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Top 10 Men’s College Basketball Games to Circle in 2022–23

From the Champions Classic to conference showdowns, these are the matchups you don’t want to miss.

We’re just days away from the start of the 2022–23 college basketball season, bringing five straight months of compelling games. The sheer number of matchups on the schedule can be overwhelming—there are 363 teams, after all—so we’re here to help. Here are 10 men’s regular-season games we’re circling, ranging from November’s Champions Classic all the way to an SEC showdown in the first week of March.

*Predicted winner margin in parentheses, via T-Rank

10. No. 16 Villanova (-0.7) at Connecticut (Dec. 28, 2022)

Villanova has dominated this old-school Big East rivalry since UConn originally left the conference, with the Huskies picking up their first win since 2014 in a 71–69 thriller at the XL Center last season. However, Dan Hurley has steered UConn out of its mid-decade slump back toward the top of the Big East and will hope to capitalize on a potential power vacuum in the league—Villanova has won seven of the last nine conference championships but faces an uncertain future with legendary coach Jay Wright’s retirement.

The Huskies suffered significant losses to the pro game this summer, including diminutive, do-it-all point guard R.J. Cole and sharpshooting wing Tyrese Martin. But with Adama Sanogo continuing the lineage of dominant centers in Storrs, the addition of Virginia Tech standout Nahiem Alleyne and the nation’s 10th-best home-court advantage over the last 60 games, per KenPom, this should be one of the Big East’s most entertaining and impactful matchups this season.

9. No. 13 Indiana at No. 23 Illinois (-3.1) (Jan. 19, 2023)

Die-hard Hoosiers likely still wince remembering when Tyler Griffey miraculously slipped away from the Indiana defense for a last-second layup to best No. 1 IU and put an embarrassing dent in its storybook 2012–13 season. And with Indiana poised for its most successful campaign since then, Illinois and its ravenous Orange Krush at the State Farm Center will relish the opportunity to play spoiler once again.

Indiana’s biggest move this offseason was managing to keep second-team All-Big Ten star Trayce Jackson-Davis in Bloomington. He’ll pair with five-star Florida flip Malik Reneau and veteran Race Thompson to create a formidable frontcourt in candy stripes. Conversely, Illinois made waves plundering the transfer portal, securing two of the summer’s most sought-after prospects in Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer. In what projects to be a rare down year for the Big Ten, this elite matchup should provide the best spectacle of the season and offer one of the two conference favorites early-season separation.

8. No. 8 UCLA at No. 17 Arizona (-2.9) (Jan. 21, 2023)

The Bruins have fared better than most on their most recent treks to the notoriously hostile Tucson desert, posting a 4–1 record over the last five matchups. Mick Cronin has the UCLA program tracking back toward its blue-blooded best, surging to the Final Four in 2021 and hoping to reach three consecutive Sweet 16’s for the first time since ’08. Arizona, likewise, didn’t skip a beat following the scandal-ridden departure of Sean Miller, as former Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd led the Wildcats to a 33–5 record along with Pac-12 regular-season and tournament crowns.

Fans tuning in should enjoy a healthy dose of offense (and Bill Walton anecdotes), as the winner of all three matchups last year eclipsed 75 points and both teams have finished inside the top 15 for offensive efficiency each of the last two seasons. Sharpshooting transfers Courtney Ramey (Texas) and Cedric Henderson Jr. (Campbell) will help reinforce a Arizona roster that suffered significant losses to the NBA draft. On the other side, expect more of the same from UCLA’s familiar faces Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell.

7. No. 4 Kentucky at No. 2 Gonzaga (-9.7) (Nov. 20, 2022)

Wildcats coach John Calipari watched future conference mate Texas take a pummeling in “The Kennel” last season and decided he wanted nothing to do with Gonzaga’s intimate venue. The two teams have opted to play about a mile up the road at the 12,000-seat Spokane Arena, where Gonzaga and Kentucky will meet for just the second time ever. Bart Torvik’s T-Rank projects that the change in venue won’t do the Wildcats much good, listing Kentucky as nearly 10-point underdogs. However, this matchup serves as one of the greatest concentrations of talent you’re likely to see on a college basketball court this season—they have a combined 19 former four-and-five star recruits—and provides an elite individual battle between early Wooden Award favorites Drew Timme and Oscar Tshiebwe.

Kansas’s Jalen Wilson puts up a layup

Wilson is one of the few key returners from the Jayhawks’ title run.

6. No. 5 Baylor at No. 5 Kansas (Kansas -1.3) (Feb. 18, 2023)

Over the last couple of years, the Big 12 regular-season crown has been a telling prerequisite for a Final Four bid. Since 2017, every Big 12 winner has survived to college basketball’s final weekend, with Baylor and Kansas hoisting national championship trophies each of the last two seasons. So this late-season matchup at Allen Fieldhouse between the conferences’ two front-runners should be pivotal in crowning its all-important champion.

Kansas lost its top three contributors to the pro game, and it’s expected much of its offense will run through returners Jalen Wilson, who averaged 12 points per game during the NCAA tournament, and Dajuan Harris Jr. Coach Bill Self added reinforcements in Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar Jr. along with five-star recruits Gradey Dick and MJ Rice, culminating in a roster that shouldn’t skip a beat. Baylor, alternatively, returns key contributors LJ Cryer, Adam Flagler and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (the last of whom is still rehabbing an injury), who will hope to avenge a 34-point drubbing in Lawrence last season.

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5. No. 1 North Carolina at No. 13 Indiana (-1.9) (Nov. 30, 2022)

The preseason AP top 25 poll confirmed one thing: The media believes in North Carolina. The Tar Heels scooped up 47 of the 62 available first-place votes eight months after falling short in the national title game against Kansas, the hype being bolstered by UNC’s deep roster. North Carolina returns four of the top five scorers from last year's Final Four team, including a devastating backcourt of Caleb Love and R.J. Davis, while also adding Northwestern star Pete Nance over the offseason.

After a Charmin-soft opening to the season, UNC should enjoy a solid tuneup at the Phil Knight Invitational right before heading to Bloomington, where it hasn’t won in nearly two decades. Armando Bacot and Trayce Jackson-Davis, two of the best interior players in the nation, will provide a fantastic individual matchup, and Assembly Hall will be ready to erupt after years of the program’s mediocre basketball.

4. No. 7 Duke (-1.3) vs. No. 5 Kansas (Nov. 15, 2022)

While the Kansas-Duke matchup on the gridiron drew an ill-fated internet bid for College GameDay, their meeting on the hardwood in November will require no such promotion. The bluebloods’ three contests in the last six seasons have all turned into instant classics, producing an average margin of victory below three, and this season projects to offer another elite showdown. Both teams enjoyed strong runs in last year’s March Madness, with Duke ultimately sending Coach K somberly into the twilight after a Final Four loss to North Carolina, while Kansas bested the Tar Heels to claim its first title since 2008.

Duke’s first-year coach, Jon Scheyer, has been blessed with more than enough talent to tangle with the Jayhawks, trotting out a trio of top-six 2022 recruits in Dereck Lively II (No. 1), Dariq Whitehead (No. 4) and Kyle Filipkowski (No. 6). Between the talented rosters and illustrious programs, this will be a fantastic matchup on just Day 8 of the college basketball slate.

3. No. 5 Kansas at No. 4 Kentucky (-4.0) (Jan. 18, 2023)

I promise this is the last you’ll hear about the Jayhawks, but this semiregular matchup is comfortably the best product of ESPN’s intraconference challenge programming. Kansas and Kentucky have met four times in the SEC/Big-12 Challenge, and, unlike many elite nonconference matchups held in soulless neutral-site arenas, these games alternate between two of the sport’s most hallowed grounds in Rupp Arena and Allen Fieldhouse. The most surprising result in series history came last season, when the Wildcats waltzed into Lawrence and pummeled the eventual national champions, 80–62. For Kansas’s revenge tour, the most pressing question surrounds how it will approach containing Tshiebwe, with four-star freshman Ernest Udeh Jr. currently slated to duke it out with the reigning Naismith winner.

2. No. 4 Kentucky at No. 10 Arkansas (-2.5) (March 4, 2023)

Kentucky had never been out-recruited by an SEC foe in the history of 247Sports’s team recruiting rankings, which date back over a decade. That is, until Arkansas boss Eric Musselman hit the trail this offseason. The Hogs secured three five-star recruits—Nick Smith Jr., Jordan Walsh and Anthony Black—as part of Sports Illustrated’s second-ranked recruiting class in 2022. Kentucky has some talented freshmen in its own right in Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston, but will assume an unfamiliar role as the more experienced team with fourth-year guards Sahvir Wheeler and CJ Fredrick along with Tshiebwe. These two SEC titans will do battle on the final day of the league’s regular season, which could be crucial in crowning a conference champion.

1. No. 1 North Carolina at No. 7 Duke (-3.6) (Feb. 4, 2023)

It’s a new era on Tobacco Road. For the last 20 years, tuning into Duke-UNC meant seeing two of the winningest coaches in basketball history, Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams, patrol their respective sidelines. Both have made way for their disciples in recent years—and, hey, the kids aren’t doing half bad. Hubert Davis took the reins in Chapel Hill last season, falling slightly short of expectations during the regular season before catching fire late, winning 11 of his last 13 games en route to a national championship game appearance. And after tagging in for Coach K last spring, Scheyer landed SI’s No. 1 recruiting class, setting up one of the most talented rosters in the sport. Even in the programs’ respective down years, this rivalry has always provided drama and intrigue—recall 14–17 North Carolina taking Duke to overtime in 2020. But now, with fresh faces, elite rosters and the Cameron Crazies certainly turned up to 11, this spectacle becomes can’t-miss television.

Honorable Mentions

No. 3 Houston at No. 18 Virginia (-1.7) (Dec. 17, 2022): This is likely to be the stiffest regular-season test for what projects to be an elite Houston ballclub.

No. 9 Creighton at No. 12 Texas (-5.7) (Dec. 1, 2022): An outstanding matchup between two somewhat sneaky teams with very good odds at winning their conferences.

No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 2 Gonzaga (-2.7) (Dec. 2, 2022): One of the premier matchups of the season, hamstrung by an odd venue choice in Sioux Falls, S.D.

No. 23 Illinois vs. No. 8 UCLA (-1.0) (Nov. 18, 2022): Conference purists will be screaming, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” for this one, as these transcontinental, future Big Ten rivals square off at T-Mobile Arena.

No. 2 Gonzaga (-1.0) @ No. 12 Texas (Nov. 16, 2022): The Longhorns will hope to avenge last season’s beatdown from the wiggy confines of Austin. 

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