All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
With six months of no college basketball to watch, it’s about time that the ball starts bouncing once again. The season gets underway in just over a month, so here are some of the non-conference games that you should keep an eye on this season. The top game should come as little surprise, but there are many other intriguing match-ups between teams who will be in the Top 25 and on the fringe, as well as a few mid-major teams looking to prove themselves in the early going.
1. Kentucky vs. Louisville (December 28)
Like you thought the number one non-conference game would be something other than Kentucky vs. Louisville at Rupp? Two legendary coaches, a slew of future NBA players on the court from both teams, two of the best and most rabid fan bases in the country – this game at the end of December is a great way to close the book on 2013.
Last meeting: Louisville 80, Kentucky 77 (2012)
2. Duke vs. Kansas (November 12)
You’d be hard pressed to find a better double-header of games all season than Duke vs. Kansas and Kentucky vs. Michigan State (see below) as part of the Champions Classic. All four teams ranked inside the Top Ten with national title hopes on their minds. The nightcap pits Duke against Kansas, and two of the best freshman against one another — Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins.
Last meeting: Duke 68, Kansas 61 (2011)
3.Kentucky vs. Michigan State (November 12)
Depending on how the preseason rankings shake out, the early game of the night very well could have the No. 1 team in the county playing the No. 2 — how’s that for some early season fireworks? This will also be Kentucky’s first true test of the young season; the nation will see how far along Coach Cal has his young team of superstars against a veteran Michigan State bunch led by Adreian Payne and Keith Appling.
Last meeting: Michigan State 94, Kentucky 88 20T (2005 NCAA Tournament)
4. Michigan vs. Arizona (December 14)
An intriguing match-up between two teams who lost a fair bit of talent from last season, but still have high expectations for the 2013-14 season. Arizona, of course, has one of the top freshman in the country in Aaron Gordon, while Michigan — coming off of its first Final Four appearance in 20 years — returns a trio of sophomores in Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas, along with highly touted freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr.
Last meeting: Arizona 61, Michigan 60 OT (2004)
5. North Carolina at Michigan State (December 4)
One of the featured games of the ACC / Big Ten Challenge, North Carolina faces their first true road test of the season traveling to East Lansing. This being Carolina’s sixth game of the year, one has to assume that P.J. Hairston’s suspension will have been lifted by this point, although that all depends how stringent Roy Williams and North Carolina wish to be with Hairston. With Reggie Bullock foregoing his senior season, the Tar Heels will lean on Hairston as a primary scoring option. The match-up between Hairston and Gary Harris would be a great one to watch.
Last meeting: North Carolina 67, Michigan State 55 (2011)
6. Florida vs. Kansas (December 10)
An enigma for the latter half of the prior season, Florida is coming off of three straight appearances in the Elite Eight. Their game against Kansas is sandwiched in between games against Connecticut and Memphis — talk about a tough three game stretch. Replacing Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario will be a challenge, although some would posit Boynton is addition by subtraction given his erratic play at times.
Last meeting: Kansas 82, Florida 80 OT (2006)
7. Duke vs. Michigan (December 3)
Another one of the premier games of the ACC / Big Ten Challenge, Duke welcomes Michigan to Cameron Indoor. Duke has dominated this series in recent years winning nine of the last ten meetings, but many of those games took place when the Wolverines were a struggling program marred near the bottom of the Big Ten. Incoming freshman Jabari Parker and transfer Rodney Hood will be major factors in the Duke frontcort, but handling the size and brute strength of Mith McGary inside will be a challenge.
Last meeting: Duke 82, Michigan 75 (2011)
8. North Carolina vs. Kentucky (December 14)
This was one of the “can’t miss” games of the 2011-12 season, and the college basketball community is certainly pleased to see this series continue between two of the most storied programs in history — last year proved to be a brief hiatus in the series. Kentucky’s slew of talented freshmen will be a storyline all year, but keep an eye on the match-up between North Carolina’s James Michael-NcAdoo and how he performs inside against Julius Randle.
Last meeting: Kentucky 73, North Carolina 72 (2011)
9. Marquette vs. Ohio State (November 16)
Each of these teams are coming off of runs to the Sweet 16 last year, and both will be adapting to life after losing their top players from a year ago — DeShaun Thomas at Ohio State and Vander Blue at Marquette. Perhaps more difficult for Marquette to overcome is losing point guard Junior Cadougan. In this the Golden Eagles’ first test of the year, it will be interesting to track how Derrick Wilson, who will most likely take over the point guard duties, handles himself against Aaron Craft.
Last meeting: Marquette 82, Ohio State 70 (1994)
Two of the top backcourts in the country will do battle early in the year. Marcus Smart gave Travis Ford a very nice present heading into the offseason when he elected to stay at Oklahoma State for his sophomore year, thereby solidifying one of the top backcourts in the country with Smart and Markel Brown. Meanwhile, Memphis has dream backcourt with a quartet of fine guards in Michael Dixon Jr. Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford, and Joe Jackson.
Last meeting: Oklahoma State 70, Memphis 53 (2004 NCAA Tournament)
11. Connecticut vs. Florida (December 2)
We should all be delighted this tilt is being played at Connecticut’s on-campus gym, Gampel Pavilion, rather than the XL Center, the arena in downtown Hartford. The Huskies have a prolific backcourt with Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, but are thin up front which plays into Florida’s advantage as they return Patric Young.
Last meeting: Florida 69, Connecticut 60 OT (1994)
12. Colorado vs. Kansas (December 7)
Colorado figures to be a Top 25 team as they return do-it-all guard Spencer Dinwiddie, along with Askia Booker. Last year, the Buffaloes were dismantled at Kansas losing by 36 points, but they’ll look to return the favor to Wiggins and company this year at home.
Last meeting: Kansas 90, Colorado 54
13. Duke vs. UCLA (December 19)
While UCLA plays at Missouri on December 7, the first time Steve Alford and his team will truly be in the limelight comes in the Big Apple against Duke. Despite losing the talented, Alford has plenty of talent to work with as the Wear twins return along with rising sophomores Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams.
Last meeting: Duke 84, UCLA 73 (2002)
14. Memphis vs. Florida (December 17)
If you can believe it, it’s been nearly 40 years since these two programs last met. This season’s game will greatly challenge a Florida backcourt without the services of the previously mentioned Boynton and Rosario, especially facing a supremely talented and deep Tigers backcourt.
Last meeting: Florida 84, Memphis 83 (1976)
15. Kansas vs. New Mexico (December 14)
The Lobos will have a new-look on the sidelines with Craig Neal taking over for Steve Alford, but the product on the court will largely be the same. Senior guard Kendall Williams returns, as does the Lobo’s front court duo of Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. New Mexico figures to be a Top 25 team and the class of the Mountain West, and their game against Kansas will go a long way proving just how good they are this season.
Last meeting: Kansas 59, New Mexico 40 (1964)
16. Florida at Wisconsin (November 12)
Last meeting: Florida 74, Wisconsin 56 (2012)
17. Syracuse vs. Indiana (December 3)
Last meeting: Syracuse 61, Indiana 50 (2013 NCAA Tournament)
18. Wisconsin vs. Marquette (December 7)
Last meeting: Marquette 60, Wisconsin 50 (2012)
19. Notre Dame vs. Ohio State (December 21)
Last meeting: Ohio State 67, Notre Dame 62 (2008)
20. Memphis vs. Gonzaga (February 8)
Last meeting: Memphis 62, Gonzaga 58 (2011)
21. Wichita State vs. Tennessee (December 14)
Last meeting: Tennessee 69, Wichita State 60 (2012)
22. Colorado vs. Harvard (November 24)
Last meeting: Harvard 82, Colorado 66 (2010)
23. Virginia vs. Virginia Commonwealth (November 12)
Last meeting: Virginia 86, Virginia Commonwealth 70 (1998)
24. Creighton vs. Arizona State (November 28)
Last meeting: Creighton 87, Arizona State 73 (2012)
25. Oregon vs. Georgetown (November 8, in Camp Humphreys, South Korea)
Last meeting: Oregon 57, Georgetown 50 (2006)
Five ‘Dream’ Games
The following five games we are crossing our fingers that if things break right in these early season tournaments, these match-ups will happen:
- Arizona vs. Duke (Championship of the NIT Season Tip Off)
- Louisville vs. North Carolina (Championship of the Hall of Fame Tip Off)
- Syracuse vs. Gonzaga (Championship of the Maui Invitational)
- Michigan vs. Virginia Commonwealth (Second Round of the Puerto Rico Tip Off)
- Connecticut vs. Indiana (Championship of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting The Wounded Warrior Project)