Must See November Basketball Matchups

Tie your shorts and lace up your sneakers – it’s basketball season. Once again, the ACC comes in regarded as the nation’s top conference and won’t have to wait long to prove it. November is loaded with top-notch non-conference games, led by some marquee matchups and a handful of games we really hope to see.

Duke vs. Kansas: Tuesday, Nov. 15 – 9:30 p.m.

The first matchup is arguably the best non-conference game we may see all season. Runaway preseason No. 1 Duke and 12-time reigning Big 12 champions Kansas will face off at Madison Square Garden. Not much needs to be said about this one. When you see “Duke vs. Kansas” you simply smile and respond, “What time and on what channel?”

Stanford vs. Miami, Nov 24 – 2:30 p.m.

Miami is a popular ACC sleeper pick, and for good reason. The Hurricanes lost their two leading scorers in Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, along with their best interior defender and shot blocker in Tonye Jekiri. But a core of Davon Reed, Ja’Quan Newton, Kamari Murphy and Ebuka Izundu will lead a Miami team that welcomes in two five-star recruits in guard Bruce Brown and forward Dewan Huell.

An Advocare Invitational first-round match up against the Cardinal will be the first true test for Miami, with a familiar face on the opposing bench. Stanford head coach Jerod Haase takes over a Cardinal program in need of a spark. Haase was an assistant at UNC under Roy Williams for eight years before leaving to become the head coach at UAB. He led the Blazers to a Conference USA title and an NCAA Tournament bid in his four years at the helm, and will look to do the same for a Stanford program that has seen just one NCAA Tournament berth in the past eight seasons.

Syracuse at Wisconsin, Nov. 29 – 7:30 p.m.

The Orange travel to Madison to take on a Badgers team led by preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Nigel Hayes. Wisconsin is a popular pick to win the Big 10, so Syracuse will have their work cut out for them. The Orange need to overcome some internal challenges before worrying about a very talented Wisconsin squad. Syracuse lost its top three scorers from a year ago in Michael Gbinije, Malachi Richardson and Trevor Cooney. Jim Boeheim will look to sophomore Tyler Lydon and senior Tyler Roberson to lead a revamped team that will feature three 4-star recruits (Tyus Battle, Matthew Moyer, Taurean Thompson) and a pair of talented transfers (Andrew White and Paschal Chukwu).

Michigan State at Duke, Nov. 29 – 9:30 p.m.

If both teams come in healthy, this could be one of the best collections of freshman on one court we’ve ever seen. The Blue Devils and Spartans combined to sign eight of the top 39 recruits in ESPN’s top 100 rankings. Duke brings in four of the top 16 players (Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson, Marques Bolden), while Michigan State welcomes four new Spartans of their own – all of which are ranked inside the top 40 (Miles Bridges, Josh Langford, Cassius Winston, Nick Ward).

However, that “if” is a big if. Duke has been plagued with freshman injuries. Giles is out indefinitely recovering from knee surgery. Bolden is out indefinitely dealing with a leg injury and Tatum is on his way back from an injured foot. The good news for Duke is that they have plenty of experienced talent to fill a potential hole or two, but man, would it be awesome to see these two teams go at it full strength.

Purdue at Louisville, Nov. 30 – 7:00 p.m.

This matchup features two teams in a similar position – good enough to make serious noise atop their respective conferences, but need to fill some serious voids left by former star players. Louisville needs to replace three of its best players from a year ago in Damion Lee, Trey Lewis and Chinanu Onuaku. Rick Pitino will lean on guards Quentin Snider and Donovan Mitchell to lead the way for the Cardinals – two players that have all-conference potential.

For the Boilermakers, their biggest void is in the paint, where they’ll look to replace star center A.J. Hammons. The good news for head coach Matt Painter is he returns his two leading scorers behind Hammons in Vince Edwards and Caleb Swanigan. Purdue holds the edge over Louisville in experience, so this should be a great early barometer for the Cardinals going into conference play.

Ohio State at Virginia, Nov. 30 – 9:00 p.m.

The Cavaliers are once again a top contender to win the ACC. Although ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and big men Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey are all gone, Virginia has the tools to not only win the ACC, but make a serious Final Four run. Senior guard London Perrantes is one of the best guards in the country, and is exactly who you want leading a team with a handful of new talent.

Freshman combo guard Kyle Guy is regarded as one of the best shooters in his class and is the highest rated recruit of Tony Bennett’s tenure. With go-to scorer Brogdon gone, Bennett will look for Guy to make significant contributions from the jump. Ohio State is coming off a season in which they missed the NCAA Tournament, but is a possible sleeper in the Big Ten. Virginia has a couple of solid opponents before they welcome the Buckeyes to town, so this may be the first chance we get to see just how good the Cavaliers can be.

UNC at Indiana, Nov. 30 – 9:00 p.m.

UNC will travel up to Bloomington to take on Indiana in the first true road test for the Tar Heels. This will be an interesting game for both teams, as the Heels and Hoosiers both look to replace huge pieces from last year’s teams. For UNC, filling the void left by Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson is a monumental task. But the Tar Heels definitely have the pieces to do so. ACC Tournament MVP Joel Berry II is back to run the offense and Tar Heel faithful are expecting breakout seasons from both Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks.

Indiana brings back far less, with seven players gone from last year’s team, including leading scorer Yogi Ferrell and leading rebounder Troy Williams. Tom Crean has talent, with three eligible transfers, a handful of returning players and four incoming freshman, but the key to Indiana’s success will be if, and how quickly, these new pieces can gel.

Games We Hope to See

The annual smorgasbord of early season tournaments offers the chance for a number of big-time games any college basketball fan can get excited about. Here are a handful of matchups we’re hoping pan out.

UNC vs. UConn, Nov. 22 – Maui Invitational Semifinals

  • What Needs To Happen : UNC beats host Chaminade and UConn beats first-round opponent Oklahoma State.
  • Why We Want To See It : You never pass up an opportunity to see two of college basketball’s perennial programs go head to head less than two weeks into the season.

UNC vs. Oregon/Wisconsin, Nov. 23 – Maui Invitational Championship

  • What Needs To Happen: UNC beats Chaminade, then UConn or Oklahoma State. Oregon beats Georgetown and Wisconsin beats Tennessee to set up an Oregon vs. Wisconsin semifinal.
  • Why We Want To See It: UNC, Oregon and Wisconsin are all currently top 10 teams. UNC vs. Wisconsin would give us a rematch of the memorable 2015 Sweet 16 game, while UNC vs. Oregon would be a showdown of two teams that love to run the floor and put up points.

Florida State vs. West Virginia, Nov. 25 – NIT Season Tip Off

  • What Needs To Happen : Florida State beats Temple and West Virginia beats Illinois.
  • Why We Want To See It: The Seminoles have the talent and experience to be really, really good. A matchup with a top 25 Mountaineer squad would be our first chance to see what Florida State looks like against a top-notch opponent.

Louisville vs. Michigan State, Nov. 25 – Battle for Atlantis Championship

  • What Needs To Happen : Louisville beats Old Dominion, then LSU or Wichita State. Michigan State beats St. Johns, then Baylor or VCU.
  • Why We Want To See It: Like Florida State, the Cardinals have the tools to compete for an ACC championship. A showdown with Sparty would give us solid insight as to how well Rick Pitino’s new pieces are meshing.

Miami vs. Gonzaga, Nov. 27 – Advocare Invitational Championship

  • What Needs to Happen : Miami beats Stanford, then Iowa State or Indiana State. Gonzaga beats Quinnipiac, then Florida or Seton Hall.
  • Why We Want To See It: Jim Larranaga did a great job replacing some key losses with big-time recruits. A neutral site game against a very deep and very talented Gonzaga team will be a great early test for the Hurricanes.