Toughest NCAA non-conference schedules
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
With the college basketball season tipping off next week, a good chunk of teams will start their season against some cakewalk opponents.
But that’s usually only the season opener for most teams and a majority of NCAA programs schedule aggressively for the first half of the season to prepare for heated showdowns once league play starts up in late December. Here’s a look at five of the toughest slates for the 2012-13 season:
Top matchups: Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-21), vs. Georgetown (Dec. 4), vs. No. 13 UCLA (Dec. 8), vs. No. 12 North Carolina (Dec. 19), at No. 14 Michigan State (Dec. 22)
Analysis: The Longhorns took scheduling aggressively to another level. The Maui Invitational (North Carolina, Butler, Marquette) is one of the strongest tip-off tournaments in the country, but perhaps even tougher will be a nightmarish December that features matchups against three top-25 teams and a neutral game vs. Georgetown. This type of competition could either doom Rick Barnes’ youthful squad or provide necessary experience heading into the Big 12 season.
Top matchups: vs. No. 3 Kentucky (Nov. 13), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), vs. No. 4 Ohio State (Nov. 28)
Analysis: When we last saw the Blue Devils, they were upset in the NCAA tournament first-round to Big Dance darling Lehigh. This non-conference schedule will provide No. 8 Duke a chance to play against similarly challenging small schools, including seasoned Davidson and A-10 power Temple on a neutral floor. And that’s not even mentioning Duke’s matchups with Kentucky (at Atlanta) and vs. Ohio State. The toughest test of all could come in the Battle 4 Atlantis, a loaded tournament with Louisville and Missouri.
Top matchups: Legends Classic (Nov. 19-20), vs. No. 20 San Diego State (Dec. 1), vs. No. 24 Texas (Dec. 8), vs. No. 17 Missouri (Dec. 28)
If the 13th-ranked Bruins advance accordingly in the Legends Classic, they could face Georgetown and No. 1 Indiana. Then comes a brutal December slate that pits UCLA up against three top-25 teams. And meetings vs. mid-majors Long Beach State and Indiana State won’t be cakewalks. The reason … [For more on The toughest NCAA hoops non-conference schedules, click here.]