Best Non-conference NCAAB Games
With only a week before the Fall madness starts, it is time to look at the best college basketball games of the non-conference schedule. Here are the top ten matchups:
(Team rankings will be adjusted as we progress through the season)
12. UConn #24 @ St. Bonaventure #23: Dec. 11th
It will be a pivotal year for Dan Hurley and the UConn Huskies, but already much progress has been made as the Huskies returned to the big dance for the first time since 2016. The team will be expected to challenge Villanova for the Big East crown this season. The first major test for UConn will occur in December in a matchup with likely the best mid-major team, St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies return their five starters from last year and are expected to make some noise this year. It's rare that a team like St. Bonaventure gets a chance to showcase their skills against a top 25 team, so expect this to be a coming-out party of sorts.
10. Kansas #3 @ Michigan State (Neutral site): Nov. 9th
The Champions Classic always proves to be an entertaining kickoff to the college basketball season. However, this will be the first time that one of the participating teams is not ranked. I don't think this will detract from the entertainment value of this game though. Teams are hardly tuned-up at the beginning of the year and Coach Izzo of MSU always fields a competitive program. Last season, MSU upset higher-seeded Duke, and they can send shockwaves through the college basketball world by taking down a top-five team to start the year.
8. Kentucky #10 @ Duke #9 (Neutral site): Nov. 9th
The same basic principles apply to this matchup that applied to the previous one, except that these teams are more evenly matched on paper. This game promises to be an entertaining heavyweight battle between two of the game's most storied schools. Duke has the edge in the Champions Classic as they have won two out of three over the Wildcats. Both teams had down seasons last year, but both look primed to jump back into contention this year.
7. Villanova #4 @ Baylor #8: Dec. 12th
These two programs have combined for three national titles over the previous five years and look to continue their extended runs of success this season. Villanova returns veteran guard, Collin Gillespie, for what feels like the 10th season. Gillespie is the floor general that coach Jay Wright will rely on to lead his offense this year. Baylor on the other hand will be needing a new centerpiece of the offense after losing much of their starting rotation to the NBA draft. However, there is no reason to believe right now that Baylor is going away. Scott Drew is an excellent coach and will have his squad finely tuned by the time Nova rolls into town.
6. Baylor #8 @ Oregon #13: Dec. 18th
Less than a week after their titanic clash with Villanova, Baylor lines up against the best of the Pac-12. While the Nova match has the potential to be semi-low scoring, this one looks to be an offensive shoot-out. Both teams have great offenses that will put up a lot of points and make this game a must-watch. Only time will tell if Baylor will maintain the three-point shooting prowess they boasted last year, but even if the threes aren't falling, it does little to diminish the shine of this matchup.
5. Michigan #6 @ North Carolina #19: Dec. 1st
The ACC/Big Ten challenge always provides a multitude of exciting matchups and big battles. This game between the Wolverines and UNC is arguably the best of the bunch. Michigan is looking to build upon their strong tournament performance last year and win the crown in the Big Ten for the second consecutive year. UNC will be operating without Roy Williams at the helm for the first time in 18 seasons. The last time these two teams played, Michigan got the better of the Tar Heels. Expect a mighty struggle at Chapel Hill to kick off December.
4. Duke #9 @ Gonzaga #1: Nov. 25th
Any chance to watch Gonzaga play is must-see tv. Mark Few coached teams are so much fun to watch and have been a force in the college basketball environment for a while. Duke on the other hand is trying to win it all one last time for the legendary Coach K, as he is retiring after the season is over. This could be the game in which Mike Krzyzewski passes his title as the best coach in college basketball to Mark Few, a changing of the guard if you will. The old blood versus the new blood.
3. Villanova #4 @ UCLA #2: Nov. 12th
Any matchup between two top-five teams should be a good one. This one is no exception, both teams have uber-talented rosters with loads of veteran presence. Jay Wright and Mick Cronin are two of the best coaches in college basketball and will have their players ready to play their hearts out. The crowd will be loud and the result will be close, this will be a fun one to watch.
2. Texas #5 @ Gonzaga #1: Nov. 13th
Texas is absolutely loaded this year with old talent and the best of the players from the transfer portal. Additionally, the team will now be led by Chris Beard, the man who turned Texas Tech into a contender in only a few years. The team certainly has the firepower to hang with the Zags in what could be an explosive shootout. Expect a battle of epic proportions when the Longhorns travel to Seattle in early November.
1. Gonzaga #1 @ UCLA #2: Nov. 23rd (Las Vegas)
Last year's Final Four matchup between these two squads was an instant classic, Jalen Suggs advanced his Bulldogs with a half-court game-winning shot in the waning seconds of overtime. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the undefeated season was not meant to be as they were tactically and offensively spanked in the championship game. UCLA returns the majority of their pieces from last year and will be tested by the new-look Bulldogs. UCLA will be looking for revenge and Gonzaga will want to cement their superiority. If there is one game to watch this Fall, it is this one.
Other highly touted matchups:
Virginia #25 @ Houston #15: Nov. 16th
Villanova #4 @ Tennessee #18: Nov. 20th
North Carolina #19 @ Purdue #7: Nov. 20th
UConn #24 @ Auburn #22: Nov. 24th
Baylor #8 @ Arizona State: Nov. 24th
Duke #9 @ Ohio State #17: Nov. 30th
Florida State #20 @ Purdue #7: Nov. 30th
Alabama #14 @ Gonzaga #1: Dec. 4th
Houston #15 @ Alabama: #14: Dec. 12th
Alabama #14 @ Memphis #12: Dec. 14th
Ohio State #17 @ Kentucky #10: Dec. 18th
UCLA #2 @ North Carolina #19: Dec. 18th