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College basketball's most intriguing nonconference games

Pat Forde
Yahoo Sports

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Rick Pitino and John Calipari stand at the center of college basketball again this season. (Getty)

Back by semi-popular demand, it's the Most Intriguing lists previewing the 2013-14 college basketball season. Here are links to the Most Intriguing Players and Most Intriguing Coaches. Today, the 25 Most Intriguing Nonconference Games (excluding tournament games):

1. Louisville at Kentucky, Dec. 28. As if this weren't already the most heated rivalry in the nation, there is unprecedented relevance: this matches the last two national champions, and both are ranked in the top three to start this season. Should be fun listening to John Calipari and Rick Pitino downplay the game before they try to beat each other's brains in.

2. Kansas vs. Duke in Chicago, Nov. 12. Duke freshman Jabari Parker vs. Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins in one of the juiciest early season individual matchups since Duncan-Camby in 1995. Not to mention the No. 4 team in the country vs. the No. 5 team in the country.

3. Kentucky vs. Michigan State in Chicago, Nov. 12. The other half of the greatest November doubleheader ever. If the No. 1 Wildcats want to go 40-0, they have to survive this test against the more experienced No. 2 Spartans.

4. Michigan at Duke, Dec. 3. Highlight game of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge matches last year's national runner-up with a team that has won 20 straight home games and hasn't lost a nonconference game in Cameron Indoor Stadium since 2000.

5. Indiana at Syracuse, Dec. 3. Rematch of the Orange's memorable Sweet Sixteen upset last March is also Syracuse's first foray into the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. John Swofford is going to like having these guys on his side.

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Andrew Wiggins will have ample opportunity to show off against top competition this season. (AP)

6. Kansas at Florida, Dec. 10. A big opportunity for the No. 10 Gators and by extension for a downtrodden Southeastern Conference that is trying to recover from an abysmal 2012-13 season.

7. Arizona at Michigan, Dec. 14. Last and biggest of the Wildcats' four nonconference games against 2013 NCAA tournament teams. Plenty of NBA scouts will be in Crisler Arena for a look at how Arizona freshman forward Aaron Gordon matches up with the Wolverines' future pros.

8. Harvard at Connecticut, Jan. 8. Biggest test for what looks like the best team in Crimson history and one of the best Ivy League teams in many years. This may be Harvard's last truly losable game before the NCAA tournament.

9. Kentucky at North Carolina, Dec. 14. Could be the first time the baby Wildcats play in front of more fans of the other team than their own. How do they handle their only hostile atmosphere between now and conference play? And will P.J. Hairston or Leslie McDonald be in uniform for the Tar Heels?

10. Ohio State at Marquette, Nov. 16. Tucked in amid 10 Buckeyes home games to start the season is this brawl in Milwaukee against the preseason favorites in the Big East. While most Ohio State fans are fixated on football, this is an early season Super Bowl for a basketball school like Marquette.

11. Memphis at Oklahoma State, Nov. 19. The biggest non-league game for the top 10 Cowboys, and one of the two biggest for the top 20 Tigers.

12. Duke vs. UCLA in New York, Dec. 19. The first true big-stage game for new Bruins coach Steve Alford. Does he bring a good enough team with him to Madison Square Garden to make it a game?

13. North Carolina at Michigan State, Dec. 4. Highlight game of the second day of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. But if the Tar Heels are still short-handed at that point – and they probably will be – this is a tough assignment for Roy Williams & Co.

14. Tennessee at Wichita State, Dec. 14. Another big game for the SEC and the Volunteers, who have more to prove than the Shockers. But with Creighton gone and the Missouri Valley Conference weakened, Wichita's key nonconference games (Tennessee, Saint Louis, Alabama, Davidson) take on added importance.

15. VCU at Virginia, Nov. 12. Too bad this game is overshadowed by the Champions Classic on Tuesday night, because it is a compelling one. A pair of ranked teams playing completely different styles and battling for Commonwealth bragging rights.

16. Oklahoma State at Louisiana Tech, Dec. 14. Major trap game for the Cowboys against a Tech team that is better than most suspect and could well win Conference USA in its first year in the league.

17. Notre Dame at Iowa, Dec. 3. Another non-traditional Big Ten-ACC Challenge game. If the Hawkeyes are serious about returning to relevance and making their first NCAA tournament since 2005-06, this would be an excellent time to show it.

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Kentucky's Julius Randle (30) should be the star attraction in Lexington this season. (USA Today)

18. Kentucky vs. Baylor in Dallas, Dec. 6. The NBA scouts will find this game very interesting, but there are a couple of other reasons to be interested: Will there be more Big Blue fans in JerryWorld than fans of the school two hours away? And will the Wildcats get revenge for a loss in Rupp Arena last season that signaled how bad things would be?

19. Florida Gulf Coast at North Carolina State, Nov. 26. Is there life after Andy Enfield in Dunk City? This looks like a good time and place to find out.

20. Mississippi at Coastal Carolina, Nov. 16. Marshall Henderson's first game of the year, after being suspended for the opener. How long does it take the bad boy of college basketball to get into it with the Chanticleers crowd in their bandbox gym? Or is he a changed man?

21. Gonzaga at Memphis, Feb. 8. You can always count on the 'Zags to schedule an ambitious nonconference game later in the season to break up the monotony. This one will be big for both teams.

22. Florida at Connecticut, Dec. 2. Too early in the season for Big Monday, but make no mistake – this is a big Monday game.

23. New Mexico vs. Kansas in Kansas City, Dec. 14. Good opportunity to appraise the Lobos post-Alford, under the direction of rookie head coach Craig "Noodles" Neal. We need more guys nicknamed Noodles.

24. VCU at Belmont, Dec. 1. With the unfortunate demise of the BracketBusters series, quality games between mid-majors have been shuffled back to November and December. (Apologies to VCU for the "mid-major" label, which doesn't really fit.)

25. Saint Louis at Wisconsin, Nov. 26. It won't be edge-of-your seat thrills, but it will be quality basketball between two of the most methodically successful teams in the country. First one to 40 wins.


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