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25 Non-Conference College Basketball Games That You Don’t Want to Miss

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25 Non-Conference Games That You Can't Miss

Dick Vitale
Andrew Synowiez-US PRESSWIRE

Conference rivalries are fun to watch and each year they produce consistent match-ups. The excitement of college basketball during league play is just a second dimension of a long season with stretch runs and bragging rights on the line.

Prior to the start of the new year however, non-conference tilts help shape much of the nation's pretenders and contenders. Polls and rankings are shaken up, while resume-building opportunities present themselves on numerous occasions depending on how difficult teams intend on testing their schedules.

The rise of early-season tournaments and showcases have altered the landscape of the non-conference slate, raising pivotal games even as early as November. While the college basketball system for qualifying for the NCAA Tournament gives teams across the nation their own opportunity at creating a dream season, there is no denying how key some of these early games can be.

From the Maui Invitational to tough road tests established as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, these games are what you don't want to miss. Non-league rivalries and home-and-home series create atmospheres that help teams experience and prepare for conference play and eventual postseason action.

On the heels of an off-season that saw the end of the Kentucky, Indiana series, new rivalries are sure to form.

Without further ado, let's take a look at 25 of the nation's must-watch match-ups heading into the 2012-13 non-conference schedule.

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No. 25. Ohio at UMass

Chaz Williams

When: Dec. 19

Location: @ UMass

UMass has aspirations of dancing for the first time since 1998 this season and the Minutemen will have a number of non-conference chances to build up their resume prior to Atlantic 10 play. Ohio is fresh off a run to the Sweet 16 and a loaded back court once again makes the Bobcats very dangerous.

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No. 24- BYU vs. Florida State

Michael Snaer
Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

When: Nov. 16

Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

As part of the 2012 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, BYU and Florida State will hit the court in one of two semifinal match-ups. The early season contest will give us a quick look at just how good the Cougars can be in the WCC, while the Seminoles are out to prove that they can hang with the top dogs in the ACC.

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No. 23- Stanford at North Carolina State

Lorenzo Brown

When: Dec. 18

Location: @ North Carolina State

Expectations are through the roof for North Carolina State while Stanford and head coach Johnny Dawkins are out to show some improvements of their own. It's a tough road test for the Cardinal and one that the Wolfpack can't afford to give away at home.

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No. 22- Saint Mary's vs. Drexel

Damion Lee

When: Nov. 22

Location: Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, California

Two of the nation's premier mid-major squads are set to face-off in Anaheim in late November. Drexel is looking to avenge a late NCAA Tournament snub from a season ago and show they are for real. Senior guard Matthew Dellavedova and Saint Mary's however, are looking to bolster their resume with a win out west.

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No. 21- Minnesota vs. Duke

Trevor Mbakwe
Michael Heinz-US PRESSWIRE

When: Nov. 22

Location: Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas

As part of the loaded field down in the Bahamas, the Battle 4 Atlantis feature this first round match-up betweeen Minnesota and Duke. Trevor Mbakwe is ready to prove his worth, while the Blue Devils look to show their true potential late in November.

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No. 20- Gonzaga at Oklahoma State

LeBryan Nash

When: Dec. 31

Location: @ Oklahoma State

A true road test from a feisty Gonzaga squad is also a must win for Oklahoma State. Both teams can dance in 2013, but for the Cowboys, games like this present an atmosphere in which they must protect their home court.

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No. 19 North Texas at Saint Louis

Tony Mitchell
Andrew B. Fielding-US PRESSWIRE

When: Dec. 5

Location: @ Saint Louis

Another premier match-up between two non-power six conference foes. Both squads have the potential to make a run in March and one resume-building win is up for grabs in Saint Louis. Led by Tony Mitchell, North Texas has one of their better teams in recent memory and the Mean Green are looking to take advantage of that first and foremost.

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No. 18- Baylor at Gonzaga

Pierre Jackson

When: Dec. 28

Location: @ Gonzaga

Baylor will be tested with a few true road games during the non-conference slate and this trip to Spokane is one of them. Gonzaga will be looking to protect their home court with a Big 12 opponent headed to town in late December.

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No. 17- Tennessee at Georgetown

Jarnell Stokes

When: Nov. 30

Location: @ Georgetown

Tennessee is ahead of schedule in rebuilding under Cuonzo Martin and Jarnell Stokes is a big reason why. A true road test at Georgetown is one that they hope to grab for their resume, but the Hoyas have similar expectations headed into this one.

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No. 16- Butler vs. Indiana

Victor Oladipo
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

When: Dec. 15

Location: Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana

This game holds more implications for Butler as fans will get to see just how tough the Bulldogs can be this season, squaring off against the nation's preseason favorite. Indiana is out to prove that they are one of the country's more elite teams in 2013, but first they look to flex their muscles within state limits.

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No. 15- Kentucky vs. Maryalnd

John Calipari

When: Nov. 9

Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

What a match-up to start the season for both Maryland and Kentucky. It's a new-look squad yet again for the Wildcats, but this time they are out to defend a national championship. The Terps will look to use the neutral court to their advantage and start the season off with a bang.

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No. 14- Missouri at UCLA

Phil Pressey

When: Dec. 28

Location: @ UCLA

Only time will tell if UCLA will have star freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson on the court, but if they do, this contest just got a whole lot better. Missouri features a number of newcomers, but it's star point guard Phil Pressey that makes this team click.

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No. 13- Baylor at Kentucky

Scott Drew

When: Dec. 1

Location: @ Kentucky

Another tough road test for Baylor also marks a rematch of last year's Elite 8 battle in which the Wildcats smoked the Bears. Kentucky will be looking for another non-conference win at Rupp Arena, while Baylor seeks revenge on the first day of December.

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No. 12- Florida at Arizona

Patric Young

When: Dec. 15

Location: @ Arizona

After meeting up a season ago in Gainesville, both Florida and Arizona will hit the hardwood again in mid-December. The Wildcats are much improved from a season ago and that's thanks in large part to a loaded freshmen class.

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No. 11- Kansas at Ohio State

Elijah Johnson

When: Dec. 22

Location: @ Ohio State

Last year in Lawrence, Ohio State fell to Kansas without star forward Jared Sullinger. Months later, the Jayhawks once again got the best of the Buckeyes advancing to the national championship game. OSU will be looking for revenge in Columbus in late December.

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No. 10- San Diego State vs. Syracuse

Chase Tapley
Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

When: Nov. 9

Location: USS Midway, San Diego, California

The second annual Carrier Classic could feature an upset to the begin the season. Syracuse hits the road and boards the ship against an Aztecs' squad that is among one of the fiercest non-power six teams in the land. This is SDSU's early opportunity to make a statement in their own backyard.

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No. 9- UNLV at North Carolina

Mike Moser

When: Dec. 29

Location: @ North Carolina

Ah yes, remember a season ago when these two teams met in Vegas? UNLV shocked the nation by upsetting the nation's number one ranked team at the time and sending North Carolina back to Chapel Hill looking to adjust. Well now, the two switch gears, as UNC looks to uphold revenge in 2012.

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No. 8- Ohio State at Duke

Aaron Craft

When: Nov. 28

Location: @ Duke

As part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Ohio State and Duke once again get paired up in this late November battle. The Buckeyes handed it to Duke a season ago, but there shouldn't be any questioning the fact that the Blue Devils know that all good and well.

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No. 7- San Diego State vs. UCLA

Tyler Lamb
Gary A. Vazquez-US PRESSWIRE

When: Dec. 1

Location: Wooden Classic, Los Angeles, California

Oh sure, UCLA will be considered the home team in this one, but who really is the best team in southern California? San Diego State has all the makings of a dangerous team this season, while the Bruins are out to right the ship and get back to their winning ways.

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No. 6- Michigan State vs. Kansas

Branden Dawson

When: Nov. 13

Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia

As part of the Champions Classic, Michigan State and Kansas will meet in one of two huge match-ups as part of ESPN's 24-hour marathon coverage. Both squads went above and beyond expectations a season ago, but heading into 2012-13, the Spartans and Jayhawks each carry top 15 rankings.

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No. 5- Louisville at Memphis

Joe Jackson

When: Dec. 15

Location: @ Memphis

Louisville is widely considered as one of the nation's top teams heading into the 2012-13 season, but a trip to Memphis is certainly no guarantee. This game could mark the culmination of the Tigers' non-conference slate and an upset victory at home is a top priority.

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No. 4- Duke vs. Kentucky

Quinn Cook

When: Nov. 13

Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia

Also part of the 2012 Champions Classic, Duke and Kentucky will square off as part of ESPN's 24-hour college basketball marathon. The Wildcats open the year against Maryland on Nov. 9, so UK will be tested hard in college basketball's opening week.

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No. 3- North Carolina State at Michigan

Tim Hardawar Jr
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

When: Nov. 27

Location: @ Michigan

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge features a number of key match-ups this season. In this one, North Carolina State travels to Ann Arbor to face Michigan, a contest that will likely pin two, top ten teams up against each other.

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No. 2- North Carolina at Indiana

Cody Zeller

When: Nov. 27

Location: @ Indiana

On the same night as North Carolina State vs. Michigan, another ACC/Big Ten match-up hits the hardwood with all the makings of can't miss TV. North Carolina and Indiana square off as the Hoosiers look to protect their home court and early season expectations against the always-dangerous Tar Heels.

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No. 1- Kentucky at Louisville

Peyton Siva
Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

When: Dec. 29

Location: @ Louisville

The Kentucky, Louisville rivalry is amongst the best in the nation and this year's tilt should be no different. With the Cardinals playing host in late December, there is no doubt revenge is on their mind. You may remember, Kentucky won last year's contest at Rupp and then followed that up by eliminating Louisville in the Final Four.

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