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A game a day for the 2017-18 season: January

November 8, 2017 Columns No Comments

We roll on with a look at our favorite games for every day of the season, our ultimate dream road trip through an entire college basketball season.

To refresh: in some cases they’re the biggest matchup of the day, in others they may be what we think will be the best game for any reason, whether it be competitiveness, rivalry, atmosphere, etc. We started on Monday with November, continued with December on Tuesday, and today we move into January:

Jan. 1: West Virginia at Kansas State. Most every conference surrenders Jan. 1 to college football this year save for the SWAC and a couple Big 12 games. Bob Huggins heads back to his previous stop, where the Wildcats have a prime opportunity for one of those name wins that got them into the NCAA Tournament last year. Honorable mention: Southern at Texas Southern

Jan. 2: Michigan at Iowa. If the Hawkeyes are an NCAA Tournament team, Fran McCaffery’s history says they’ll probably get off to a smoking hot start to the season through about 20 games. They also almost certainly have to win games like this at home. Honorable mention: Vermont at Harvard

Jan. 3: South Dakota State at North Dakota State. Seems these two almost always end up battling it out at the end in the Summit League. Mike Daum against Paul Miller gives this matchup some serious star quality. Honorable mention: Virginia at Virginia Tech

Jan. 4: Maryland at Michigan State. On a night with a lot of good matchups if not necessarily a great one, we’ll take this. It’s a game the Spartans should win if they’re the top-five team they’re touted to be, but if the young Terrapins can win it will pay dividends for months. Honorable mention: Cincinnati at Temple

Jan. 5: Iona at St. Peter’s. One of the busier Friday nights from now until March. Go here for the rich contrast of styles between the hurry-up Gaels and John Dunne’s lovably deliberate Peacocks. Honorable mention: Northern Kentucky at Oakland

Jan. 6: Florida at Missouri. The Tigers’ first SEC game at home comes against what should be a highly ranked Gators squad. If Michael Porter’s year is going as well as hoped, a crowd starving for a winner will be in top form. Honorable mention: Arizona at Colorado

Jan. 7: College of Charleston at Towson. In our mind, the two favorites in the Colonial this year. Two similar squads-tough, defense-minded, experienced, and capable of beating some folks in March if they can impose their style. Honorable mention: Florida State at Miami (Fla.)

Jan. 8: Lehigh at Boston University. Most college conferences choose to cede this night to the college football cartel’s championship game. They shouldn’t. Even on a light night, we’d take this pairing of two perennial Patriot League contenders over 18 different channels covering the same football game. Honorable mention: Norfolk State at North Carolina Central

Jan. 9: Seton Hall at Marquette. The Golden Eagles’ sweet long-range shooting carried them a long way a year ago, and could again this year, as they’ll once again likely lack the beef inside to handle teams like the physical Pirates. Honorable mention: Georgetown at St. John’s with Patrick Ewing against Chris Mullin

Jan. 10: Notre Dame at Georgia Tech. These two played a good one a year ago right here. Two of the better teams moving without the ball that you’ll see anywhere in the country. Honorable mention: Xavier at Villanova

Jan. 11: New Mexico State at Grand Canyon. Two of the heavies in the improving WAC, and in what should be another wild environment at GCU. Honorable mention: Murray State at Jacksonville State

Jan. 12: VCU at Dayton. The Atlantic 10 continues to put some of its biggest games on Friday nights, and these have been the league’s two signature programs the last couple years. Honorable mention: Marquette at Butler

Jan. 13: North Carolina at Notre Dame. Plan on staying home for the day, as this Saturday has a loaded schedule, with quality throughout Division I, from AAC (old rivals Wichita State and Tulsa back meeting in conference play again) to WAC (New Mexico State at Cal State Bakersfield). There’s just something about the Fighting Irish playing biggies at home, though. Honorable mention: Michigan at Michigan State

Jan. 14: Army at Navy. Forever and always a special matchup, and these two played two absolute classics last year. Honorable mention: Northwestern at Indiana

Jan. 15: Kansas at West Virginia. We wanted to switch these two games, because the Hurricanes regularly have given the Blue Devils trouble in Jim Larranaga’s tenure in Coral Gables. But with respect to hearty Hurricane fans, the choice between the Watsco Center and WVU Coliseum for a big game is an easy one. Honorable mention: Duke at Miami (Fla.)

Jan. 16: North Dakota at North Dakota State. These two-still in separate conferences for one more year-play their second meeting of the season in the heart of conference play for both teams. It’s a good move, one many attention-starved conferences should be encouraging their schools to do more. Honorable mention: Cincinnati at Central Florida

Jan. 17: Richmond at VCU. One of the fiercest-and best-city rivalries in the country of late. The Rams have gained an upper hand of late winning six straight meetings, including one in the Atlantic 10 tourney last year, but the contrast in schools and styles-plus three overtime games in their last seven meetings-continues to make this a classic. Honorable mention: Bradley at Illinois State in the I-74 rivalry

Jan. 18: St. Francis (Pa.) at Wagner. Not going to be anyone else’s pick on a night with some real heavy-hitting conference battles, what with Murray State at Belmont and Florida Gulf Coast also in Nashville at Lipscomb in battles between top teams in the OVC and Atlantic Sun, respectively. These two played the best conference tournament game you never heard of last year, though, with the Red Flash stunning the Seahawks in the NEC semifinals here in Staten Island with a three-pointer at the buzzer. St. Francis and its high-powered offense against Wagner’s toughness also is an appealing battle. Honorable mention: Saint Mary’s at Gonzaga, Round One

Jan. 19: Iona at Monmouth. The snippiness between these two from the year before wasn’t quite as evident a year ago, but the Hawks still have to feel they owe the Gaels one after winning two straight MAAC regular season titles, only to see Iona represent the conference in the NCAAs both years. Honorable mention: St. Bonavanture at Davidson

Jan. 20: Florida at Kentucky. Another Saturday with its share of quality games (Rhode Island/Dayton, Xavier/Seton Hall, Oklahoma/Okie State, TCU/Kansas State and Samford/Furman among them), but the Gators are the closest thing to a program that can rival UK of late. Saturday night in Lexington will be hopping. Honorable mention: Villanova at Connecticut

Jan. 21: UNC Asheville at Liberty. Could be the game of the year in the Big South. Two intense defensive teams fun to watch on that end, though the Bulldogs won both comfortably last year. Honorable mention: Virginia at Wake Forest

Jan. 22: Kansas State at Baylor. Two wins over the Bears single-handedly put feisty K-State in the NCAA Tournament last year. Expect another close Big 12 game. As usual. Honorable mention: West Virginia at TCU

Jan. 23: Northwestern at Minnesota. Two years ago, who ever would’ve imagined a game between these two could be a top-25 battle? Honorable mention: Wisconsin at Iowa

Jan. 24: Furman at UNC Greensboro. A wildly busy night as more and more conferences have chosen Wednesday night over Thursday for midweek games. There are a ton of good ones like this tonight (Mercer at East Tennessee State is one in the Southern Conference alone), but we like this between two of last year’s tri-champions in the SoCon, and two that should contend again. Honorable mention: Albany at Vermont, with an extra call to South Dakota State at South Dakota

Jan. 25: Central Florida at Wichita State. Tacko Fall’s first visit halfway across the country to Wichita, and two excellent defensive teams in the The Roundhouse that will harken back to the Shockers’ MVC days. Honorable mention: Texas-Arlington at Georgia State

Jan. 26: Harvard at Yale. The top of the Ivy League is loaded with big games this year. Two talented, similar teams played three times within a month at the end of last season. The Crimson won the first two, but the Elis won in the Ivy League tourney. Honorable mention: Oakland at Northern Kentucky, with special mention to Wisconsin at Michigan State

Jan. 27: Kentucky at West Virginia, Big 12/SEC Challenge. Maybe one of the games of the year. The Wildcats face the Mountaineers’ press in Morgantown. If the freshmen handle this, they can handle anything they face in the NCAA Tournament. Honorable mention: Baylor at Florida

Jan. 28: Purdue at Indiana. A Sunday full of tricky road games for favorites-Bucknell/Boston University, Michigan State/Maryland, Oakland/Wright State and Seton Hall/DePaul also all qualify-is led by these two bitter rivals. Just a guess, but we wouldn’t be surprised if this series gets a little extra starch in it with a new coach (Archie Miller) at IU. Honorable mention: Villanova at Marquette-this was one of the Wildcats’ slip-ups last year

Jan. 29: Kansas at Kansas State. As if this series needed anymore fire, two games decided by a combined five points last year-including Sviatoslov Mikhailiuk performing The Hustle on his way to a four-step game-winner in one of them-add only more fuel. Honorable mention: Northwestern at Michigan

Jan. 30: Buffalo at Kent State. One of the best games in the MAC this year, the athletic Bulls take on the defending conference tourney champions and one of the few teams in the league that can match their athletic talent. Honorable mention: Arkansas at Texas A&M

Jan. 31: Providence at Seton Hall. Old-school, hoops-first, football-nowhere-to-be-seen Big East Catholic schools facing off. Two experienced teams that could also spend much of the year in the top 25. Honorable mention: UC Irvine at Long Beach State-the Black & Blue Rivalry resumes

Other game of the day picks for 2017-18:

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