freshman guard Deville Smith wreaks havoc with his ball pressure — he’s this year’s Shabazz Napier.

Likely Result: Bulldogs roll.

What’s your must-watch game? Let us know in the comments below…