5 best SEC basketball nonconference games in November
Yes, we’re still in the heart of football season, but college basketball starts Tuesday. And, this year, it’s starting with a bang!
In the SEC alone, there are several intriguing November matchups, and none are on Saturdays, so football fans will be able to watch.
Which games are the best of the best? Well, it just so happens that we’re here to break it down for you.
Here are our picks for the top SEC nonconference games in the first month of the college basketball season:
5. Florida State at No. 6 Florida (Sunday, Nov. 10)
This will be Florida’s 2nd game and first real test. Last year, the Seminoles were the ranked team and trounced the Gators in Tallahassee 81-60.
This year, Florida is No. 6 in the country and the game is in Gainesville. Is some payback in order for Mike White’s crew? The Gators return PG Andrew Nembhard and bring in an incredible recruiting class, bolstered by star Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr.
Blackshear figures to be one of the most impactful players in the conference this season, and was even named the SEC’s preseason Player of the Year by media members. Add in a freshman class that includes 5-star recruits Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann and it could be a special year for the Gators.
This will be our first real chance to see that squad in action against some real competition.
4. Alabama vs. No. 9 North Carolina (Battle 4 Atlantis, Wednesday, Nov. 27)
The Crimson Tide should be 4-0 (barring an upset) heading into this game the day before Thanksgiving in the Bahamas. This will be new coach Nate Oats’ first real test as the Alabama coach, and it’ll be a good one.
The 4 teams expected to go on a run in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament are No. 8 Gonzaga, No. 9 North Carolina, No. 12 Seton Hall and No. 15 Oregon. However, how fun would it be if Oats’ run-and-gun style that he brought from Buffalo leads to Kira Lewis Jr., John Petty and the Crimson Tide pulling off this (and maybe other) upsets?
This North Carolina team has some question marks, but 5-star freshman Cole Anthony figures to be a star. Still, don’t count the Crimson Tide out in this one just yet.
3. No. 22 LSU vs. No. 17 Utah State (Jamaica Classic, Friday, Nov. 22)
Surprised to see Utah State ranked at No. 17? Yeah, so were we. But when you look at the numbers, the Aggies are absolutely deserving of that spot. This team finished No. 25 last season and returns its top 4 scorers.
Senior G Sam Merrill is a star, averaging 20.9 points, 4.2 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game last season. But, more important, this LSU team will be trying to find its groove after losing some key players from last year’s team.
How will Javonte Smart, Emmitt Williams, Skylar Mays, Marlon Taylor and 5-star freshman F Trendon Watford fare in this tough test? We’ll find out in Jamaica!
2. No. 22 LSU at No. 25 VCU (Wednesday, Nov. 13)
We’re going to dub this game the “Will Wade Bowl,” as it pits the LSU coach against his former team. Making things even more interesting, both squads are ranked heading into the contest.
This, not the previous game against Utah State, will be LSU’s first big challenge of the season. It’ll be when we see just how much the Tigers miss Tremont Waters and Naz Reid.
This game will take place in Richmond, so it’ll be even tougher for the Tigers. We know Wade will be ready to go for that game. Will his players? That’s the big question for LSU’s first big road test of the 2019-20 campaign.
1. No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Champions Classic, Tuesday, Nov. 5)
Alright, we’ve made it to the big one. This is the best nonconference game of the year, SEC or otherwise. The fact that it is the second game of the season (following No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 4 Duke) just shows how great the start to this season is.
As is all too common with these squads, Michigan State is full of proven veterans (like Cassius Winston and Kyle Aherns), while Kentucky will rely on an elite group of freshmen (Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, Keion Brooks and Johnny Juzang) to get the job done.
The difference? Kentucky has more depth than Michigan State, and with potential SEC Defensive Player of the Year candidate Ashton Hagans returning, the Wildcats could make some noise and pick up a huge win on opening night.