Welcome back to the Top 15 Non-Conference Games of the 2015-16 Season!
We will now count down the Top 10 games to watch this year. Each game looks to be incredibly promising, and hopefully they do not disappoint.
So without further ado, let’s delve back into the countdown.
For the list of Honourable Mentions and #s 15 – 11, please click here!
#10. Kansas vs. Michigan State (Chicago, IL): Historic names collide in the Windy City at the very beginning of the season. Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans will face their toughest non-conference opponent in the second game of the season. The Kansas Jayhawks should be an incredible force this year, as they keep Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr, and Frank Mason III. Not to mention, KU adds two McDonald’s All-Americans, and another four star recruit. The inside game for the Jayhawks will be quite terrifying between Perry Ellis, Cheick Diallo, and Carlton Bragg. Not to mention their well versed backcourt in Selden and Mason. However like all of Tom Izzo’s teams, the Spartans will find a way to compete. MSU returns Denzel Valentine, and Bryn Forbes. They also add WVU transfer Eron Harris, who averaged 17 points per game as a sophomore. But, his off court extracurriculars may prevent him from seeing on court action this year. The big three should be able to carry Michigan State far enough to at least compete. However, the biggest challenge lies in stopping, or at least outscoring a front court that possibly contains three future pros.
#9. Utah vs. Duke: (New York, NY): Utah returns to the list for a second time, however this time a much more formidable opponent stares back at them: the Duke Blue Devils. Fully reloaded with the number one recruiting class in the country, the Dukies will look to be the first team since Florida to win back to back NCAA titles, and they easily have the manpower to do it. Behind freshmen Chase Jeter, Brandon Ingram, Derryck Thornton, and Luke Kennard, the Blue Devils will be without question one of the best teams in the country. They also return Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson, and Marshall Plumlee. This matchup is almost identical to the one just a few months ago in the NCAA Tournament. Will the experience of Jordan Loveridge, Brandon Taylor, and Dakarai Tucker be able to overcome the athleticism of Duke’s freshmen? Furthermore, Jakob Poeltl will give Chase Jeter his first real test of the season, and we will get to see if the frosh big man can overcome one of college basketball’s very best. Most likely, the game will come down to whether or not Coach K can get immediate maturity from his players as he did last season. As history has shown us, just like the Magic Eight Ball says, “Signs Point to Yes.”
#8. Indiana at Duke: Just as it will be the case for Duke the rest of the season, the freshmen will be put to the test of stopping well verse seniors. In this game, it will be Yogi Ferrell. Most likely stuck with the task of containing the all-conference senior will be Derryck Thornton and Grayson Allen, AKA Christian Laettner Jr. (Seriously, Google Image Search Grayson Allen and Christian Laettner, then tell me I’m wrong.) For the Hoosiers, they will have to worry about stopping Duke’s offense all together. Last season, Indiana was known for notoriously weak defense and most of last year’s team is returning for this season. Hopefully, Tom Crean will be able to inspire his team to work harder on protecting their own basket. The biggest issue for Indiana will be Brandon Ingram. Potentially a 2016 Lottery Pick, Ingram, the 6’9” and 190lbs small forward, is a matchup nightmare. He can do a little bit of everything, and his size makes him nearly unstoppable. But no matter what Ferrell or Ingram does for his respective team, it will be the team game that wins it in the end. The question that remains to be answered: will IU’s experience be able to overcome Duke’s athleticism?
#7. Oklahoma at LSU: The best freshman in the country will take on the best senior in the country on January 30th, 2016, for ultimate bragging rights. LSU freshman, and possible 2016 Wooden Award Winner, Ben Simmons will face Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. Once again, this game features superstar freshman against solid veteran talent. The Sooners will have their hands full trying to stop the point forward, as Simmons can play every single position on the floor. Oklahoma will also have to deal with freshman point guard Antonio Blakeney, as well as returning starters Keith Hornsby, and Tim Quarterman. Still, LSU’s entire game will rely on getting the freshmen to cooperate with the veteran players. With that said, this game won’t be a cakewalk for LSU either. In order to win, they’ll have to shut down Isaiah Cousins, and Ryan Spangler, along with Hield. All three will be seniors this season, and they will not go down quietly in their swansong season. The X Factor in this game will be Ben Simmons If somebody on Oklahoma can slow down his game, the Sooners experience should prove to be too much for the rest of the Tigers.
#6. California at Virginia: Even with losing Justin Anderson and Darion Atkins, the Virginia Cavaliers are going to be scary team this season. UVA brings back Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, and more. But with that said, Cal might be even scarier. The Golden Bears return First Team All Pac-12 senior Tyrone Wallace, deadeye shooter Jordan Mathews, and starter Jabari Bird. They also add Jaylen Brown, and Ivan Rabb, the number four and six recruit in ESPN100, respectively. California should be a terrifying, unstoppable, offensive powerhouse this year. Yet, this unstoppable force will meet the immovable object that is Virginia’s stingy stiff defense. As a matter of fact, the Cavaliers are projected to have the best defense in the country. So on December 22, 2015, after the unstoppable force collides with immovable object and the dust clears, which team will be left standing?
#5. Villanova vs. Oklahoma (Pearl Harbor, HI): Even with losing Darrun Hilliard, Dylan Ennis, and JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova should be primed for another successful season. They return starters Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono, rebounding machine Daniel Ochefu, and bring on the number two ranked point guard of the 2015 recruiting class in Jalen Brunson as well. Oklahoma seems to be a near Big 12 copy of Villanova, and the matchups look to be phenomenal. Josh Hart against Buddy Hield, Ryan Arcidiacono verses Isaiah Cousins, and Daniel Ochefu battling down low with Ryan Spangler.
#4. Villanova vs. Virginia: Image the very best parts of the two past games smashed together. Well this game is just that. Villanova versus Virginia is the Elite Eight game from last year we never got to see. However, both teams are back are raring to prove that last year was only a one game mishap. Brogdon, Gill, Mike Tobey, and the rest of Cavaliers will look to do what they plan to do to the rest of their competition: beat them down defensively. However, Villanova’s excellent shooting from deep will push UVA to their limits. Furthermore, Malcolm Brogdon and Jalen Brunson may give us the best guard battle all season.
#3. Kentucky at Kansas: After last year’s 70-42 thumping by Kentucky, Bill Self and Kansas will be set on revenge against coach Calipari and Company. The Jayhawks retool with their excellent recruiting class and bring back three key starters. But none of that should phase Kentucky as they add three top fifteen ESPN100 recruits in Charles Matthews, Isaiah Briscoe, and mystery man Skal Labissiere, along with five star, Canadian recruit Jamal Murray. Facing Kansas will the freshmen’s first test of the season. We will finally get to see if Labissiere and Murray are worth all the hype when they face off against Kansas’ Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr, respectively. The Marcus Lee, Cheick Diallo matchup will be another intriguing one to keep an eye on as well. Plus watching Frank Mason III and Tyler Ulis have the “I’m the best short guy in college basketball” battle will be so much fun to see too.
#2. Duke vs. Kentucky (Chicago, IL): This game should be unofficially renamed to the “My Freshman Recruits Are Better Than Yours” Battle. Coach Krzyzewski and Coach Calipari have the number one and number two recruiting classes in the country this year, respectively, and those freshmen will be fully on display this game. Besides being a near replica of the 2015 McDonald’s All-American Game, this matchup involves the very future of both programs with major implications for the 2016-17 season. With Coach K finally taking on the “One and Done Players”, he is beginning to battle Coach Calipari at his own recruiting game. Most likely the winner of this game will attract more of the best recruits from the 2016 class. These young men are playing for more than just pride and a major boost come March, these kids are playing for the very future of their programs. Both coaches know this, and both coaches will evoke nothing but the very best from each one of their players come November 17th.
#1. Maryland at North Carolina: Melo Trimble, Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon, Jake Layman, plus more takes on Marcus Paige, Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson, Justin Jackson, and company. Need I say anymore? The best team in the country will battle the (incredibly close to number one) second best team. This game will be for pride, bragging rights, and probably the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament come March. If there is one game you cannot miss, it is this game. December 1st, 2015, mark your calendars. Do it!
With that we round out the best nonconference games of the 2015-16 season. Hopefully all of these games will be as thrilling as the card makes it out to be. But, without a doubt each game will have major implications comes Selection Sunday. The college basketball season is almost upon us, get ready.