The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

ACC Preview: Ranking the 15 most intriguing non-league games

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Mason Plumlee and Duke will challenge Kentucky in Atlanta on Nov. 13

The Dagger's two-day ACC preview continues with a look at the conference's 15 most intriguing non-conference matchups next season.

1. Duke vs. Kentucky, Nov. 13 (Atlanta)

Comment: Are Kentucky's latest highly touted freshmen ready for the spotlight? Is Quinn Cook capable of becoming the true point guard Duke lacked last year? This showdown between two of college basketball's best-known programs will provide an early answer to both those questions.

2. North Carolina at Indiana, Nov. 27

Comment: The crown jewel of next year's Big Ten-ACC slate pits a pair of blue bloods who haven't faced each-other since 2005. The Tar Heels probably won't be a 30-win juggernaut since they're replacing four first-round draft picks, but the combination of forward James Michael McAdoo and a potent backcourt should provide them enough firepower to pose a threat to the talented Hoosiers.

3. Duke at Battle 4 Atlantis, Nov. 22-24

Comment: Duke's first-round draw at this season's toughest preseason tournament is a Minnesota team expected to finish in the upper half of the Big Ten and return to the NCAA tournament. Win that, and the Blue Devils get the winner of Memphis and VCU. And lurking on the other side of the bracket? A talented Missouri team and Big East favorite Louisville.

4. North Carolina State at Michigan, Nov. 27

Comment: The Big Ten-ACC Challenge delivers a heck of a matchup of league title contenders here. A point guard showdown between Trey Burke and Lorenzo Brown promises to be memorable, as does watching two of the better recruiting classes in the country try to make an early impact.

5. UNLV at North Carolina, Dec. 29

Comment: Dave Rice credits last year's nationally televised upset of top-ranked North Carolina for demonstrating his vision for the UNLV program to recruits and enabling the Rebels to land a top 10 class. The Tar Heels will have plenty of motivation to avenge that loss, but it will not be easy because this year's UNLV team is deeper and more talented than the one North Carolina couldn't beat last year.

6. Florida at Florida State, Dec. 5

Comment: Behind the perimeter shooting of Bradley Beal and the low-post scoring and defense of Patric Young, Florida shredded Florida State's vaunted defense last season en route to a 82-64 win. Beal has moved on to the NBA, but the Gators still won't be an easy matchup for the Seminoles with Young back as well as guard Kenny Boynton and forward Erik Murphy.

7. Ohio State at Duke, Nov. 28

Comment: The last time Ohio State met Duke, the Buckeyes stormed to an 11-0 lead and never wavered, winning 85-63 in Columbus last November. It probably won't be as lopsided this year with the Buckeyes traveling to Durham and losing Jared Sullinger to the NBA and William Buford to graduation.

[More NCAA hoops: • N.C. State aims to emerge from shadow of Tobacco Road rivals]

8. North Carolina at Maui Invitational, Nov. 19-21

Comment: In addition to a Dec. 10 road game in Austin, the Tar Heels could face Texas a second time this season. The young yet promising Longhorns would be the most likely Maui Invitational title game opponent for North Carolina if it can get by rebuilding Mississippi State in the opening round and either Butler or Marquette in the semifinals.

9. Michigan State at Miami, Nov. 28

Comment: If Miami is going to avoid narrowly missing the NCAA tournament for a second straight season, the Canes need to take advantage of opportunities like this for a big win on their home floor. With guard Durand Scott and big men Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji all back for their senior years, Miami has the firepower to be competitive, but Michigan State returns the core of a Sweet 16 team besides graduated star Draymond Green.

10. Maryland vs. Kentucky, Nov. 9 (Brooklyn)

Comment: There aren't a lot of marquee matchups on Maryland's non-league schedule this season, but the opener is a doozie. A Terps team relying on sophomores Nick Faust and Alex Len and a bevy of promising freshmen will try to upset a freshman-heavy Kentucky team that returns just one rotation player from last year's national championship.

11. Stanford at NC State, Dec. 18

Comment: NC State collapsed in the second half in Palo Alto a year ago, blowing a late lead thanks to a combination of turnovers and foul trouble. Both teams will be better this season with the Cardinal returning four starters including promising sophomore Chasson Randle and the Wolfpack adding an elite recruiting class to a roster that already includes C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown.

12. Duke vs. Davidson, Jan. 2  (Charlotte)

Comment: While Duke has dominated this in-state series under Mike Krzyzewski, this promises to be a more difficult test than usual. Not only do the Wildcats return all five starters from last year's NCAA tournament team, they also will benefit from facing the Blue Devils in Charlotte instead of Cameron Indoor Arena.

13. Minnesota at Florida State, Nov. 27

Comment: This under-the-radar Big Ten-ACC challenge matchup features two teams that expect to be in the NCAA tournament this March. With Trevor Mbakwe back for a sixth year and Rodney Williams, Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins returning as well, Minnesota should challenge for a top-five finish in the Big Ten.

14. Virginia at Wisconsin, Nov. 28

Comment: What this Big Ten-ACC challenge matchup will surely lack in points it will make up for with an intriguing storyline. Tony Bennett, who played at Wisconsin Green Bay and began his coaching career under his father at Wisconsin, will return to the Kohl Center sidelines as head coach of Virginia.

15. Clemson at Old Spice Classic, Nov. 22-25

Comment: Can Clemson be a surprise team in the ACC? This tournament should provide an early gauge. The Tigers open up against Gonzaga, a preseason top 25 team with a loaded starting lineup. Davidson, West Virginia and Oklahoma are among the other top teams in the tournament.

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