The final day of 2011 features one of the most anticipated games of the college basketball season, a rivalry game that captivates an entire state and is one of the best games in college basketball. #4 Louisville (12-1), fresh off of a lost to Georgetown in their Big East opener, visits #3 Kentucky (12-1) in what should be a spirited battle at Rupp Arena. The Cardinals have played just one road game this season but it was also one of their best efforts as they won at Butler without the then-injured Peyton Siva.
With conference play beginning for many leagues this week (a few conferences began their league slate in early December) it's a good time to look back on some of the top performers. Enter CHN writer Jon Teitel, who put together his all-conference teams for each of the leagues.
In the latest installment in his "Coaching Greats" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with current Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter. In his seventh season at the school, Jeter has led the Panthers to a pair of Horizon League titles and an NCAA Tournament in 2005. The Panthers are currently 9-4 on the season with a 2-0 record in conference play.
The "Braggin' Rights" game between Illinois and Missouri is alway an intense affair, with the fans in the stands split by the halfcourt line and both teams understanding what's at stake before they even hit the floor. This season's game was no different, although for a good portion of the first half it seemed as if the undefeated Tigers were on their way to a romp. Bruce Weber's team refused to fold, and once Missouri got out of control Illinois was able to mount their rally.
Thursday is the final "busy day" on the college basketball schedule before Christmas and there's important business to address in St. Louis: Braggin' Rights. Undefeated and eighth-ranked Missouri (11-0) looks for its third straight win over #24 Illinois (11-1) in the series, and despite the change in head coach the Tigers remain one of the most balanced teams in the country.
For a while on Tuesday night it looked as if a Southern Conference team would hand another undefeated team its first defeat of the season. But an important suggestion by Louisville assistant coach Richard Pitino set things in motion for the fourth-ranked Cardinals, sparking a rally that resulted in a 69-62 victory. The idea: instead of relying on the frontcourt tandem of Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan to occupy the foul line area against the Charleston zone, use the versatile Kyle Kuric at the four.
Monday's schedule doesn't have much in the way of games that will make a dent on the national landscape, but that doesn't mean that there are some intriguing contests to keep an eye on. One of those being Belmont (7-4) heading east to take on Marshall (7-2) in a battle of teams expected to either win or contend in their respective leagues. Rick Byrd's Bruins have lost two straight road games, most recently falling at Miami (Ohio) due in large part to their 6-for-21 performance from beyond the arc.
The first meeting between Memphis and Louisville since the 2005 Conference USA title game certainly did not disappoint from a drama standpoint, with both teams landing major blows throughout the contest. But despite a combined 74 first-half points the play was ragged for much of the contest, with the Cardinals taking a 42-32 lead into the break thanks to the Tigers shooting 29% from the field and turning the ball over ten times. But led by Will Barton (28 points, 16 rebounds) Josh Pastner's team refused to fold, fighting back to take a 57-55 lead with 11 minutes remaining.
BRADLEY (5-4) AT DREXEL (4-4)