Nov. 22: Kansas State at Gonzaga – This is big for Gonazaga, because the Zags have always contended that they get underseeded at tournament time. Well, this is one of those games they need to win. A win over the No.3 Wildcats would give Gonazaga a huge leg up.
Dec. 1: Michigan State at Duke - Okay, so it’s an early December game. But these games will mean something when the NCAA Tournament selection committee meets to pick the seeds. Kalin Lucas, who tore his ACL during the Spartans’ second-round tournament last year, is back. Duke has its two best back from last year in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith.
Dec. 7: Syracuse at Michigan State – This is just the test Scoop Jardine and the Orange need. Jim Boeheim doesn’t usually put his team in harms way when it comes to non-conference games. Not this year. The Orange also has Michigan and N.C. State on its schedule. Ok, they aren’t powerhouses, but they aren’t cupcakes either.
Feb. 9: North Carolina at Duke – Last year it was all Duke, especially in the second game as the Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels, 82-50. This year the tables could turn this year thanks to super freshman Harrison Barnes, the first frosh since 1986 to be names an AP preseason All-American.
Feb. 15: Michigan State at Ohio State - No Evan Turner, no problem. The Buckeyes sport three very capable players in William Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty. This game could go a long way in tournament seeding.
Other impact games:
Nov. 16: Florida at Ohio State - Great early season matchup for the No.9 Gators. Mike Rosario, Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker are a capable trio that should give the Buckeyes some problems on the perimeter. What makes the Gators tough is their big frontcourt (Vernon Macklin, Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus).
Dec. 4: Butler at Duke - A rematch of one of the greatest championship games ever played. The problem is Butler doesn’t have Gordon Hayward, while Duke has nearly everyone back. Still, Butler has cemented itself as a regular in the top 25.
Dec.30: Temple at Villanova - Yes, we know this is a Philadelphia thing that the rest of the country may not get crazy about, but it’s Villanova’s only test until the Big East season starts. Temple actually beat the Wildcats last season, which jump-started their season.