SEC Burning Questions: Best Non-Conference SEC Games

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 11th, 2015

Kentucky was the team to beat a year ago — both in the SEC and nationally. And despite ultimately falling to Wisconsin in the Final Four, the Wildcats didn’t disappoint anybody on their way to a 38-1 record. But several SEC teams did, and it started in their non-conference schedules. Ole Miss lost to Charleston Southern; Mississippi State couldn’t get by USC-Upstate or Arkansas State; South Carolina fell to Charlotte and Akron; LSU lost a surprising game to Clemson; Missouri dropped its home opener to UMKC.

The SEC isn't just Kentucky and everybody else this season. Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings brings back a solid group of returners to Nashville (AP/Wade Payne)

The SEC isn’t just Kentucky and everybody else this season. Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings brings back a solid group of returnees to Nashville. (AP/Wade Payne)

Kentucky is again the team to beat in the SEC (and perhaps nationally). The conference appears to be significantly improved this season, so maybe several SEC teams outside of Lexington can string together enough non-conference victories to give the league some early credibility. The nation will be watching the following 10 games so there will be no better time than the next two months for the league to announce its legitimacy. Here are the 10 best non-conference games involving SEC teams this season.

10. Vanderbilt vs. Wofford – Saturday, December 19. Wofford took Arkansas to the brink last season and the Terriers return a core group of veterans this year. Vanderbilt could have their hands full with this squad, even in Memorial Gym.

9. LSU vs. McNeese State – Friday, November 13. Do I know something about McNeese State that you don’t? No. But I know that LSU’s Ben Simmons will make his collegiate debut against the Cowboys on Friday night and that alone is must-see TV.

8. Texas A&M vs. Texas – Wednesday, November 25. Can you imagine a better way to prepare for Thanksgiving than an intrastate rivalry game between these two schools? Shaka Smart is beginning his first year with the Longhorns, but Billy Kennedy has been at the helm of the Aggies since 2012 and has his program well-poised for a breakout year.

7. Iowa State vs. Texas A&M – Saturday, January 30. Iowa State may have lost a little of its magic with Fred Hoiberg gone to the NBA, but Georges Niang and Monte Morris return and the Cyclones will be a good midseason test for the Aggies.

6. Vanderbilt at Purdue – Tuesday, December 22. Two of the best big men in the country in A.J. Hammons and Damian Jones will go head-to-head in this game.

5. Kentucky vs. Louisville – Saturday, December 26. Rick Pitino goes into Rupp Arena on December 26? That is nothing short of a Christmas miracle for Wildcats’ fans. Pitino vs. John Calipari is an annual holiday gift for all college basketball fans.

4. LSU vs. Oklahoma – Saturday, January 30. Johnny Jones needs a big win outside of SEC play. He might not get a better chance than when Buddy Hield’s Sooners roll into Baton Rouge in late January.

3. Kentucky at Kansas – Saturday, January 30. Do you remember that 72-40 beating that Kentucky put on Kansas last year in the Champions Classic? Bill Self and the Jayhawks remember too. The mid-conference season timing of this game only adds to the intrigue.

2. Vanderbilt at Baylor – Sunday, December 6. Baylor has a strong core of players returning, just like the Commodores. We will quickly find out if Jones, Riley LaChance, and company are legit when they travel to Waco in the early part of the season.

1. Kentucky vs. Duke – Tuesday, November 17. The young Wildcats will be tested early against the defending national champs when two preseason top five teams battle it out in Chicago. This was the championship game everyone wanted to see last season, so hopefully this year’s undercard will still be worth the wait.

Brian Joyce (333 Posts)

Brian Joyce is an advanced metrics enthusiast, college hoops junkie, and writer for the SEC basketball microsite for Rush the Court.

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