Make your plans now: Here are the best non-conference games of the season

Mike Huguenin

Most schools have finalized their schedules for next season (we're about 4½ months away from the first tip-off, by the way), which means it's time to peruse the schedules and come up with a list of must-see non-conference games.

Some of these will be played while the football season is in full swing. But these games are good enough that you will have to pay attention, anyway.

Here are the 12 best.

12. Ohio State at Duke, Nov. 28

Buzz: This is part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Neither seems likely to begin the season in the top 10, but there's still some intrigue for this early-season matchup. For instance, how much will the Buckeyes miss Jared Sullinger? And can Duke's frontcourt hang with Ohio State's even if the Buckeyes are without Sullinger?

11. Texas vs. UCLA in Houston, Dec. 8

Buzz: UCLA looks ready to become a national title contender again, thanks to an incredibly deep class of stud freshmen headed by Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. Despite losing leading scorer J'Covan Brown, who seemingly took every shot for the Longhorns last season, Texas looks to have a legit shot at the Big 12 title. The Longhorns should have an excellent backcourt, and there is a nice group of freshmen big men arriving to provide some help.

10. UNLV at North Carolina, Dec. 29

Buzz: The Runnin' Rebels gained national attention by whipping the Tar Heels in Las Vegas in November last season; this season, they will try to knock off the Heels in the Dean Dome. UNLV definitely has the athletes to hang with the Heels, who will be undergoing a big makeover after the loss of four starters.

9. San Diego State vs. Syracuse on a carrier off San Diego, Nov. 9

Buzz: This is one of the first games of the season, and it gives San Diego State an opportunity to make some early national noise. The Aztecs return their top four scorers and add a big-time recruit in F Winston Shepard, a five-star prospect. Syracuse lost three of its top four scorers, and it could take a while for the Orange to jell. Games 9 and 10 on this list are big opportunities for the Mountain West to gain even more national cachet.

8. Kentucky at Notre Dame, Nov. 29

Buzz: Kentucky isn't playing Indiana this season, so this game against a different Indiana-based school will have to suffice. Winning at Notre Dame isn't easy, and the Irish – who lose only one key player – are a talented bunch sure to get physical with the Wildcats.

7. San Diego State vs. UCLA in Anaheim, Calif., Dec. 1

Buzz: This is another chance for SDSU and the Mountain West to gain some attention. You could make a case that the winner of this one is the best team on the West Coast. This sets up nicely for a lot of reasons: Steve Fisher vs. Ben Howland. SDSU's veterans vs. UCLA's youngsters. Power conference vs. mid-major conference.

6. Kansas vs. Michigan State in Atlanta, Nov. 13

Buzz: While neither of these powerhouse programs look to have enough to contend for the national title, it's still Kansas vs. Michigan State and it's still Bill Self vs. Tom Izzo. And on a neutral court, to boot. It's early enough in the season to think that the winner simply will be the team that least misses its star from last season (Kansas with Thomas Robinson and Michigan State with Draymond Green).

5. Florida at Arizona, Dec. 15

Buzz: Both seem likely to go into the season as the second-best team in their league, Arizona behind UCLA in the Pac-12 and Florida behind Kentucky in the SEC. These teams met in Gainesville last season, and the Gators got a huge game from C Patric Young (25 points, 10 rebounds) to beat the smallish Wildcats. Well, the Wildcats are smallish no more. Coach Sean Miller signed three five-star big men to go with a nice cast of holdovers. Young is back for Florida, but to win this one, the Gators' backcourt will have to come up big.

4. Duke vs. Kentucky in Atlanta, Nov. 13

Buzz: Admit it – any time these teams get together on a basketball court, it's a must-watch game. Even if this doesn't seem as if it will be a vintage Duke team, the Blue Devils should have enough firepower to make things interesting. Plus, this is early enough in the season that it's possible UK players still will be getting acclimated to each other.

3. North Carolina at Indiana, Nov. 27

Buzz: This is another ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchup, and it features two of the pre-eminent programs in basketball history. IU will be the preseason pick to win the Big Ten; UNC should be picked second or third in the ACC. Indiana is a veteran group counting heavily on a true freshman point guard (Kevin "Yogi" Farrell). North Carolina is a young group counting heavily on a true freshman point guard (Marcus Paige).

2. North Carolina State at Michigan, Nov. 27

Buzz: This is part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and the best matchup in that event. The Wolfpack should be the preseason favorites to win the ACC; the Wolverines should be Indiana's main challenger in the Big Ten. Both should be in the top six or seven when the game tips off. Finally, for the first time in a long, long time, both are expected to be the best team in their state, which will only increase the pressure on coaches Mark Gottfried of NCSU and Tom Crean of IU.

1. Kentucky at Louisville, Dec. 29

Buzz: As if the in-state bragging rights weren't enough, this one could be for No. 1 in the polls. Truthfully, the polls don't mean anything. But those in-state bragging rights? They're the gift that keeps annoying your neighbor for 364 days. The sniping from the coaches in the week before the game will make this even more fun.

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Dan Wetzel: NCAA sanctions will cripple Penn State for years Recruiting impact of Penn State sanctions
Winners and losers from a wild week at the British Open

  • The Cubs were so bad in Game 1 that Cleveland police are worried

    The Chicago Cubs turned in a disappointing performance during their 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the World Series. Corey Kluber and the Indians’ big, bad bullpen completely dominated Chicago’s bats, giving up just seven hits over nine shutout innings. While that would normally be good news to the people of Cleveland, one local group seemed a bit concerned about the Cubs’ offensive struggles in Game 1. The Cubs’ bats no-showed so hard that the Cleveland police department tweeted that they filed a missing persons report for them.

    Big League Stew
  • Tim Tebow answered Stephen A. Smith's dumb question with a riveting inspirational speech

    Hate on Tim Tebow all you want, but there’s no denying he’s one of the most motivational guys in sports — period. On Tuesday he appeared with Stephen A. Smith on First Take and dropped the best speech you’ll hear all week. When he was criticized for taking a long shot at making an MLB roster, Tebow dropped the hammer.

    SB Nation
  • Giants finally release Josh Brown, John Mara cites team's 'misguided' actions

    Brown was left home from the Giants’ game against the Los Angeles Rams in London in Week 7 and was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list by the NFL, granting the team a roster spot to replace him. Giants co-owner John Mara explained (via ESPN) why the team released Brown now and not when the allegations of abuse first surfaced, or after the shocking documents in which Brown admitted he abused his wife were released by the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office.

    Shutdown Corner
  • NASCAR America: Brian Scott pleased with second-place finish at Talladega

    Richard Petty Motorsports announced it has partnered with the American Red Cross as the primary sponsor on the No. 44 of Brian Scott this weekend at Martinsville Speedway in an effort to help Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. Scott’s car will feature text message code fans can use in order to donate to the Red Cross’ efforts to help those impacted by Hurricane Matthew earlier this month. Fans can help people affected by Hurricane Matthew by visiting, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, or texting the word MATTHEW to 90999, which will be featured on the No. 44 Ford Fusion this weekend, to make a $10 donation. “With the significance that Hurricane Matthew had on the Carolinas, Virginia and really all of the Southeast coast, we knew it was extremely important to give back to our community in a partnership with the American Red Cross,” Richard Petty said in a press release.

    NASCAR Talk
  • Tigers not likely to deal Kinsler

    While Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila recently told local reporters he will be looking to cut payroll and shake up his roster before next season, Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech believes the Tigers have no interest in trading 2B Ian Kinsler and RHP Justin Verlander. "We want to get younger," Avila said two weeks ago. "We want to get leaner. We want to run the organization without having to go over our means." Kinsler, 34, who hit .288 with 28 home runs and 83 RBIs this season, will earn just $21 million over the next two years and be eligible for free agency after the 2018 season. Matthew Cerrone | Snapchat | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | About Me The Mets technically need a second baseman.

  • BBC survey finds 8% of fans would stop watching their team if it had a gay player

    A survey of more than 4,000 people, conducted by BBC Radio 5 Live, has found that 82% of soccer fans in England, Scotland and Wales would have no problem with having a gay player on their team. A lack of acceptance of gay players has made headlines in the NFL in recent years, and it remains a taboo subject in the European game. The first player to come out in England was Justin Fashanu in 1990.

    FC Yahoo
  • World Series: Running bases, returning sluggers and more keys to Cubs-Indians

    Watch the historic 2016 World Series live on Fox. CLEVELAND—The World Series is the last chapter of the Grapes of Wrath epoch for either the Cubs or Indians. Cardenal is one of 2,849 players to play in the championship drought years for the Cubs (1909 to 2015) or the Indians (1949 to 2015), but the only one to log at least 300 games for each franchise within those lost eras.

    Sports Illustrated
  • Jonathan Bernier exits Ducks game at Sharks with upper-body injury

    Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonathan Bernier exited his team’s Tuesday game against the San Jose Sharks with an upper body injury. It’s unclear when exactly Bernier was hurt. It was just the second game for Bernier with his new team this season.

    Puck Daddy
  • Jabrill Peppers makes inroads, but Lamar Jackson still Bovada’s overwhelming Heisman favorite

    Most observers have already handed the 2016 Heisman Trophy to Lamar Jackson, but there are still a couple of players who could make the race at least mildly interesting. The Louisville quarterback is, once again,‘s overwhelming favorite to win this year’s Heisman, coming in at 1/3 (bet three dollars to win one). Those are slightly shorter odds than the 1/2 Jackson was getting a week ago. Tied at 15/2 are Michigan’s jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Peppers was at 33/1 just three weeks ago, while Watson, the preseason wagering favorite, will have a high-profile matchup with Florida State in which to bolster his Heisman pedigree and chip into Jackson’s

    NBC Sports: CollegeFootballTalk
  • Experienced Cup drivers limited to 17 Xfinity and Truck Series races a year starting in 2017

    Kyle Busch will only be able to make 10 Xfinity Series starts in 2017. A rule limiting Sprint Cup drivers in NASCAR’s No. 2 and No. 3 series is official. NASCAR said Wednesday that Cup drivers with five years full-time experience in the series will be limited to 10 Xfinity races and seven Camping World Truck Series races a season starting in 2017.

    From The Marbles
  • HSBC Champions: Tee Times, TV Schedule, Prize Money

    (c) 2016 Time Inc. Star-Studded Field for First WGC Event of the Season Russell Knox looks to defend his 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions title against a star-studded field that includes Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler.Russell Knox

  • LeBron, Cavs receive rings, raise Cleveland's 1st banner in 52 years

    The city of Cleveland waited 52 years to win a major sports championship before the Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors last June. Tuesday’s ring ceremony at Quicken Loans Arena brought that opportunity for yet another celebration of a classic victory. NBA Finals MVP LeBron James and teammates finally received their championship rings in a ceremony before Tuesday’s season opener against the visiting New York Knicks.

    Ball Don't Lie
  • Welcome to the Tim Tebow baseball and PR Experience

    In the last seven days, I've talked to a handful of Mets insiders, none of whom believe Tim Tebow will be with the team next spring in Port St. Lucie. I've heard several different reasons behind their thinking. But, in the end, everyone agreed that -- if he's still with the organization -- he's more likely to show up in St. Lucie when minor-league camp starts, as opposed to when big leaguers arrive in February. This is good news ... if you ask me. It's nothing against Tebow, who has every right to pursue a career in baseball. It's just, the Mets have real goals, and real business at hand, as they try to right their ship and get back to the World Series. I expect Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah

  • Snap totals point to which tight end the Steelers could release if Ladarius Green is activated

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have a predicament on their hands when the team comes out of the bye week and starts preparing for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9. Some might think the predicament is whether Ladarius Green is ready to be activated to the 53-man roster yet, a task they have 21 days to officially do, but the real question is not if, but when, Green is activated, who becomes the odd man out at the tight end position? The current tight end depth chart reads as follows (in no particular order): Jesse James Xavier Grimble David Johnson There is no debate about Jesse James. The 2015 5th round draft pick has been the main man at the tight end position, routinely playing more than 90-percent of

    Behind the Steel Curtain
  • Griezmann wins best player award in Spain for last season

    VALENCIA, Spain (AP) Antoine Griezmann has won the best player award in the Spanish league for last season. The Atletico Madrid forward was announced as the winner in a ceremony organized by La Liga in Valencia on Monday. The Frenchman was not at the ceremony. Atletico also had Diego Simeone win the best coach award, Diego Godin earn the best defender award, and Jan Oblak clinch best goalkeeper. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was selected as the best forward, and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric as the best midfielder. Team captains voted for the top players in each position, while a data-analysis system generated the best player award. Barcelona won the Spanish league last season, ahead of Real Madrid and

  • Olympic boxing gold medalist Claressa Shields turning pro

    Claressa Shields celebrates after winning her second Olympic gold medal. There will be no third gold medal for Claressa Shields. The only American to win a boxing gold medal since Andre Ward in 2004 is turning professional and will make her pro debut on Nov. 19 in Las Vegas on the undercard of the Ward-Sergey Kovalev pay-per-view show.

    Yahoo Sports
  • Is Jake Browning the nation's best quarterback?

    Dr. Saturday's Graham Watson takes a look at the Washington Huskies quarterback in this week's Heisman Watch.

    Yahoo Sports Videos
  • Bruins' David Backes to miss at least 2 games after elbow surgery

    The injuries affecting the Boston Bruins isn’t only limited to their crease. Aside from being without their top two goaltenders they were also missing Frank Vatrano, Kevan Miller and David Backes. Backes is the newest member of the Bruins’ injured list and his situation was clarified a bit by the team on Wednesday morning.

    Puck Daddy
  • Column: Should NHRA get with the times to grow sport?

    Drag racing has been one of the biggest motorsport passions of my life. Ever since the first time I went to the now-defunct U.S. 30 Dragstrip in northwest Indiana – with the famous loud and echoing radio liner, “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, at beautiful U.S. 30 Dragstrip, where the GREAT ONES Runnnnnnn!” – in the early 1970s, I’ve been a big fan of the quarter-mile. (By the way, for those in the Midwest who remember U.S. 30, which closed nearly 30 years ago, efforts are under way to bring it back. But I digress.) As a reporter, I’ve covered drag racing since the early 1980s. I still get as excited today following the sport as I did back then. But … and you probably figured a but was coming. While

  • Why Ty Montgomery isn’t RB eligible on Yahoo (for now)

    Green Bay Packers wide receiver Ty Montgomery pushes Chicago Bears free safety Adrian Amos away as he carries the ball. There have been numerous tweets and questions about whether Ty Montgomery would become eligible at running back in Yahoo Fantasy after getting a chance to line up in the backfield after a rash of injuries for the Green Bay Packers. After much consideration, Yahoo Fantasy Sports has decided to leave Montgomery as receiver only at this time.

    Roto Arcade
  • How a fan helped Kenny Lofton get to Cleveland for World Series first pitch

    An Indians fan came to Kenny Lofton’s rescue Monday night, ensuring the team’s former center fielder would make it to Cleveland in time to throw out the first pitch prior to Game 1 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs. Lofton’s crazy adventure started in Los Angeles, where he was scheduled to take a red-eye flight to Cleveland late Monday night. As time ticked by and Lofton’s urgency to get to Cleveland hastened a bit, he was met by a fan who recognized him and offered his seat so Lofton could make an earlier flight.

    Big League Stew
  • Before season starts, watch top 10 dunks of preseason

    Starting Tuesday night, the games matter. The dunks matter. But before we move onto those dunks, let’s have some fun with the top 10 dunks of the meaningless preseason. They may not matter, but they certainly were fun. Of course there are some expected highlights — can you have a dunk reel without Russell Westbrook? — but game-winning dunks always get the top slot.

  • Unhappy 49ers fan edits Trent Baalke's Wikipedia page

    The San Francisco 49ers might be the worst team in the NFL. Yes, the Cleveland Browns are winless, but taking a glance at the 49ers roster, there’s not a lot there. As The Mercury-News discovered on Monday, someone did some … creative editing to Baalke’s Wikipedia page.

    Shutdown Corner
  • Melvin Gordon on his confidence, breakout 2016

    Yahoo Sports' Evan Doherty talks with San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon about his huge start to the 2016 season, motivation from fans and major injuries in the offense.

    Yahoo Sports Videos
  • Report: Jose Mourinho willing to let Wayne Rooney leave

    Wayne Rooney‘s future at Manchester United seems increasingly uncertain. A report in the Sun newspaper states that United’s captain and talisman, 31, has been told by manager Jose Mourinho that he can leave if it’s regular game time he wants. Rooney hasn’t started any of United’s last four Premier League games and was left out of their squad for the 4-0 thumping at Chelsea last weekend with a small injury. Per the report, Mourinho has spoken to Rooney’s advisers and has told them he can not guarantee the England national team captain a starting role. There’s no doubting Rooney’s huge impact at United over the past 12 years since he arrived at Old Trafford. He’s won five Premier League titles,