Before January, when we’ll see College Basketball programs across the country duke it out for their Conference title, we’ll get to see some of the best matchups in non-conference play. Which “Power Six Conference” will emerge as the best in College hoops? Which freshmen will show that they’re ready for the national stage? Are there any early season Cinderellas that can knock off a traditional powerhouse? We’re about to get answers to all these questions as the NCAA Basketball season commences with challenging non-conference matchups and early season tournaments that will test many of the AP Top 25 preseason favorites.
Based on the average price of College Basketball tickets on the resale market, we’ve put together a list of the top non-conference hoops games including likely tournament finals matchups.
No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Louisville on Dec. 28
Rupp Arena I Avg. $848
This in-state rivalry game including the #1 and #3 teams in the country is the most expensive game of the 2013-14 season. Tickets to the most in-demand event in college hoops start at a massive $268. A rivalry that dates back to 1913 has emerged as one of the best in the modern era and the game is fittingly titled the Battle for the Bluegrass. We’ll see the previous two National Champions compete in this year’s version and if you’re hoping for a good game you should know that the score has been close in their last three meetings. The game will feature the No. 1 recruiting class in the Country against many returning title winners including Russ “The Big Sauce” Smith and Luke Hancock, two passionate fan bases that have a true hate for one-another, and two coaches who have won championships as coach of the Kentucky basketball program. According to the Wildcats website, individual home games ticket sales depend on student demand for each game. It will not be until December 11 that Kentucky fans know if individual game tickets will be available for this game. Kentucky vs. Louisville tickets will only go on sale mid-December if the students do not pick up their whole allotment. If you don’t want to wait, and figure (know) that students will in fact pick up their tickets for this highly anticipated game, you can get your UK vs. Louisville tickets on Razorgator today.
No. 4 Duke vs. No. 22 UCLA on Dec. 19
Madison Square Garden I Avg. $689
In their first meeting since 2002, these two storied programs will meet on a legendary stage in the Mecca of Basketball. If UCLA can find a way to win behind their new head coach and talented roster led by the sophomore duo of Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams the young men of Westwood will prove the West has real potential and that the PAC12 is truly on the comeback. The Bruins will have to compete in a hostile environment as the Blue Devil alumni pick NYC as their favorite destination post-graduation and they’ll be sure to pack MSG to support their alma mater in the CARQUEST Auto Parts Classic. Cheap seats are available in the 18,200 seat arena, starting at $42.
The Champions Classic on Nov. 12
United Center I Avg. $624
The Champions Classic is the must-see tournament of the year. Some of the best players in the country will step on the same court that Michael Jordan made famous and it’s not out of the question that one or more future NBA legends will be on display when No. 1 Kentucky takes on No. 2 Michigan State and No. 4 Duke faces No. 5 Kansas. A ticket to the Champions Classic will get you a pass to see both high-profile games. When is the last time we saw a preseason #1 and #2 compete this early in the season? The earlier of the two games will be the top-ranked recruiting classes first major test as they’ll be pitted against a Michigan State squad, led by veterans Adreian Payne and Keith Appling, that reached the Sweet Sixteen last year. But it’s the freshmen in the later game that has everyone interested. Kansas’s Andrew Wiggins is just the second freshman ever selected to the AP preseason All-America Team and is on top of everyone’s draft board for next years NBA Draft. Meanwhile, Duke’s Jabari Parker, who was recently named to the Tisdale Award Watch list, will be ready to prove he belongs in the lottery conversation as well. The Blue Devils will be the first major competition for the Jayhawks who have a tough non-conference schedule that includes marquee games against Florida, New Mexico, San Diego State and Georgetown. You can catch all the action among these four, top five teams in Chicago for as little as $123.
No. 4 Duke vs. No. 7 Michigan on Dec. 3
Cameron Indoor Stadium I Avg. $568
With a limited number of tickets available, the hyped matchup has a price tag that you might find on a pair of jeans at Saks Fifth Avenue. It is the highest priced game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and features a 2013 Elite Eight team in Duke versus the reigning national runners-up, Michigan. For Duke to win this game, they’ll need to handle Michigan’s big man Mitch McGary, who has had this date marked on his calendar for some time. The Wolverines forward chose Michigan over Duke as his college of choice and will likely find himself as the guy to take down at Cameron Indoor Stadium that night. If Michigan wants the win, they’ll have to stop freshman phenom Jabari Parker, and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, who could be the Blue Devils biggest offensive threat this season.
No. 5 Kansas vs. No. 23 New Mexico on Dec. 14
Sprint Center I Avg. $158
New Mexico may have lost their coach to UCLA, but the Lobos return the squad that earned a No. 3 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament. That includes senior and reigning Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, Kendall Williams, in addition to frontcourt duo, big men Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. The last time these two teams met was in 1964; 49 years later the Lobos will have a chance to prove that they can hang with the big boys.
No 2 Michigan State vs. No. 12 North Carolina on Dec. 4
Breslin Center I Avg. $142
Although many consider the Spartans-Tar Heels matchup to be the top game of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this year, it is not the most expensive. The larger amount of inventory listed (10-times more than Duke vs. Michigan), has ticket prices at one-fourth the cost. But that’s no indication of a lesser matchup. It will be Carolina’s first big road test, one in which they hope to have P.J. Hairston back in the lineup. As the focal point of the Tar Heels offense, they’ll need last year’s scoring leader to put up big numbers. State’s guard Gary Harris will be one to watch on the opposite end of the court. It’s fair to say that a Hairston vs. Harris matchup has the hair on the back of our necks standing up already.
Other Marquee Non-Conference Games:
No. 18 Connecticut vs. No. 10 Florida on Dec. 2
Gampel Pavilion Storrs I Avg. $135
No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 6 Arizona on Dec. 14
Crisler Arena I Avg. $134
No. 12 North Carolina vs. No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 14
Dean Smith Center I Avg. $116
No. 10 Florida vs. No. 5 Kansas on Dec. 10
Stephen C. OConnell Center I Avg. $111
Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-off (potential No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 12 North Carolina Final) on Nov. 24
Mohegan Sun Arena-CT I Avg. $110
No. 17 Marquette vs. No. 11 Ohio State on Nov. 16
Bradley Center I Avg. $65
No. 8 Oklahoma State vs. No. 13 Memphis on Nov. 19
Gallagher-Iba Arena I Avg. $65
Image Credit: Jamie Rhodes (USA TODAY Sports)