Atlantic 10 preview: Ranking the 15 most intriguing non-league games

The Dagger's two-day Atlantic 10 preview continues with a look at the conference's 15 most intriguing non-conference matchups next season.

1. Butler vs. Indiana, Dec. 15 (Indianapolis)

Comment: Since the formation of the Crossroads Classic pitting Indiana's top four teams against one-another, this has been the matchup many have wanted to see. Can a Butler team that has toppled so many high-profile programs take down a Hoosiers squad that may enter the season No. 1 in the nation? We'll find out in two months.

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2. Xavier vs. Cincinnati, Nov. 19

Comment: Even though Xavier appears headed for a rebuilding season this year, the first post-brawl matchup between the Musketeers and Bearcats will still be fascinating to watch. Expect both teams to be on their best behavior, and expect Cincinnati to avenge last year's drubbing.

3. Temple vs. Duke, Dec. 8 (East Rutherford, N.J.)

Comment: In last year's matchup, Temple upset Duke 78-73 behind 22 points from guard Khalif Wyatt and 17 from forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson. The Blue Devils better find some answers for those two because the Owls have both of those guys back.

4. Gonzaga at Butler, Jan. 19

Comment: ESPN College GameDay will visit Hinkle Fieldhouse for this matchup between two of the nation's premier non-BCS programs. Gonzaga is loaded this season with a pair of sharp-shooting sophomore guards in Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell and one of the nation's deepest frontcourts.

5. Saint Louis at Washington, Nov. 28

Comment: Saint Louis embarrassed Washington last season in Lorenzo Romar's return to the Arch City, building a 20-point first-half lead and never letting the Huskies come close to getting back into it. The loss of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten suggests Washington won't contend in the Pac-12 this season, but the Huskies still have firepower and they're far better at home than on the road.

6. VCU at Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24)

Comment: VCU is guaranteed three challenging games in the nation's best preseason tournament this season. First up for the Rams is Memphis, another up-tempo team that will try to run with Shaka Smart's team. Duke, Louisville, Missouri, Minnesota, Stanford and Northern Iowa round out the loaded field.

7. Temple vs. Syracuse, Dec. 22 (New York City)

Comment: Who plays Duke, Kansas and Syracuse out of conference in the same season? Temple, that's who. The Owls will have to overcome a partisan Syracuse crowd and shoot well against the Orange's trademark zone to have a chance at the upset.

8. UMass at Harvard, Nov. 13

Comment: Unless Boston College surprises or one of these two teams disappoints, this is a matchup to determine the state of Massachusetts' best team. Harvard may be an underdog because of the season-long suspensions of senior captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, but the Crimson have enough young talent to still pose a challenge for the Minutemen.

9. Alabama at VCU, Dec. 15

Comment: When Anthony Grant coached at VCU from 2006 to 2009, his contract stipulated that the school that someday hired him away would have to schedule a home-and-home series against the Rams as penance. As a result, Alabama hosted VCU last November, a 72-64 Crimson Tide win, and will visit the Rams in Richmond this season.

10. Saint Joseph's at Drexel, Dec. 31

Comment: The best team in Philadelphia this season? Believe it or not, it may not be a member of the Big Five. CAA favorite Drexel will look to strengthen its case against a Saint Joseph's team that appears to be the most talented Phil Martelli has had since the days of Jameer Nelson and Delonte West.

11. Richmond at Kansas, Dec. 18

Comment: Richmond has forged a giant-killing reputation thanks to its history of NCAA tournament upsets against marquee programs. The Spiders probably have too many frontcourt questions to contend in this year's loaded A-10, but they'll still be dangerous when they take aim at a Kansas team that knocked them out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16 two years ago.

12. Butler at Xavier, Nov. 13

Comment: This is not a misprint. Butler at Xavier is really a non-conference game even though both programs will be in the Atlantic 10 this year. The programs scheduled the game as part of ESPN's 24-hour marathon before Butler joined the league and decided to play anyway rather than find new opponents.

13. Butler at Maui Invitational, Nov. 19-21

Comment: Butler will be as battle-tested as anyone in the preseason thanks to a brutal non-league schedule meant to vault the Bulldogs into at-large contention in the Horizon League rather than the tougher Atlantic 10. Up first for Butler in Maui is Marquette, followed perhaps by North Carolina in the semifinals.

14. Saint Joseph's at Villanova, Dec. 11

Comment: The Holy War may be a mismatch this season, but in a new twist, it won't be because Villanova is the favorite. Although the Wildcats are the home team, they have a lot to prove after a disastrous 2011-12 season and the unexpected departures of starting guards Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek and forward Markus Kennedy.

15A. Dayton at Charleston Classic, Nov. 15-18

Comment: How much has Dayton improved? Could the Flyers be an Atlantic 10 sleeper? This early-season tournament should provide a barometer. A Dayton team led by point guard Kevin Dillard and a deep frontcourt could face Baylor in the semifinals if it springs a mild upset against Colorado in the opening round.

15B VCU at Old Dominion, Dec. 7

Comment: A reader correctly noted this was omitted from the list, so it's being added here. What has traditionally been one of the CAA's premier rivalry games is now a compelling non-league matchup between one team that has already left the CAA and another that is Conference USA bound in 2013.