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SEC Basketball: Top 5 Nonconference Games to Watch

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SEC Basketball: Top 5 Nonconference Games to Watch

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to making the NCAA Tournament, there is nothing more important than marquee nonconference wins. Nonconference wins can be the difference between making it to the dance and ending up on the outside looking in at the end of the season – as many SEC teams found out last year.

The Tennessee Volunteers lost by one point to the Georgetown Hoyas, the Alabama Crimson Tide lost by two to the Cincinnati Bearcats, the LSU Tigers lost by four to the Marquette Golden Eagles and the Kentucky Wildcats lost by three to the Louisville Cardinals. If any of these teams had won any of these games, they would have made the 2013 NCAA Tournament instead of the NIT, or in LSU’s case no postseason tournament at all.

This season, there are around eight teams in the SEC that have an opportunity to make it to the NCAA tournament, which will set things up for one of the most competitive SEC basketball seasons in a long time. Although Kentucky is considered the favorite to win the conference, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee are all capable of winning some tough games and winning the SEC Tournament or even the regular season.

There are plenty of opportunities all around the conference for multiple SEC teams to show out early in the nonconference section of their schedules and make a push to go to the 2014 NCAA Tournament, so it was extremely difficult to narrow it down to five. Here are the five must-watch nonconference games from SEC teams in the 2013-14 season.

Taylor Sturm is an SEC Basketball Writer for Follow him on Twitter @TSturmRS or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Alabama Crimson Tide at UCLA Bruins

Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Crimson Tide and the Bruins are coming off disappointing seasons, and their December 28 matchup will show which team is the real deal in 2013-14. Alabama is extremely experienced and could be a threat in the SEC, and Steve Alford will have this UCLA team ready to compete in the PAC-12. These are two extremely similar teams that will need to start off the season strong to have success.

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4. Kentucky Wildcats vs. Michigan State Spartans

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Wildcats are preseason No. 1 overall and the Spartans are preseason No. 2 overall. On November 12 we’ll find out which one was overrated.

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3. Tennessee Volunteers at Wichita State Shockers

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

On December 14, the Volunteers will travel to Wichita to face last year’s Final Four surprise, the Wichita State Shockers. Barring a complete collapse, the Shockers should be undefeated going into this game. Tennessee beat Wichita State last season in Knoxville and, with a majority of their starting lineup returning, could do it again. This could be one of the biggest games of the early season if Tennessee can pull off the upset in the Battle 4 Atlantis and beat the Kansas Jayhawks in the finals.

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2. Florida Gators vs. Kansas Jayhawks

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

On December 10, the Florida Gators will face off against Andrew Wiggins and the Jayhawks in one of the premier nonconference matchups of the regular season. Florida shouldn’t play any teams that are capable of beating them, and Kansas is one of the best teams in the country. Both teams could easily come into this game undefeated and in the top 10.

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1. Kentucky Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

On December 28, the reigning national champions face this year’s preseason favorites for the national championship. This will be another one of those all-time classic games with John Calipari and Rick Pitino going at it and both teams’ players showcasing all their talent.