Duke, Kansas, Gonzaga, extra: 10 must-see males’s faculty basketball matchups

By John Fanta
FOX Sports activities Faculty Basketball Author 

There was no scarcity of storylines within the faculty basketball offseason.

With main star expertise returning for the 2022-23 season, together with Kentucky‘s Oscar Tshiebwe, North Carolina‘s Armando Bacot, Gonzaga‘s Drew Timme, Michigan‘s Hunter Dickinson and others, the game is in a wholesome place.

Whereas some nonconference schedules are nonetheless being finalized, let’s have some enjoyable and sit up for 10 of my favourite nonconference matchups within the upcoming season. 

There are two necessary guidelines on this column to up the ante: I couldn’t use a crew twice (which was tough), and I didn’t select any Thanksgiving week matchups as a result of these may very well be in their very own class. This was a problem to pick as a result of there have been a number of robust candidates! 

The next video games are within the order they’re going to seem on the calendar.

Nov. 15: Duke vs. Kansas, Gainbridge Fieldhouse

The reigning nationwide champion Jayhawks squaring off towards first-year head coach John Scheyer and the Blue Devils within the second week of the season? That sounds stunning.

This matchup is why the Champions Basic continues to be such a convincing success: It pits the most important manufacturers within the sport in an early-season showcase. The matchup within the backcourt between Duke’s Jeremy Roach and Kansas’ Dajuan Harris needs to be unbelievable.

It’ll even be fascinating to see how a pair of new-look frontcourts sq. off, because the Blue Devils usher in Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Liveley, whereas Kansas has Texas Tech switch Kevin McCullar and freshman Ernest Udeh. This might be an excellent early-season measuring stick for 2 applications that when once more count on to be within the nationwide championship image come March.

Kansas Jayhawks bench Invoice Self

FOX Sports activities’ Mark Titus and Tate Frazier react to Kansas pulling Invoice Self and Kurtis Townsend from recruiting occasions amid the NCAA probe.

Nov. 18: Villanova vs. Michigan State, Breslin Heart 

That is one in every of two Gavitt Video games headliners (the opposite being Xavier internet hosting Indiana) within the annual Large East-Large Ten convention problem. Tom Izzo’s Michigan State crew might be joyful to again dwelling for this marquee matchup after dealing with Gonzaga on an plane service in San Diego and Kentucky in Indianapolis within the earlier two video games.

In the meantime, Kyle Neptune will face his first main problem as head coach at Villanova, as a new-look Wildcats crew will tackle a stern highway check on the Breslin Heart. For each of those groups, the query is sort of easy: Do they possess an alpha who can rating late in video games and end for his or her crew?

The Spartans will search for A.J. Hoggard or Malik Hall to fill that function, whereas the Wildcats are relying on Caleb Daniels or Brandon Slater to select issues up with Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels gone. By way of freshman taste on this early-season recreation, hold a watch out for Villanova’s Cam Whitmore, a five-star recruit who needs to be the Large East Preseason Freshman of the Yr.

Nov. 27: Saint Louis at Auburn, Neville Enviornment

I do know what you are considering. These aren’t two huge faculty basketball manufacturers. However that is arguably the perfect crew within the Atlantic-10 getting a treasured alternative towards among the best groups within the SEC.

The backend of this home-and-home sequence is what faculty basketball may use extra of, giving a crew outdoors the Energy 6 that might very properly have NCAA Event credentials a possibility to compete with a premiere program. Credit score to Bruce Pearl for going to Saint Louis final season, a recreation the Tigers received 74-70.

This can be a large highlight recreation for Yuri Collins, who’s returning to the Billikens for a fourth season after averaging 11.1 factors and seven.9 assists (!) final season. On the opposite facet, Auburn has Wendell Green and KD Johnson again to focus on the backcourt, however the losses of Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler to the NBA imply the Tigers can have a special look on the inside.

5-star recruit Yohan Traore highlights the incoming freshmen for Pearl, whereas Dylan Cardwell and Morehead State switch Johni Broome will contribute within the paint as properly. This may very well be a High-25 matchup, however greater than something, these are two NCAA Event-level groups committing to play one another with no convention problem or Thanksgiving week match creating the matchup. For that cause, we’re highlighting it. 

Nov. 30: North Carolina at Indiana, Simon Skjodt Meeting Corridor

Two huge manufacturers. Two applications with expectations to win their convention titles and compete for a nationwide championship. Two groups with 4 of 5 projected starters anticipated to be returning gamers.

This can be a matchup between two heavyweights at Meeting Corridor, with Hubert Davis and Mike Woodson pacing the sidelines. The frontcourt matchup between the Tar Heels and Hoosiers encompasses a pair of the perfect items within the nation. UNC has Bacot and Pete Nance, whereas IU will counter with Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson.

Between these 4 gamers, you get a mixed 16 years of school basketball expertise. R.J. Davis and Caleb Love cost North Carolina’s backcourt, whereas Indiana additionally has expertise in fifth-year level guard Xavier Johnson. This recreation has freshman taste, too, with five-star IU prospect Jalen Hood-Schifino headlining the matchup. Faculty basketball is best when Bloomington is rocking, and this recreation will put that on full show.

Dec. 1: Creighton at Texas, Erwin Occasions Heart 

One of many headliners for the 2022 version of the Large 12-Large East battle, the Bluejays and Longhorns squaring off may very well be a top-15 showdown at Texas.

Creighton is receiving buzz as a top-five crew within the nation within the preseason ballot, because the Bluejays deliver 4 of their 5 starters again and welcome the reigning Summit League Participant of the Yr, South Dakota State switch Baylor Scheierman. On the flip facet, Chris Beard enters Yr 2 on the helm with one of many nation’s greatest switch pickups, Iowa State‘s Tyrese Hunter, in addition to Marcus Carr again for his fifth season of school basketball to anchor the backcourt.

This matchup may also see Texas huge man Christian Bishop face his former crew. He performed an integral function on the Jays’ Candy 16 crew in 2021 earlier than heading to Austin. Each groups are stacked, and this needs to be a chief highway check for Creighton, which would be the Large East favourite getting into the season.

The Longhorns are attempting to take a leap underneath Beard, and it is a treasured dwelling recreation and résumé alternative to take action.

Dec. 2: Gonzaga vs. Baylor, Sanford Pentagon

Faculty basketball’s solely two applications to be ranked No. 1 in every of the previous three seasons will sq. off in South Dakota on the primary Friday of December. This can be a rematch of the 2021 championship recreation that noticed the Bears blow out the Zags in Indianapolis.

One of these recreation is why Timme is again at Gonzaga: to avenge a loss that ended perfection and seize the elusive nationwide title for Mark Few’s program. In the meantime, Scott Drew has elevated Baylor basketball to a constant power within the Large 12 and nationally. He can have LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler again to cost the backcourt, whereas Flo Thamba can have the duty of coping with Timme. 

Gonzaga has a backcourt with returning expertise in Nolan Hickman, Rasir Bolton and Julian Strawther. There isn’t any query about Gonzaga, who may very well be ranked No. 1 or 2 within the preseason ballot, however each of those applications needs to be locks for the preseason prime 10. Credit score to those two applications for making this heavyweight matchup occur.

Dec. three: West Virginia at Xavier, Cintas Heart 

Bob Huggins vs. Sean Miller. In 2004, these two coaches had been assembly within the Crosstown Shootout between the Cincinnati Bearcats and Xavier Musketeers.

Within the upcoming season, the Large 12 and Large East have made it potential for Huggins, who’s being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Corridor of Fame in September, to return to the Queen Metropolis, the place he was once heckled by Musketeer followers as a part of the pageantry and character of the UC/XU rivalry. This time, he’ll deliver his West Virginia crew to the Cintas Heart with the Miller 2.zero period on the opposite facet of this convention problem matchup.

Xavier may very properly be a High-25 crew and a prime contender within the Large East, whereas WVU figures to be across the center of the Large 12. This might be a check for Texas switch Tre Mitchell and a new-look Mountaineers frontcourt as they meet Jack Nunge and Zach Freemantle. The Cintas Heart needs to be buzzing for this nostalgic teaching matchup.

Dec. 7: UConn vs. Florida, Exactech Enviornment at Stephen C. O’Connell Heart

Dan Hurley vs. Todd Golden in Gainesville appears … fascinating. The Huskies and Gators are finalizing a home-and-home that started in 2019, when Connecticut took a 62-59 win over UF in Storrs. The rematch brings a high quality alternative for each groups, as Golden appears to make Florida an element once more within the SEC and UConn is hoping for a breakthrough month of March within the upcoming season.

The star watch might be on UConn’s Adama Sanogo and Florida’s Colin Castleton within the frontcourt. By way of guard play, will probably be fascinating to see St. Bonaventure graduate switch Kyle Lofton at Florida within the coming season, and he’ll get a great problem on this one towards the Huskies’ powerful protection. This is perhaps a little bit of an underrated nonconference recreation, however these two applications may find yourself trying again at this one as a big win for his or her résumés forward of league play.

Dec. 17: Kentucky vs. UCLA, Madison Sq. Backyard

These two manufacturers at The World’s Most Well-known Enviornment with the vacation season in New York Metropolis in full swing? Sure, please. Between these two applications, you get a mixed 19 nationwide championships.

Jaime Jaquez and the Bruins would be the Pac-12 front-runners this season, whereas John Calipari’s Kentucky crew is highlighted by Tshiebwe and five-star recruits Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston.

The purpose guard matchup is an enchanting one between a pair of seniors, because the Wildcats’ Sahvir Wheeler will meet the Bruins’ Tyger Campbell. The 2 court docket generals mixed for 11.2 assists per recreation this previous season.

By way of bigger storylines, Calipari enters a vital season in Lexington after a first-round exit within the NCAA Event final yr and an absence from the Large Dance the season earlier than. In the meantime, Mick Cronin enters Yr four on the helm of the Bruins using a number of momentum.

UCLA added a pair of five-star prospects in combo guard Amari Bailey and heart Adem Bona, each of whom might be counted on to make a right away affect with Johnny Juzang, Jules Bernard, Peyton Watson and Myles Johnson gone. That stated, the Bruins made it to the second weekend of the NCAA Event in back-to-back seasons and may very well be a top-five crew once more with Jaquez main the way in which.

Date TBD: Alabama at Houston, Fertitta Heart

Final yr, these two groups produced one of many wildest video games within the common season, with the Crimson Tide edging the Cougars in controversial vogue after a Fabian White Jr. tip-in try was blocked by JD Davison to finish the sport. Davison’s block was questioned and regarded as a purpose have a tendency, and Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson wouldn’t let the officers go away the court docket. 

Alabama head coach Nate Oats waited for a handshake, ensuing on this wild scene in Tuscaloosa. 

So, yeah, the rematch needs to be enjoyable.

The Tide may not be a High-25 crew, however Oats has a extremely touted recruiting class, highlighted by five-star freshmen Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley. With Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark again from accidents and 4 of the Cougars’ 5 projected starters returning to this system, Kelvin Sampson has a crew that might get again to the Last 4.

Greater than something, the primary leg of this home-and-home was a thrill, and the rematch may produce some extra drama and a revenge alternative.

John Fanta is a nationwide faculty basketball broadcaster and author for FOX Sports activities. He covers the game in a wide range of capacities, from calling video games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Community to offering commentary on The Area of 68 Media Community. Comply with him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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