More elite teams plus more head-to-heads equals nonconference bliss

Friday May 17th, 2013

Willie Cauley-Stein and Kentucky will battle Russ Smith and Louisville in a meeting of the last two national champions on Dec. 28. (Icon SMI)Willie Cauley-Stein and Kentucky will battle Russ Smith and Louisville in a meeting of the last two national champions on Dec. 28. (Icon SMI)

The offer came to me via email a few weeks ago after it was announced that the highly acclaimed musical The Book of Mormon was having a return engagement in Denver. A select few tickets were available through a local theater group. My wife enjoys theater, and that show is supposed to be incredibly funny, so I was game for a nice surprise for my better half. The date: Nov. 12. Gulp.

Perhaps it's because there appears to be a wonderfully large number of legitimate Final Four contenders for the 2013-14 season, but as schedules continue to come public, it feels like there are a ton of really compelling nonconference showdowns between elite teams. And one of the two dates that's absolutely a must-watch evening is Nov. 12.

That's the night of the Champions Classic in Chicago, when Kansas (with Andrew Wiggins) will face Duke (with Jabari Parker) and Kentucky (with everyone else in the freshman class) will square off with loaded, experienced Michigan State. That day also includes Florida at Wisconsin, assumedly along with the rest of the annual ESPN 24-hour marathon. Needless to say, that's not the evening you want to have theater tickets.

The other date to immediately circle on your calendar is Saturday, Dec. 14, when we already have Arizona at Michigan, Kentucky at North Carolina, and New Mexico "at" Kansas (in Kansas City) on the slate.

Overall, there is an impressive, growing list of big-boy battles and elite teams playing actual road games in dangerous spots. The list will keep growing, but here's a quick sampling from what we already know:

  • Duke-Kansas (Nov. 12 in Chicago)
  • Kentucky-Michigan State (Nov. 12 in Chicago)
  • Florida at Wisconsin (Nov. 12)
  • Arizona at San Diego State (Nov. 14)
  • Louisville-North Carolina (Very likely in Hall of Fame Tipoff, Nov. 24, Mohegan Sun)
  • Arizona vs. Duke (Very likely as NIT Season Tip-off final, Nov. 29)
  • Michigan at Duke (Dec. 3)
  • North Carolina at Michigan State (Dec. 4)
  • Kansas at Colorado (Dec. 7)
  • Kansas at Florida (Dec. 10)
  • Arizona at Michigan (Dec. 14)
  • Kansas vs. New Mexico (Dec. 14)
  • Kentucky at North Carolina (Dec. 14)
  • Memphis vs. Florida (Dec. 17 Jimmy V Classic)
  • Louisville at Kentucky (Dec. 28)
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