The games you can't miss this season
Here are 10 games I hope we get to see in the exempt tournaments:
Pitt vs. Illinois, Nov. 19 in the 2K Sports Classic final, New York City: If it happens, the Big East favorites and the trendy Big Ten title contender should serve up a March-like game at Madison Square Garden.
Minnesota vs. North Carolina, Nov. 19, Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic semifinal: The Gophers need to prove they should be taken seriously, and playing the highly touted Tar Heels in Round 2 will be a good barometer. The winner will possibly get West Virginia in the final if the Mountaineers beat Vanderbilt.Boyd Ivey/Icon SMIA potential matchup with Duke should be a good early test for Jacob Pullen & Co.
Georgetown vs. NC State, Nov. 21, Charleston Classic final: The Wolfpack are supposed to be in play for a top-three ACC finish, but do have some early tests. Playing the Hoyas is joined by games at Wisconsin and Syracuse and a home tilt with Arizona.
Duke vs. Kansas State, Nov. 23, CBE Classic final, Kansas City: Duke is a lock for No. 1 and a popular pick for the national championship game, but the Wildcats are also a first-ever Big 12 preseason champion pick and a Final Four favorite.
Kentucky vs. Washington, Nov. 23, Maui Invitational semifinal: Forget the recruiting battle over Terrence Jones (he first committed to UW and then chose Kentucky). This game could be a highly entertaining uptempo affair.
Kentucky vs. Michigan State, Nov. 24, Maui Invitational final: These are two of the most recognizable programs and coaches in the sport today, and for Kentucky, playing the more experienced Spartans would be quite a test.
Wisconsin vs. Georgia, Nov. 28, Old Spice Classic final, Orlando, Fla.: The Bulldogs are my hot team, a top-25 darling, while the Badgers are a traditional tough out and NCAA-bound team.
Murray State vs. Virginia Tech, Nov. 28, 76 Classic final, Anaheim, Calif.: Murray State was a whisker away from the Sweet 16 last season and could be a bracket-buster come March. The Hokies have visions of being an ACC top-two squad.
Mississippi State vs. Baylor, Dec. 23, Diamond Head Classic semifinal, Honolulu: Renardo Sidney will be eligible for this game. He could be facing Baylor's heralded newcomer, Perry Jones, in the post.
Butler vs. Florida State, Dec. 23, Diamond Head Classic semifinal, Honolulu: The Bulldogs and Seminoles play stingy defense, and both teams fancy themselves as threats to go deep into March.
And now the games we will definitely see this season
Ohio State at Florida, Nov. 16: The SEC favorite Gators get one of their toughest tests of the nonconference schedule. The Buckeyes will find out quickly who can handle the point.[+] EnlargeDerrick Tuskan/Icon SMI Kawhi Leonard's Aztecs will face Gonzaga in Spokane in mid-November.
San Diego State at Gonzaga, Nov. 16: Credit Aztecs coach Steve Fisher for his willingness to play for a one-way ticket to Spokane without a return trip and no chance to get to the CBE semifinals in Kansas City. And once again, Mark Few didn't fight against another quality nonconference game.
Gonzaga vs. Kansas State, Kansas City, Nov. 22: Kansas State begins its quest for a Final Four and possible No. 1 seed with one of its many quality tests early in the season.
North Carolina at Illinois, Nov. 30: The Tar Heels will be coming off a grinding three days of games in Puerto Rico and then will have to head straight for the Orange Krush.
Michigan State at Duke, Dec. 1: This is my national title matchup, but don't look at this as a preview. The Spartans won't be as healthy in Durham as they could be in Houston in April.
Purdue at Virginia Tech, Dec. 1: The Boilermakers don't have many nonconference highlights, but this is one of them. It will tell us plenty about the state of Purdue.[+] EnlargeMark Dolejs/US PresswireKyrie Irving should make a big impact for Duke in its rematch with Butler in early December.
Butler vs. Duke, East Rutherford, N.J., Dec. 4: Don't think of it as a rematch of the national title game, as Butler lost three key players and didn't replace any of them with equal value. Meanwhile, Duke has upgraded with the addition of Kyrie Irving.
Kentucky at North Carolina, Dec. 4: Expect this to be one of the most attended/watched games by NBA scouts this season. These two teams usually have a plethora of prospects.
NC State at Syracuse, Dec. 4: No one should expect the Wolfpack to go into the Carrier Dome and win, but how well they play at Syracuse could tell us plenty about the development of NC State.
Michigan State vs. Syracuse, Dec. 7, Jimmy V Classic, New York City: The Spartans and Orange continue to test themselves early in the season. This could be a game between two Final Four contenders.
Memphis vs. Kansas, Dec. 7, Jimmy V Classic, New York City: Memphis gets Kansas on a neutral court for the third straight season. The Jayhawks have eeked out victories in both the 2008 national title game and last season's early matchup in St. Louis.
Wisconsin at Marquette, Dec. 11: This has become one of the best rivalries in the game. As is usually the case, both teams will be contenders not just for NCAA bids but decent seeds.
Kansas State vs. Florida, Sunrise, Fla., Dec. 18: The Gators usually don't select a top-10 team for this home-away-from-home-game-in-the-state, but this is another example of the program's scheduling upgrade.
Texas vs. North Carolina, Greensboro, N.C., Dec. 18: Both teams underachieved last season, but expectations are high again for two of the top name teams -- and talented squads -- in the country.
Gonzaga vs. Baylor, Dallas, Dec. 18: Gonzaga is used to playing marquee nonconference games that aren't really on a neutral floor, while Baylor is still new to this process.[+] EnlargeBrian Spurlock/US PresswireThe Border War game between Demetri McCamey's Illini and Mizzou should be an intense matchup in late December.
Illinois vs. Missouri, St. Louis, Dec. 22: The Border War is back to being a game between two teams that could make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
Kentucky at Louisville, Dec. 31: Louisville may be projected as a second-tier Big East team this season, but the Cardinals will play like a top-ranked team at home against their bitter rival from Lexington.
Duke at Florida State, Jan. 12: Florida State gets one shot at Duke, just one shot, and it's at home in Tallahassee.
Purdue at Minnesota, Jan. 13: The Boilermakers have one of the toughest league schedules in the Big Ten, and this will be a barometer for both contenders and/or pretenders.
Butler at Detroit, Jan. 14: If there is one school that could push Butler and create a good rivalry in the Horizon League, it's Detroit with the arrival of Ray McCallum Jr.
Purdue at West Virginia, Jan. 16: The Boilermakers' last big-time nonconference game is in Morgantown, where the Mountaineers will be attempting to avenge a humbling loss last season in West Lafayette.
Kansas State at Missouri, Jan. 17: If you're looking for a potential Big 12 title-game matchup between two conference teams that have a shot to advance deep in March, this could be it.
Syracuse at Pitt, Jan. 17: The Orange has the most talent in the Big East, while the Panthers have the most experience.
Duke at NC State, Jan. 19: The Wolfpack beat Duke last season, and players like Tracy Smith are fully confident that they can do it again.
Michigan State at Purdue, Jan. 22: This would have been the game in the Big Ten schedule had Robbie Hummel not suffered an ACL tear, but even without him this should be must-see Big Ten viewing.
Purdue at Ohio State, Jan. 25: By the time this game arrives, Purdue will have been through quite a gantlet. We'll see if it is still standing for the February stretch run.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Dave Martin Mark Fox's talented Bulldogs will get a tough test against Florida on Jan. 25.
Florida at Georgia, Jan. 25: This should become a rivalry that has meaning again. The Bulldogs have the talent this season to contend with any team in the SEC East, including Florida.
Kansas State at Kansas, Jan. 29: The Sunflower State rivalry now has significant meaning, but the Wildcats must crack the code of winning in Phog Allen.
Washington at Washington State, Jan. 30: If the Cougars are to be taken seriously, then they must knock off rival Washington at home.
Memphis at Gonzaga, Feb. 5: If you can get a nonconference game this good in February, you watch it. Especially considering how good these Tiger-Zag games have been over the last few years.
St. John's at UCLA, Feb. 5: You can't make up scheduling like this. This trip was already planned before former UCLA coach Steve Lavin was hired by the Red Storm.
Illinois at Northwestern, Feb. 5: The Wildcats may have cost themselves an NCAA bid two seasons ago when they blew a massive lead to rival Illinois. This game is a must-have for NU if its hopes to reach the school's first-ever NCAA tourney.
Michigan State at Wisconsin, Feb. 6: The Spartans rarely leave the Kohl Center feeling good about themselves. With the Badgers hoping to be contenders, this could turn out to be a necessary win.
Ohio State at Minnesota, Feb. 6: The Gophers will need to protect home court if they are to be looked at as a real threat to finish in the top three in the Big Ten.
Missouri at Kansas, Feb. 7: The Tigers are poised to be conference contenders, but getting a win on the road against their archrival and the Big 12 king will be a tough chore.
Georgetown at Syracuse, Feb. 9: This remains one of the best rivalries in the Big East, and the Hoyas and Orange will be poised for high seeds by early February.
Illinois at Minnesota, Feb. 10: The Illini can show how much they've morphed into an elite team if they play well on the road in the Big Ten, especially at a place like Williams Arena.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Keith SrakocicBrad Wanamaker and Pitt should mark their calendars for a Feb. 12 game at Villanova.
Pitt at Villanova, Feb. 12: College GameDay will be in town and the Pavilion should be rocking for one of the must-see games of the Big East regular season.
Southern Miss at Memphis, Feb. 12: Golden Eagles coach Larry Eustachy said he has a C-USA title contender and his best team in Hattiesburg. The second game of this series could determine the title race.
Michigan State at Ohio State, Feb. 15: If the Buckeyes are Big Ten title contenders, then the Spartans may have to knock them out in their own building.
Mississippi State at Kentucky, Feb. 15: The Bulldogs only get one shot at the SEC East teams to prove their status in the league, help their power rating and make a play for an NCAA bid. These two played a pair of classics last season.
Richmond at Temple, Feb. 17: The Spiders fancy themselves a real threat to win the A-10, but beating the Owls in Philadelphia may have to come first.
Washington at Arizona, Feb. 19: The Wildcats probably have the best shot to catch the Huskies with star wing Derrick Williams. Beating them in Tucson would certainly help.
Michigan State at Minnesota, Feb. 22: The Spartans' rough road in the Big Ten goes through Minneapolis. All sorts of seeds, standing within the league and an NCAA bid could be at stake.
Syracuse at Georgetown, Feb. 26: The return game of this rivalry may determine the seeding for the Big East tournament as both squads are sure to be in contention for a top-four finish.
Memphis at UTEP, Feb. 26: Give Tim Floyd until February to figure out C-USA, and the Miners should be a thorn for everyone in the league, especially since they have one of the top guards in the league in Randy Culpepper.
Missouri at Kansas State, Feb. 26: Kansas should still be in line to finish in first, so the winner of this game could determine the Jayhawks' competition for the Big 12 title.
Purdue at Michigan State, Feb. 26: The Big Ten slugfest winds down with two of the marquee programs likely deciding the finally standings in the league.
Duke at Virginia Tech, Feb. 26: Like Florida State earlier in the season, the Hokies get one shot at Duke, and it's at home in Blacksburg. College GameDay will be at Tech for the first time ever.
Duke at North Carolina, March 5: The first game of the classic rivalry likely will go to Duke since the Blue Devils have solved Carolina's recent dominance over it in Durham. This return game could be quite a scene.
Kansas at Missouri, March 5: If this game is for the Big 12 title, Columbia will be a sea of black and gold.
Texas at Baylor, March 5: Something tells me that this Texas team will be around in early March and will have something to say about the Big 12 order of finish.
Villanova at Pitt, March 5: The Big East title could be on the line at the Petersen Events Center, where the Oakland Zoo will be tough to tame.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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