November to March is a wonderful time window for sports. You have pro and college football, the NBA, and college basketball — the greatest of all sports. With the San Antonio Spurs likely giving us an elegant tank job this season, watching some college games will be imperative to preparing for the NBA Draft. It will give fans the opportunity to watch players they would have otherwise not have until the 2023-24 NBA season.
To get you ready for the upcoming season, here are some of the best college basketball non-conference games to look forward to as they will have NBA prospects or should just be great games to watch. We’re going to start with Michigan State games since the Spartans are playing one of the more challenge schedules this season.
Michigan State vs Gonzaga
This game will take place as part of the Armed Forces Classic (on Nov. 11) to kickoff the season in earnest. Both teams lost some talent to the NBA Draft this past season, but are looking to get their respective seasons off to the right start. This is likely to be MSU’s least hyped team in years as there are no clear stars and the 2022 recruiting class was not exactly the best (56th-ranked according to 247Sports).
On the other side, Gonzaga will be without the No. 2 overall pick in Chet Holmgren. However, they’ll have perennial All-American candidate Drew Timme along with a bunch of returning players who got legitimate minutes last year. That includes Anton Watson, Julian Strawther, Nolan Hickman, and Rasir Bolton. They also landed former LSU forward Efton Reid in the transfer portal, who should help them in the front court.
Michigan State vs Kentucky
While MSU’s talent is an unknown commodity, Kentucky is in a similar boat. It brought in a couple of five-star recruits though and has high expectations once again as National Player of the Year, Oscar Tshiebwe, returned to school. It has similar continuity to Michigan State in that there are a few returners who are solid and some who have something to prove.
This game will take place in Indianapolis as part of the Champions Classic (Nov. 15) that helps to tip off the season. It’s a great early season contest for both teams to figure out what they have and what they have to work on before conference play. When all is settled in the spring, it could go down as one of the best college basketball non-conference games of the year.
Michigan State vs Villanova
You’ve heard enough about Michigan State at this point, but Villanova is breaking in a new coach in Kyle Neptune. The VU Wildcats are hoping to keep the continuity since Neptune was a longtime assistant before coaching for one year at Fordham. This game will be at home for MSU as part of the Gavitt Games (Big 10 vs. Big East and on Nov. 18).
The Wildcats bring in potential top-10 prospect Cam Whitmore along with a couple of four-star prospects in Brendan Hausen and Mark Armstrong. They also return veterans Chris Arcidiacono, Eric Dixon, Justin Moore, Brandon Slater, and Caleb Daniels.
Michigan State vs Alabama
The Spartans almost complete the “Power 6” round-trip as they play an SEC powerhouse (Nov. 24). The only school missing is someone from the PAC 12. The Crimson Tide should be a stout team and a tough one to beat this season. Coach Nate Oats brought in a top-5 recruiting class to replace a few NBA draftees.
That includes a couple of five-star guys in forward Brandon Miller and point guard Jaden Bradley. Upperclassmen like Jahvon Quinerly and Noah Gurley return and should give the Crimson Tide a steady hand during the season.
Alabama vs Gonzaga
The Crimson Tide get to host the Bulldogs this year (Dec. 17) at a “neutral” site in Birmingham, Alabama. Gonzaga got the home crowd advantage last year in Seattle, but it wasn’t enough as Bama won 91-82. With the recruits coming in and the right mix of veterans, Crimson Tide fans are feeling pretty about their chances at a run in March. If they can repeat their effort from last season against a blue blood program like Gonzaga, then their resume is going to look exceptional.
Alabama vs Houston
This was a tightly contested game last season and it will be held in Houston this year, which should give the Cougars some sort of advantage. The game will take place on Dec. 10 and should be a great challenge right before Alabama heads into SEC play. The Crimson Tide pulled out a 1-point win after some controversy at the end of the game. This sets this contest up as one of the best college basketball non-conference games to watch this season.
Houston has some draft talent in its top-10 ranked recruiting class, most notably in potential lottery pick Jarace Walker. UH also brought in four-star guard Terrance Arceneaux who should shore up the back court. The Cougars bring back major veterans like Marcus Sasser, Jamal Shead, and Tramon Mark who have experience making some March runs.
This is the first part of a two-part series. Be sure to come back for Part 2 on Friday.