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The 33 best non-conference games in college basketball in 2019-2020

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We went through the non-conference schedule for every college basketball program in the country and picked out the best 33 games that will be played between the start of the season on November 5th and the beginning of league play around the New Year.

We are doing this a bit differently that we have in the past.

Instead of ranking each of the 33 games, we are going to list them in chronological order. We’re actually doing you a favor. Just bookmark this page and throughout the month of November, periodically come back and check to see when and were the best games to watch that day will be.

So.

Before we get into it.

You’re welcome.

And now without further ado …

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11/5: CHAMPIONS CLASSIC (New York City): No. 1 MICHIGAN STATE vs. No. 2 KENTUCKY, No. 3 KANSAS vs. No. 6 DUKE

There’s a very real chance that when the AP Preseason Top 25 poll is released that it will feature these four teams as the top four teams in the country.

And on the opening night of the season, we will get all four of them in the same building at the same time.

You cannot write scripts better than this.

Personally, I am much more excited to see Michigan State take on Kentucky. For starters, those are the two best teams in the country, for my money, and both of them have enough returning from last season that this should be a fairly high level basketball game. I’m also salivating thinking about watching the matchup between NBC Sports Preseason Player of the Year Cassius Winston trying to operate against the best defensive player in college basketball in Ashton Hagans.

That means that the opening act will likely end up being the battle of the blue bloods – Kansas vs. Duke. I love Kansas this year. With Udoka Azubuike healthy, Ochai Agbaji ready for a breakout season and Devon Dotson running the show, the Jayhawks have a chance to win the national title in a season where they are going to have the looming NCAA sanctions hanging over their heads. As a fan of the messy drama, I want to see that happen. Duke, on the other hand, is going to look completely different from the team we saw last season, but with Tre Jones leading another crop of talented freshmen, they will be right back in the mix.

In other words … LFGGGGGG!!!!!!!

11/6: CINCINNATI at No. 25 OHIO STATE

I love that Chris Holtmann made it a point to play some of his in-state rivals. I love that we get the Bearcats facing off with the Buckeyes. And I will love it even more if this game ends up being more entertaining that last season’s 64-56 barnburner.

11/8: No. 20 BAYLOR vs. WASHINGTON (Anchorage)

Baylor is one of the more underrated teams in college basketball this season. I have them at No. 20 and that might be one of the lower rankings you’ll see this month. Washington, on the other hand, is one of the favorites to win the Pac-12, pairing two top ten recruits – Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels – with a handful of intriguing returnees.

11/8: No. 22 AUBURN vs. DAVIDSON (Annapolis)

Davidson is a borderline top 25 and will compete with VCU and Dayton for the Atlantic 10 title. Auburn, on the other hand, is going to be very good once again. This game, on the first Friday of the season, will be a great chance for us to get a feel for just how good both of these teams are.

MORE: NBC Sports Preseason Top 25All-Americans

11/10: FLORIDA STATE at No. 7 FLORIDA

I love Florida this season. They are a very legitimate national title contender with Kerry Blackshear in the fold, and we will get a chance to see them play against a talented and very athletic Florida State team. In-state rivalries in the first week of the season may not be pretty, but it will be intense.

11/12: No. 21 MEMPHIS at No. 12 OREGON

No team in the country has had a better summer and fall than Oregon. They’ve added highly-regarded grad transfers and talented freshmen in the last three months to make Duck fans forget about the fact that they lost so much to the NBA draft. Meanwhile, Memphis is starting five freshmen, including a pair of lottery picks, and has a head coach that has his own line of Nike shoes.

11/13: No. 5 VILLANOVA at No. 25 OHIO STATE

The headline game of the first night of the Gavitt Games. I have them ranked fifth and 25th, but I have a feeling when the AP poll is released later this month that both will be somewhere in the teens. As good as both of these teams will be – and I do think they will be good – the most intriguing part of this matchup will be watching Jay Wright match wits with Chris Holtmann.

11/13: No. 19 LSU at No. 24 VCU

The smartest thing that VCU does is put into their head coach contracts that they require any coach that leaves to return to play them in a home-and-home. This is that game. Will Wade returns home to face his old program. The Rams return everyone from one of the best defenses in college hoops, while LSU should be better than you think after the drama they have dealt with in the past six months.

11/14: No. 1 MICHIGAN STATE at No. 13 SETON HALL

This is one of the games that I have circled on my calender. Seton Hall is going to be better than anyone realizes with Myles Powell back in the fold, while Michigan State is Michigan State. Getting this game in Newark as part of the Gavitt Games is a coup for Kevin Willard’s program.

11/16: No. 23 TENNESSEE vs. WASHINGTON (Toronto)

The Vols lost quite a bit during the offseason, but they do bring back Lamonte Turner and add a talented freshman in Josiah James. This will be another chance for us to see Washington’s star freshmen – Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels – face-off with elite competition before the start of conference play.

11/28: No. 21 MEMPHIS vs. N.C. STATE (Brooklyn)

For all of the people that live in New York City and want to get a chance to see the potential No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft play while he is still in college, this is going to be your chance. James Wiseman, Penny Hardaway and the Tigers are heading to BKNY.

11/29: No. 15 UTAH STATE at No. 17 SAINT MARY’S

These are the two best teams in the mid-major ranks this season and will feature arguably the two best players in the mid-major ranks in Jordan Ford and Sam Merrill. Dear Basketball Gods, please make sure this game is on TV.

12/3: No. 6 DUKE at No. 1 MICHIGAN STATE

The latest iteration of the Baby Blue Devils will be getting their first true road test as they make the trek up to East Lansing to take on the best team in college basketball. Once again, we have an absolutely marquee point guard matchup, as Cassius Winston will be squaring off with Tre Jones.

12/4: No. 10 VIRGINIA at PURDUE

A rematch of what may be the single-best college basketball game in recent memory, last year’s Elite Eight battle between the Cavaliers and the Boilermakers. So many of the relevant players are off to the NBA, but with Matt Painter and Tony Bennett back, this should be just as much fun.

12/4: No. 25 OHIO STATE at No. 14 NORTH CAROLINA

Another terrific matchup in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, as the Buckeyes head to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina. This will be the first real chance for America to get a taste of just how good Cole Anthony is going to be.

12/7: No. 16 ARIZONA at No. 20 BAYLOR

This will be one of the first real chances that we all get to see Arizona play this season. The Wildcats are back among the nation’s elite, as they landed two of the best guards in the country. Baylor is the exact opposite, as they are a veteran roster filled with guys that were overlooked coming out of high school. This should be fun.

12/7: CINCINNATI at No. 18 XAVIER

The Crosstown Shootout, baby! The most underrated rivalry in all of sports. The good news is that both of these teams have a shot to win their respective league titles this season. Jarron Cumberland is one of the most underrated players in the country, point-blank-period.

12/8: No. 8 GONZAGA at WASHINGTON

Another criminally-underrated rivalry. I love that the Zags and U-Dub play annually these days. It is great for the sport, especially when it features one of the most intriguing frontcourt battles that we will see this season. Washington’s star freshmen against the likes of Killian Tillie and Filip Petrusev.

12/8: DAYTON vs. No. 17 SAINT MARY’S

Davidson and VCU are the favorites in the Atlantic 10, but the Flyers – with four high-major transfers joining the program – have a chance to win the league. Saint Mary’s is also a threat in the WCC behind the talent of point guard Jordan Ford.

12/10: JIMMY V CLASSIC: No. 4 LOUISVILLE vs. No. 11 TEXAS TECH (New York City)

I’m all in on Louisville this season, assuming that Fresh Kimble and David Johnson, when he gets healthy, will be able to thrive in the point guard role. Texas Tech’s path to greatness is more difficult to predict, but I worship at the altar of Chris Beard and have no doubt that he will find a way to make yet another rebuilt roster work. Last year, it was a trip to New York City and a game against Duke that put the Red Raiders on the map.

12/14: No. 8 GONZAGA at No. 16 ARIZONA

I think you can make the argument that these two teams are the two best programs on the west coast right now. I think that it is great that they are facing off, and I look forward to seeing how Sean Miller deals with Gonzaga’s big men and what Mark Few does to combat Arizona’s guards.

12/14: No. 21 MEMPHIS at No. 23 TENNESSEE

Last year, in the Fed Ex Forum, it got so wild in the stands that a Memphis fan got arrested for taking a dump behind a Dippin’ Dots stand. While I hope that the good people of Knoxville can control their bodily functions, I do expect this to be just as intense of a rivalry game.

12/18: No. 14 NORTH CAROLINA at No. 8 GONZAGA

The return game. The Tar Heels picked off the Zags in Chapel Hill last year, and while the relevant players are going to be very different this season, it will be a chance for Mark Few’s club to exact some revenge.

12/17: No. 7 FLORIDA vs. PROVIDENCE (Brooklyn)

We know how good Florida is going to be this season. Providence is not entering the season with anywhere near the same level of hype, but the Friars have some quality pieces that will keep them relevant in the Big East this season. This will be a good gauge game for them to determine just what “relevant in the Big East” truly means.

12/19: No. 9 MARYLAND at No. 13 SETON HALL

Another marquee matchup for Seton Hall in Newark. Believe it or not, this will be Maryland’s toughest non-conference matchup this season. It will be their chance to prove that they are good enough to make a run at Michigan State atop the Big Ten regular standings.

12/21: No. 2 KENTUCKY vs. No. 25 OHIO STATE (Las Vegas)

There are a couple of intriguing storylines here. For starters, Chris Holtmann’s name is one that people like to mention when discussing eventual successors to John Calipari. So that will be fun. But Ohio State will have a real shot to win this game because Kentucky does not have the size inside to deal with Kaleb Wesson.

12/21: No. 3 KANSAS at No. 5 VILLANOVA

A rematch of the 2018 Final Four game that will feature just seven players that saw minutes on that night in Arizona. We know how good Kansas is. This will be a massive test for the Wildcats, who will be looking to prove that Jay Wright can win with teams that are on the younger side.

12/21: No. 7 FLORIDA vs. No. 15 UTAH STATE (Sunrise, FL)

This will be a critical game for the Aggies is they are going to build a resume that is strong enough to earn an at-large bid. Technically, it will be a neutral site game, but Utah State will be the team flying across the country to play.

12/28: No. 4 LOUISVILLE at No. 2 KENTUCKY

Do I really need to explain this? The most intense rivalry in college sports and both teams are ranked in the top five. Like I said earlier … LFGGGGG!!!!!!

1/25: No. 2 KENTUCKY at No. 11 TEXAS TECH

The reigning national runners-up face off with the team that checks in at No. 2 in the NBC Sports top 25. I would have preferred to see Kentucky and Kansas go up against each other in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge again, but this will do just fine.

1/25: No. 23 TENNESSEE at No. 3 KANSAS

When these two played in the Barclays Center last season, it was a battle of top five teams featuring a pair of All-Americans that went to overtime. Those All-Americans are gone, but the intrigue will still be there if the Vols are as good as advertised.

1/25: No. 20 BAYLOR at No. 7 FLORIDA

An underrated Baylor team heads to Gainesville to play an underrated Florida team in a non-conference battle that’s taking place in the heart of league play. Everyone’s a winner!

N.C. State forward Jericole Hellems released from hospital

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State says sophomore forward Jericole Hellems has been released from a hospital and is in “good spirits” after an injury in Saturday’s win at Wake Forest.

The team announced the news Sunday on Twitter. Hellems had fallen on a rebound attempt and banged the back of his head on the court with 28 seconds left. He was alert but had to be carried from the court on a stretcher. Then he was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons to rule out a possible lower back injury as well as to be evaluated for a possible concussion.

The team says Hellems will meet with NC State doctors in the coming days, while coach Kevin Keatts will address his status later in the week.

NC State travels to UNC Greensboro next Sunday.

AP Poll: Louisville remains No. 1, Ohio State jumps to No. 3

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Louisville and Kansas finally provided some consistency to what has been a volatile Top 25 poll this season, while perennial bluebloods Michigan State and North Carolina continued to tumble after another wave of defeats.

The Cardinals solidified thier place at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 released Monday by routing then-No. 4 Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and breezing past Pittsburgh over the past week. The Jayhawks stayed at No. 2 after returning from their Maui Invitaitonal title to thump former Big 12 member Colorado.

“I think it’s two games in a row, where we got stops,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “We didn’t allow second shots. We ran the clock on offense. We got great looks. We got layups, and that’s a killer.”

Ohio State jumped from sixth to third following its 74-49 rout of then-No. 7 North Carolina and a Big Ten blowout of Penn State. Maryland dropped one spot to fourth despite continuing to pile up wins, while Michigan slid one spot to round out the top five after Juwan Howard’s bunch ran into the Louisville buzzsaw for their first loss of the season.

The Spartans continued their fall from preseason No. 1 after losing to Duke, this time dropping from 11th to No. 16. The Tar Heels tumbled 10 spots to No. 17 after getting crushed by Ohio State and losing to No. 9 Virginia.

San Diego State joined the rankings at No. 25.

1. Louisville (55)

2. Kansas (4)

3. Ohio St. (5)

4. Maryland

5. Michigan

6. Gonzaga

7. Duke

8. Kentucky

9. Virginia

10. Oregon

11. Baylor

12. Auburn

13. Memphis

14. Dayton

15. Arizona

16. Michigan St.

17. North Carolina

18. Butler

19. Tennessee

20. Villanova

21. Florida St.

22. Seton Hall

23. Xavier

24. Colorado

25. San Diego St.

Others receiving votes: Utah St. 160, Washington 144, Purdue 130, Indiana 13, Marquette 11, Liberty 9, Saint Mary’s (Cal) 8, Texas 6, Florida 5, Penn St. 5, Georgetown 4, West Virginia 3, Richmond 3, LSU 2, Duquesne 1, DePaul 1, VCU 1.

Monday’s Overreactions: Naji Marshall owns Cincinnati, Ohio State is No. 1, Joel Ayayi

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Naji Marshall, Xavier

Marshall has lived up to the hype through the first month of the season, but the biggest and best game that he has played in 2019 happened on Saturday. Squaring off with archrival Cincinnati, Marshall went off for 31 points, eight boards, five steals and three assists, hitting four threes and totally outplaying his Bearcat counterpart, Jarron Cumberland.

As a team, Xavier has been a little bit up and down this season. Their issues shooting the ball have been prevalent all season long, and as good as the likes of Tyrique Jones, Quentin Goodin and Paul Scruggs – hell, and Marshall himself – can be, there has been some inconsistency to date.

There was not any on Saturday.

Marshall took over and led Xavier to their biggest win of the season.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes

Can we even consider anyone else?

On Wednesday, the Buckeyes went into Chapel Hill and ran North Carolina out of their own gym, leaving with a 74-49 win. On Saturday, Chris Holtmann’s club hosted Penn State, and that did not go well for the Nittany Lions, who lost by 32 points while giving up 106.

This team is starting to look scary, and there’s a valid argument to make that they should be sitting at No. 1 in the AP poll this morning.

Speaking of which …

OVERREACTIONS

1. OHIO STATE HAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE RESUME IN THE COUNTRY

If we ranked teams solely based on resume at this point in the season, I don’t think there is any way to leave the Buckeyes out of the top spot.

They are undefeated. They have beaten Villanova by 25 at home. They have beaten North Carolina by 25 on the road. They have beaten Penn State by 32 at home. Those are three of the top 24 teams in the country, according to KenPom. No one else can match that. Hell, the Buckeyes are currently sitting at No. 1 in KenPom’s rankings.

To put those wins into context, consider this, via Jordan Sperber of Hoop Vision: There have been six instances this season of a top 50 KenPom team losing by 20 or more points. Ohio State is responsible for three of them.

To be honest, I’m not ready to actually call Ohio State the best team in college basketball – I explain why in the podcast below at the 11:20 mark – but they are certainly playing like it.

2. WE FINALLY SAW THE ANTHONY COWAN WE NEED TO SEE FOR MARYLAND TO REACH THEIR POTENTIAL

Look, I know how ridiculous this is going to sound.

Coming off of a performance where Anthony Cowan shot 6-for-14 from the floor in a game where Maryland needed something bordering on a miracle to erase a 15 point second half deficit at home against unranked Illinois, I’m finally convinced?

Well, kinda?

Here’s my logic: I am not sold on Mark Turgeon being the best coach in college basketball, and I am hardly alone in that sentiment. But he does have a roster with some talent, and it is always a good sign when a team’s talent takes over and wins a game where, frankly, they played like crap. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday. In the past, Cowan would not have taken over. In the past, he would not have put the team on his back, scored 20 points in the final 23 minutes and finished with seven boards, six assists and the game-tying and winning points in the final 20 seconds.

All-Americans bail their team out in games they are not supposed to win. Final Four teams win games where they don’t show up until they are getting thoroughly embarrassed. The Terps did both of those things.

Now, would I like to see them finally figure out how to win without sleepwalking through the first half of games?

Absolutely!

But it’s hardly a bad sign to be sitting at 10-0 as you’re still figuring things out.

3. BUTLER IS THE MOST UNDERRATED TEAM IN THE COUNTRY

After taking down Florida in Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon, Butler has a surprisingly impressive crop of wins this season. They beat Minnesota at home. They beat Missouri in Kansas City. They beat Stanford on a neutral. They won at Ole Miss. And now they have that win over the Gators, who we just can’t quite seem to quit.

Either way, the Bulldogs play at Baylor on Tuesday night and then take on Purdue in the Crossroads Classic next Saturday.

We’ll know more about them then, but for now, this is a team that we have to talk about.

That said …

4. … NO ONE HAS MADE US A BELIEVER IN MORE TEAMS THAN FLORIDA

Florida State beat Florida in Gainesville?

The Seminoles must be awesome!

UConn beat Florida in Storrs?

The Huskies are back, baby!

Butler knocks off the Gators in Hinkle?

The Bulldogs are the most underrated team in the country?

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5. JOEL AYAYI IS THE X-FACTOR THAT WILL MAKE GONZAGA A TITLE CONTENDER

Listen, I’m not saying that Ayayi is the best player on this Gonzaga roster.

I think that he’s probably their third-best player, and even that might be generous.

What he is, however, is a guy that fills a role that the Zags didn’t have anyone to fill. The issue with this Gonzaga team heading into the season was in their backcourt. We wondered if they had enough point guard play, perimeter shooting and playmaking to be able to compete with the best teams in the country. It’s one thing to have a great frontline with guards that can get them the rock where they need it. It’s another thing to have a great frontline and no one that an initiate offense or keep defenses honest.

Ayayi has done those things to date this season. He’s averaging 10.1 points, 6.6 boards and 3.8 assists, which is second on the team to Ryan Woolridge, who is quietly having a solid start to the season as well. He provides length, athleticism, floor-spacing, a second ball-handler and creator. He takes the pressure off of Woolridge to carry the lead guard load.

He is more or less everything that Gonzaga fans were hoping Admon Gilder would turn into.

We’ll see if this lasts, but his performance against Washington on Saturday was really promising. Ayayi didn’t play or shoot particularly well, but he stepped up with 20 seconds left and buried the biggest shot of the game, a three to give the Zags a 82-76 lead and bury U-Dub.

Mamukelashvili breaks wrist as No. 16 Seton Hall loses to Iowa State

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AMES, Iowa — No. 16 Seton Hall lost much more than a game in Ames, as starter Sandro Mamukelashvili broke his right wrist in the first half of a loss at Iowa State.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 17 points, George Conditt had a season-high 17 off the bench and the Cyclones knocked off Seton Hall 76-66 on Sunday for its second straight victory.

Rasir Bolton scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half to help the Cyclones avenge an 84-76 loss on Nov. 29 to the Pirates (6-3) in the Bahamas. The rematch was part of the Big East/Big 12 Alliance series.

Mamukelashvili, a 6-foot-11 forward and a facilitator who averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game entering play, went down hard with 15:14 to go in the first half and didn’t return.

Coach Kevin Willard said after the game that it was too soon to know how long Mamukelashvili might be out.

“I don’t know for sure. It’s definitely broken. But we … have to go get an MRI tomorrow and let our doctors and radiologists read it,” Willard said. “There’s definitely a break in there, it’s just that we don’t know where it is.”

Conditt’s free throws pushed Iowa State’s lead to 59-53 with 2:56 left. Haliburton then drew an offensive foul and freed himself for a wide-open 3 at the top of the key. Haliburton drilled it, making it a nine-point game at the 2:23 mark.

Seton Hall fouled Prentiss Nixon from beyond the arc with 1:27 left. Nixon hit all three from the line to push Iowa State back up by nine, and Conditt’s transition dunk sealed the win.

Iowa State won despite shooting just 4 of 19 on 3s.

“Every good team needs a signature win and this was the first one for us,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “It felt really good beat a ranked team, but also a team that beat us before.”

Myles Powell scored 19 points with eight rebounds for Seton Hall. But Powell was 7 of 20 shooting, had five turnovers and fouled out with 54.4 seconds to go on an offensive foul. The Pirates’ previous defeats came against Michigan State and Oregon by just five combined points.

Seton Hall committed 20 turnovers and was outrebounded 43-40 despite having a major size advantage. The Pirates also gave Iowa State 33 tries from the line, and Cyclones made 26 of them.

“We turned the ball over too much and we fouled,” Willard said. “You can’t go on the road against a good team and turn the basketball over and foul.”

THE BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: On losing Mamukelashvili, Willard said that “it changes things a lot. But the good thing is, we have some guys that need to get comfortable in that role and step up in that role…we’re going to need everyone to step up.”

Iowa State: The Cyclones have been strangely awful at times this season shooting jump shots — even though they supposedly have enough shooters. It’s a problem that Iowa State will need to get sorted out before it threatens to sink their season. On the plus side, the Cyclones were active with their hands in forcing Seton Hall’s bigs to turn it over, and Haliburton delivered yet another signature performance.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Losing on the road to a Big 12 team that had the opportunity to play them 10 days ago shouldn’t cost the Pirates too much. Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum can be a brutal place for opponents — especially one that didn’t necessarily know what it was walking into.

HE SAID IT

“It’s a hell of a win for us.” —- Prohm said.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: At Rutgers on Saturday.

Iowa State: Hosts Iowa on Thursday night.

Monday Overreactions Podcast: Ohio State’s the best, Travis Steele’s the GOAT, is Anthony Cowan good?

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Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan are back to walk through everything that happened in college basketball this weekend. Is Ohio State the best team in college basketball? Is it actually Maryland? Just how good is Anthony Cowan? Just how bad is Florida? And did Travis Steele do the greatest thing in the history of coaching on Saturday night? He might have.