College Basketball Handicapping: Biggest Games on the November Schedule
The first truly great college basketball game of the season occurred on Tuesday when No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Michigan State met for an early determination of NHL supremacy. Showdowns like that, while ultimately not that significant in terms of the determination of a national champion, are part of what makes the nonconference season often so compelling and exciting. That game has really whet the appetite for big games. Here is a look at 10 of the most interesting and significant games between now and the end of November:
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UCLA vs. Creighton, Monday, Nov. 20: UCLA's season has already descended into chaos. Their three shoplifting players have been suspended after returning from China, so we have no real way of knowing what they will be like in the short term. This is their fourth game, and third without the three, but it's their first real test, so it is worth a close look.
Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma State, Monday, Nov. 20: The Aggies absolutely humiliated 11th-ranked West Virginia in their opener. This is their first real chance to prove that it wasn't a fluke. They were scary on both ends of the court there. Can they keep it up?
North Carolina at Stanford, Monday, Nov. 20: North Carolina has not been challenged yet in their two games, and on paper they shouldn't be particularly tested here. Stanford isn't nearly as talented, but they are at home here, and it's a tough trip for the Tar Heels.
Arizona at N.C. State, Wednesday, Nov. 22: Arizona is an elite team with Final Four aspirations. N.C. State isn't ranked right now, but they are talented and have potential. Neither team will have played a game even remotely meaningful before this one, so we'll find out if Arizona can meet expectations or if N.C. State is more than they are perceived to be.
Saint Mary's at Harvard, Thursday, Nov. 23: Saint Mary's is ranked as they often are, and they have the potential to stay there all year. Harvard won't be ranked at any time, but they are always tough and feisty. This one should be fun.
Gonzaga vs. Ohio State, Thursday, Nov. 23: This is the first real game for Gonzaga this year, and they are again expected to be a national player right to the end as they always are. Ohio State is going through changes, and they aren't a great team, but they have the potential to challenge Gonzaga if the Bulldogs aren't ready.
Butler vs. Texas, Thursday, Nov. 23: This is the only game on the list that doesn't include a ranked team, but it is far from the least-interesting game here. Texas has an overhauled and talented roster, led by Mo Bamba. Butler isn't as good as they have been perhaps, but they are always well coached and tough. This is a very good measuring stick for the Longhorns and their hopes of being in the Top 25.
Louisville at Purdue, Tuesday, Nov. 28: Louisville has gone through a very tumultuous offseason obviously, and their first four games mean nothing - they would win them with only three players on the court. If they don't win all of those then they really have issues. This game, though, is different. Purdue is very good and will be ready for this one. We'll find out in a real hurry if Louisville's play will match their potential despite the issues.
Michigan at North Carolina, Wednesday, Nov. 29: The Big Ten-ACC Challenge always provides good action, and this is one of the most interesting games on the agenda this year. Michigan has overhauled their roster, and we don't really know what they are capable of. North Carolina is a Top 10 team. They could crush the Wolverines, or Michigan could shock the world.
Miami at Minnesota, Wednesday, Nov. 29: Miami is on the verge of the Top 10, but they will not have played a real game until this point. Minnesota is in the Top 15, but they are very talented, and I like them to be well into the Top 10 at some point. This should be a very entertaining and very competitive game.
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