The logistics of finances and time make it impossible for one to travel literally across the country to go to whichever college basketball games one wants to in a season. That doesn’t mean we can’t dream.
Last year we made our first fantasy itinerary, where we would be every day of the season if we could pick one game to be at, and we’re doing the same again this year.
This is a list of the most attractive games of each day to one person, based on any number of criteria-teams, location, rivalry, you name it. It’s not a pick of where the two highest ranked teams would be that day, nor is it the game TV would hype the most that day.
First up: November.
Friday, November 11: Indiana vs. Kansas in Armed Forces Classic, Honolulu, Hawaii. On an opening day filled with lousy matchups including too many examples of 1) buy games or 2) Division I schools hosting non-D-1 opponents, there are a few worthy of truly being played on an opening day. We’d rather this game were played on campus at one of these two programs’ storied homes, but it’s hard to beat the history of these two schools. Honorable mention: Nevada at Saint Mary’s
Nov.12: Southern at Ohio University. College football still dominates the schedules on Saturdays in mid-November, which is precisely why the start of college hoops is too early. With a short slate, this is a solid matchup between an Ohio team that is the MAC favorites against a Southern squad that appeared in the NCAA tourney a year ago and under coach Roman Banks is never afraid on the road. The Jaguars won at Mississippi State, Tulane and Wyoming a year ago. Honorable mention: Grand Canyon at Duke
Nov. 13: Tennessee-Chattanooga at North Carolina. Twenty-eight years ago, these teams opened their seasons against each other in the 1988 preseason NIT. Dean Smith’s UNC team defeated the then-Moccasins 111-84. Carolina will be a favorite here, but UTC is capable of making this interesting. Honorable mention: Long Beach State at Wichita State
Nov. 14: Villanova at Purdue. A pair of top-15 teams and a contrast with the Wildcats’ fine backcourt against the Boilermakers’ frontcourt-heavy team. Honorable mention: Princeton at BYU, a terrific bit of scheduling by both teams finalized just in September.
Nov. 15: Maryland at Georgetown. The made-for-TV Champions Classic will get more hype, but we’d rather be in the middle of this revived rivalry, where these two played a terrific game last year and we’d expect no different this year. Honorable mention: Kansas vs. Duke
Nov. 16: Texas-Arlington at Florida Gulf Coast. This one features two prime candidates to disrupt brackets in March. Both teams also have candidates for All-America recognition-Kevin Hervey of UTA; Marc-Eddy Norelia for FGCU, though both could still be working their way back from injury before this game. Honorable mention: Tulsa at Wichita State
Nov. 17: Clemson vs. Davidson in Tire Pros Invitational, Orlando, Fla. Formerly the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, this event has been moved to Orlando this year due to concerns about the Zika virus in its home country. While there are too many of these preseason events anyway, this is a very intriguing matchup between two teams who could conceivably be elbowing each other for NCAA Tournament bid positioning in March…or meeting in the first round of the NIT. Honorable mention: Seton Hall at Iowa
Nov. 18: Monmouth at Syracuse. On a day with a number of compelling matchups (USC at Texas A&M, Ohio at Georgia Tech, Siena at Kansas, plus rivalry games Northeastern at Boston University and New Mexico State at New Mexico), none is more tantalizing this this one. Prime chance here for the Hawks if they are to make a non-conference run similar to a year ago. Honorable mention: Oregon State at Nevada
Nov. 19: Cincinnati vs. Rhode Island in Hall of Fame Classic from Uncasville, Conn. The Rams have been a chic preseason top 25 pick and get a chance to prove it here against a Cincy team that should be a solid 8/9 seed in the NCAAs again. Two good defensive teams too. Honorable mention: Saint Mary’s at Dayton
Nov. 20: East Tennessee State at UNC Wilmington. Two underrated teams. The Seahawks are the CAA favorites this year, while the Buccaneers are coming in a hurry in the Southern Conference under Steve Forbes. Honorable mention: Tire Pros Invitational final
Nov. 21: Notre Dame vs. Colorado in Legends Classic, Brooklyn, N.Y. This is another of those phony ‘tournaments’ that really aren’t, with four teams automatically qualified for the semifinals while the other four teams are deemed fodder for scheduling purposes. It’s a joke. That said, this is a good intersectional matchup between two teams not getting a lot of pub in the preseason but both capable of repeating their NCAA tourney appearances. Honorable mention: Oregon vs. Georgetown, Maui Invitational quarterfinal
Nov. 22: Maui Invitational semifinals. The Maui semis are always one of our favorite days of any in-season tournament. Some have called this year’s tourney underwhelming, but we don’t see it. A final four consisting of any quartet from Connecticut, Georgetown, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Wisconsin is pretty darn good, either from a recent strength perspective or a historic one. Honorable mention: Yale at Pittsburgh
Nov. 23: Maui Invitational final. Whoever is playing in this one will have earned it. Honorable mention: Baylor vs. VCU, Battle 4 Atlantis quarterfinal
Nov. 24: Seton Hall vs. Florida in Advocare Invitational quarterfinal, Orlando, Fla. Thanksgiving has become a busy day for college basketball, and while we’d still prefer it were left for football, these tourneys do frequently provide some interesting games and storylines (see: Monmouth’s run in this event a year ago). Honorable mention: Temple vs. Florida State and Illinois vs. West Virginia in NIT Season Tip-Off, though this one gets marked down for this event being moved from its one-time and always-should-be home of Madison Square Garden
Nov. 25: Battle 4 Atlantis final. Likely to be Michigan State or Baylor against Louisville, though teams like VCU, Wichita State, LSU or even Old Dominion could crash the party. While the arena looks ridiculous on TV (are these games played in a casino?), the quality of the final can’t be denied here. Honorable mention: Middle Tennessee State vs. UNC-Wilmington in the Challenge In Music City, some non-tournament event that happens to have a fantastic matchup here
Nov. 26: Great Alaska Shootout final. The godfather to all of these in-season tournaments that TV networks have gotten involved in establishing and promoting for their own interests. At least one team in this tourney has appeared in the NCAA Tournament every single year except one-the 2015 tourney, when GAS champion Colorado State was one of the more dubious and inexcusable NCAA tourney snubs in recent memory. This is our list, and even as the national prestige of this event has slid some since ESPN pulled out of its TV contract, we’d love to be in Anchorage for the final. Honorable mention: Northern Iowa at Xavier
Nov. 27: Siena at Albany. Highly underrated rivalry, the Albany Cup regularly draws 10,000 fans for games that are also regularly terrific. Honorable mention: UAB vs. Saint Mary’s
Nov. 28: Tulsa at Oral Roberts. On a quiet night, we take the battle for the Mayor’s Cup in the city of Tulsa, where-psssst-ORU has won the last three meetings, including two of those at TU. Honorable mention: Butler at Utah
Nov. 29: Princeton at VCU. We realize our No. 2 pick for this night would be the top choice for the vast majority of fans and sport followers, but for us the novelty of TV match-making the top programs against each other (who already have every advantage in scheduling one could dream of) wore off a while ago. The Tigers and Rams, on the other hand, are two teams that rarely meet and provide the type of contrast in styles college basketball needs far more of, even as-unknown to many-Princeton was even more high-scoring than VCU last year. Honorable Mention: Michigan State at Duke
Nov. 30: Purdue at Louisville. The last night of November is another loaded with quality games. We’ll take this one which includes two teams that don’t play nearly as often as their geography suggests they might. Honorable mention: North Carolina at Indiana