Sexier Alternatives to the SEC / Big East Pairings

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Kentucky will visit Notre Dame and Marquette will travel to Florida in the two marquee matchups of the 2012 SEC / Big East challenge, ESPN announced earlier today as it unveiled the 12 pairings.

Pittsburgh, UConn and Louisville will all sit out this year’s challenge, while Syracuse is scheduled to make a trip to Little Rock for a date with Arkansas. Likely dissatisfied with its draw, Syracuse is attempting to back out of the challenge, citing a scheduling conflict.

Here is the full list of matchups, to be played over a three-day span between November 29 and December 1:

Dec 29, 2011; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores guard Kedren Johnson (2) during the game against the Marquette Golden Eagles at the Bradley Center. Vanderbilt defeated Marquette 74-57. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Thu, Nov 29
Kentucky at Notre Dame
Marquette at Florida
South Carolina at St. John’s
Seton Hall at LSU

Fri, Nov 30
Syracuse at Arkansas
Tennessee at Georgetown
DePaul at Auburn
Georgia at South Florida

Sat, Dec 1
Alabama at Cincinnati
Villanova at Vanderbilt
Mississippi State at Providence
Rutgers at Mississippi

Had the inspiration behind these pairings been to create the best possible matchups rather than to slight departing members Syracuse and Pittsburgh and potential defectors Connecticut and Louisville, this year’s challenge could have been a lot more appealing.

As things stand, Kentucky cannot play Syracuse because both teams are due for road games in the challenge this season. This unnecessary formality denies fans of the best available SEC-Big East pairing. (Note: Kentucky and Louisville, which would make for the best overall matchup, can’t happen because in the challenge because the two programs already play one another in the annual Battle for the Bluegrass).

Just consider some of the storylines:

  •  Two Top 10 programs of all-time
  •  Two preseason Top 15 teams
  •  Two No. 1 seeds from last season’s tournament
  •  UK beat out favored Syracuse for prized prospect and shot-blocking extraordinaire Nerlens Noel
  •  SU beat out Kentucky for 5-star recruit DaJuan Coleman, a local product from nearby Jamesville-Dewitt
  • Calipari vs. Boeheim
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