Last season, after I ranked the
BCS conference teams were the only ones considered for these rankings, because they, unlike the Gonzagas and Butlers of the college hoops world, have the luxury of choice in scheduling. The goal was to look at who's voluntarily putting themselves through the wringer. My criteria for what's tough are, in order: willingness to play legitimate true-road and semi-road games; entries into competitive, neutral-court tournaments; non-gimme home dates; and overall schedule quality.
Will Georgetown, this year's No. 1-ranked team, use its schedule as a springboard for a deep NCAA tournament run ... or simply be exposed before it even hits the Big East?
Bold move by the Hoyas, building a schedule this difficult for their first season without big man
The Wildcats are the only other quality BCS conference team with three true road games. The UNC trip is one of the most-anticipated games of December, while the Portland trip is essentially a recruiting visit: power forward
There will be no easing into the point guard position for freshman
11/24 vs. Wake Forest (NIT Season Tip-Off, New York City)
The Vols are doing a veritable tour of the Big East, traveling to Pitt and UConn, and potentially facing Villanova at Madison Square Garden in the NIT Season Tip-Off final. Belmont (whom Tennessee plays twice!), Missouri State and Oakland are all solid mid-major foes, albeit at home, while the Memphis game will make for excellent early-January TV, showcasing three of the nation's best freshmen in the Tigers'
The Spartans received the toughest draw of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, traveling Duke for a game that could very well feature the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the country. The showdown between Lucas, the nation's best senior point guard, and the Blue Devils'
The Demon Deacons, like Georgetown, are willing to face non-BCS all-stars at home (Gonzaga) and on the road (Xavier and Richmond). The Richmond game is a homecoming of sorts for Wake freshman
In the first four days of December, we should find out whether this Wolfpack team -- newly loaded with elite freshman point guard
The Blue Devils have an impressive schedule, even though it only includes one semi-tough road game, at St. John's in a Duke-friendly building, Madison Square Garden. Their visit to Oregon, allowing Medford product
The Illini are the only team to crack the top 10 despite not playing a true road game. Trekking to Seattle to face Gonzaga pretty much counts as a road game, though. Winning the Coaches vs. Cancer event at Madison Square Garden -- by beating Texas and (most likely) Pitt -- would send an early statement that Illinois is a legit Big Ten contender. And 11 days after that's over, the Illini get to host North Carolina, a game in which I'm excited to see super-freshmen