Road to the Final Four at Ford Field: Games You Can't Miss Before New Year's
The non-conference schedule always provides for a month and a half of premiere match-ups between the nation's best teams. Here's a look at the top games before the calendar turns to 2009 (in chronological order).
ESPN Hoops Marathon November 18th
The World Wide Leader kicks of the season with 23 hours of college basketball highlighted by several can't miss games. UMass opens the season at Memphis at midnight. Kentucky travels to North Carolina where College GameDay will be setting up shop. Preseason NIT Regional Finals will also take place throughout the night.
Davidson vs. UAB Preseason NIT
This game is only a possibility, but who wouldn't want to see Robert Vaden and Stephen Curry go basket for basket? Davidson has to knock off one of the best teams in the country in Oklahoma while UAB needs to beat the Lute Olsen-less Arizona Wildcats in order for this dream match-up to happen.
Maui Invitational Final November 26th
North Carolina is almost a shoe in on its side of the bracket that features Oregon, Alabama, and host Chaminade. If the Tar Heels reach the championship game they'll most likely face either Notre Dame or Texas, two games to drool over. Tyler Hansbrough against Luke Harangody? The UNC guards vs. the Texas guards? The final would be the best game of the non-conference slate.
Tennessee-Martin at USC November 28th
Who against USC? UT-Martin features one of the nation's best players in Lester Hudson. The only man to ever record a quadruple-double will take on one of the best freshmen in the country in DeMar DeRozan. The Skyhawks may not have that great of a chance to win, but it'll be a showcase of two tremendously talented players.
UCLA at Texas December 4th
Last year, Texas upset UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. This year, the Bruins get a chance to return the favor against the Longhorns. Both teams should enter the season at or in the top-10 which means this could be a Final Four preview. Both teams are stacked in the backcourt so look forward to an up-tempo game.
Marquette at Tennessee December 16th
The talented trio of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews will have its handful with the best duo of wings in the country in Tyler Smith and Scotty Hopson. Volunteer coach Bruce Pearl will get to stay in Knoxville for this game, but he knows this Wisconsin foe very well from his days coaching UW-Milwaukee.
The Day of December 20th
Below are five match-ups in particular that could feature ranked teams, but there are so many more good games on this date they have to get mentioned. North Dakota State beat Marquette in the past so why not USC? Arizona heads north to face UNLV who will look to stud guard Wink Adams to lead them past the Wildcats. Belmont is the Atlantic Sun favorite and capable of pulling off an upset against Tennessee.
Syracuse at Memphis December 20th
The Orange will head south to face the nation's runner ups. Both teams figure to hang around the top-20 all season and both teams also like to get up and down the court to score prolifically. Memphis and the 'Cuse are up to their knees in talent.
Duke vs. Xavier December 20th
These two teams will tip off on a neutral court in New Jersey. The A-10 favorites should give the favorites to finish second behind UNC in the ACC a run for their money. The Musketeers lost a lot of talent from last year's squad, but retain enough while bringing in several key newcomers to stay close to being a top-25 team.
UConn at Gonzaga December 20th
Last year the Bulldogs upset the Huskies in Boston 85-82. Both teams return the majority of their key players which means this should shape up to be a top-10 showdown. UConn has one of the best frontcourts in the country, but the Zags are no slouch either. Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt will give the Huskies fits.
Davidson at Purdue December 20th
Any game featuring Stephen Curry against a team as good as Purdue is a must watch. The Boilermakers have solid defenders in the backcourt, but Curry may be too much for Purdue.
Michigan State at Texas December 20th
A.J. Abrams, Kalin Lucas, Raymar Morgan, Connor Atchley, and Damion James. That's a starting five together that could beat anybody, but on December 20th, those players' teams will duke it out in Austin.
Siena at Pittsburgh December 23rd
The Saints proved to be one of the best Cinderellas last season when they upset Vanderbilt in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, Siena brings back all five starters, but also brings in a top JUCO transfer while Pittsburgh won the Big East conference tournament and returns most of its top players.
Temple at Villanova December 29th
The Big Five's two best teams will square off two days before the New Year. The Wildcats return a strong group of guards headlined by junior Scottie Reynolds. The Owls feature one potential All-American in Dionte Christmas who's trying to repeat as Atlantic 10 scoring champion for the third year in a row.
Georgetown at UConn December 29th
The only conference game to make the list features two teams with tons of tradition from the best conference in America. The Big East opener for both teams will pin the veteran frontcourt of Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet against the inexperienced Hoya front line of Greg Monroe, Henry Sims, and also veteran forward DaJuan Summers.
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