With my preseason final four selected and breakout teams identified, the next step in preparing for the upcoming college basketball season is to identify high profile non-conference matchups that will shape the NCAA Tournament come March. These games have my attention for several reasons ranging from coaching matchups, the value of upperclassmen versus under classmen, and power schools versus non power schools.

(3) Kansas @ (10) Villanova
12/21 Noon EST – Philadelphia, PA – Fox
The Jayhawks and the Wildcats have developed a very competitive non-conference rivalry over the past several seasons. Villanova eliminated Kansas in rout to both of their recent National Championships in 2016 and 2018. Kansas was able to get a small measure of revenge in last season’s regular season matchup at Phog Allen Field House. Kansas comes off a down year by Kansas standards. They were only to manage a four seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament and only won one tournament game. They do bring back a lot of talent featuring shooting guard Devon Dotson. Villanova was also eliminated in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament a season ago and bring in what looks to be the best recruiting class in school history featuring projected lottery pick Jerimiah Robinson-Earl. This matchup has all the makings of a classic.

(5) Louisville @ (2) Kentucky
12/28 3:45 EST – Lexington, KY – CBS
The Bluegrass Rivalry is once again loaded with talent on both sides once again. I am more interested in this game from a Louisville standpoint. The Cardinals bring back a lot of front court talent featuring upper classmen Jordan Norwa and bring in five-star recruit Samuell Williamson to man the perimeter. My concern is their depth. On paper they look to only be eight deep. It will be imperative for head coach Chris Mack to develop the backend of his rotation and there is no better early season measuring stick then John Callapari’s Kentucky Wildcats.

(7) Maryland @ (12) Seton Hall
12/19 7:00pm EST – Newark, NJ
Both programs appear to be primed for monster seasons in 2019 and are very similar in their makeup. Each squad features a potential NBA lottery selection in Jalen Smith (Maryland) and Myles Powell (Seton Hall). Both programs also return most of their talented 2018 rosters. I would love to see one or both programs get over the hump and make a Final Four run. The two keys to this game will be which NBA hopeful will get more help from their supporting cast? What coach will overcome his past short comings and elevate their program to a legitimate National Championship contender? Keep in mind Seton Hall won last year’s matchup at Maryland.

(14) Memphis vs (15) Oregon
11/12 9:00 EST – Portland, OR – ESPN
This matchup is intriguing on many levels, but the most intriguing is by far the coaching matchup. Newcomer Penny Hardaway comes in with a ton swagger with his big-time recruits and promises to make Memphis a national power. Oregon’s Dana Altman is Hardaway’s opposite. Atlman’s 31-year coaching career has been nothing short of impressive. The last 9 of these years have been spent at Oregon where Altman has accumulated 235 wins, a 71 percent winning percentage, 6 tournament appearances, and 1 final four. Can the up-start Penny Hardaway match the prowess and pedigree of Dana Altman?