Ranking the Pac-12 Top 20 Non-Conference Games: Part II

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 22nd, 2015

Early today we unveiled our list of spots #20 through #11 in our list of the top 20 non-conference games featuring Pac-12 teams this season. Below we list the top 10 while getting increasingly pumped for some actual games.

10. 11/16 San Diego State at Utah – A rematch of last year’s snoozer as part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, this has almost every chance in the world to be another knock-down, drag-out, back-alley rock fight. All the warning signs are there: an early season contest; two teams who love to go deep into the shot clock; adjustment to the new 30-second shot clock; freshman point guards; defense-first coaches. It’s a good thing that this game is early in the marathon lineup because if it tipped off at around mile 20 or so, you might be tempted to pack it in. Still, two Top 25-caliber teams squaring off means I’ll be watching.

Nobody Mistook San Diego State/Utah '14 For A Beautiful Game; Expect More Of The Same in '15 (Gregory Bull, AP Photo)

Nobody Mistook San Diego State/Utah ’14 For A Beautiful Game; Expect More Of The Same in ’15 (Gregory Bull, AP Photo)

9. 12/3 – Kentucky at UCLA – After watching UCLA lose by a literal bazillion last year (I mean, I didn’t actually see the final score, but based on those first five minutes I assume it was something like: Kentucky, a bazillion, and UCLA, 44), I’m hesitant to put this game so high. But it is a game between two of the blue-bloods in our sport and there will be plenty of talent on both ends of the court. Even if this game turns into another blowout, I’d like to do everything I can to encourage more of these kinds of games.

8. 12/19 UCLA vs. North Carolina in Brooklyn – See above. After watching UCLA roll over and quit against the Tar Heels  in last year’s Battle 4 Atlantis, I’m hesitant to put this game this high. But… well, you know the rest.

7. 12/12 UCLA at Gonzaga – See above times two. The Bruins were more competitive against the Zags a year ago than against the Wildcats or the Tar Heels, but now they’ve got to go to Spokane for the return visit. But, in all honesty and even minus a couple NBA Draft picks, this year’s vintage of the Bruins should be more ready to play at a high level earlier in the season.

6. 12/2 BYU at Utah – Last year’s edition of this rivalry was a classic, with Utah’s do-everything point guard Delon Wright leading his squad to a confidence-bolstering rivalry road win. If this year’s contest follows a similar script, it may be BYU fans who head to the exits of their rival’s arena in glee as Kyle Collinsworth would appear to be the headlining do-everything point guard this time around.

Larry Krystkowiak And The Utes Got To Celebrate On BYU's Home Floor Last Season (Hugh Carey, Deseret News)

Larry Krystkowiak And The Utes Got To Celebrate On BYU’s Home Floor Last Season (Hugh Carey, Deseret News)

5. 12/5 Arizona at Gonzaga – The Wildcats’ non-conference schedule isn’t terrible by any means, but there is only one game scheduled against a major conference team and that team (Missouri, of the SEC) is going through a down spell. As a result, this game and Arizona’s appearance in the Wooden Legacy will be its best chances at scoring great non-conference wins.

4. 12/19 Utah vs. Duke at Madison Square Garden – The Utes hung around and pushed the eventual national champion Blue Devils right to the end in the Sweet Sixteen last season. Four of Duke’s five starters in that game are now gone, while four of the Utes’ five starters return. Still, the Dukies at MSG? That’s a de facto home game. Utah better bring its “A” game.

3. 11/26 Cal vs. San Diego State in Las Vegas Invitational – We’ve now made it 18 games into my top 20 and we’re just now seeing the first appearance of perhaps the most interesting team in the Pac-12, the Golden Bears. With freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb making up a terrifying rookie tandem joining veterans Tyrone Wallace, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews, the Bears are as talented as any roster in the country. But are they for real? A battle against the defensive-minded Aztecs on Thanksgiving evening? Dang east-coasters. I don’t care how much turkey you eat. I don’t care how much alcohol gets washed down. Find a way to watch this one.

2. 12/22 Cal at Virginia – It’s interesting that Cal’s non-conference schedule is not overwhelming. But the big games on the schedule are all against defense-first teams, quite a challenge for a team whose identity will likely be that of an offensive explosion waiting to happen (even if that goes against Cuonzo Martin’s slow-tempo history). Aside from the #3 match-up on this list against San Diego State, the Bears could also face West Virginia in the championship game of that Las Vegas Invitational. Then there’s frustratingly down-tempo Wyoming. And the capper to all of that is a pre-Christmas gift that no free-wheeling team ever wants to see. In Charlottesville? Goodness. There is almost no chance that the Golden Bears win this game. But. If California goes into John Paul Jones Arena and somehow comes away with a win? A whole lot of preconceived ideas will need to be re-jiggered. The importance of this game on the road against an ACC powerhouse for the California program cannot be understated. And I say that with the date two months out.

1. 12/12 Utah at Wichita State – What can I say? This was my favorite regular season game of the year last season. Just writing about it makes me sure that when I’m done with this little blurb, I’m going to hit Ctrl+S and then go straight to my DVR and watch the final 10 or 15 minutes worth of action from last year. If this year’s contest can even hold a candle to last year’s, it will be well worth your time. And with guys like Ron Baker, Fred Van Vleet, Jakob Poeltl and Brandon Taylor still around, there’s plenty of reason to give this match-up the benefit of the doubt.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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