College basketball is almost upon us and the AP Top 25 preseason men’s basketball poll is here. The Kansas Jayhawks are the number one team, with 46 out of 63 first-place votes. They are followed by Duke and Purdue in second and third place. As the season starts, which games will be the toughest for their respective schools?
Duke and Michigan State Clash in the Champions Classic:
Photo Cred: Yahoo Sports
The college basketball season kicks off with a bang. Duke is riding high in the second year of the Jon Scheyer era. They bring back key starters, with Tyrese Proctor, Jeremy Roach, Mark Mitchell, and Kyle Filipowski returning. They have the No. 2 recruiting class in 2023, led by five-star shooting guard Jared McCain. Michigan State brings experience and great guard play from A.J. Hoggard, Tyson Walker, and Jaden Akins. Tom Izzo has the No. 5 recruiting class this year. If five-star center Xavier Booker grows in Izzo’s system, the Spartans can win a national championship contenders.
Kansas vs UConn on December 1 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence:
Photo Cred: ESPN
This game is not at a neutral site but at the formidable Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas enjoys one of the best home-court advantages in college basketball. The reigning champions have a tough schedule, with three ranked games in the opening weeks. UConn’s star big man Donovan Clingan is recovering from injury but should play in time for this game. The showdown between Clingan and Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson is a must-watch. Not to mention Rutgers transfer Cam Spencer, who is ready to lead the team to back-to-back championships.
Duke and North Carolina in February and March:
Photo Cred: ESPN
This is the most iconic rivalry in college basketball. Both teams return starters and key players. This year’s Tar Heels features familiar faces, with Armando Bacot and RJ Davis back, but also many new ones who Carolina fans hope will help them get back to the top of the mountain. It’s Hubert Davis and Jon Scheyer leading UNC and Duke. The Blue Devils emerged victorious in both games last year, but UNC has a lead in the head-to-head series with 143 wins to Duke’s 115.
Purdue and Michigan State Face Off at Mackey Arena on March 2 in West Lafayette, Indiana:
Photo Cred: NBA.com
This game of top-five teams and Big Ten programs only happens once this season. It’s likely to become even rarer with the addition of Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington joining the Big 10. Last season, these two teams clashed twice. The first game was one of the best of the season, with a go-ahead bucket from Zach Edey giving Purdue a 64-63 victory.
Kansas vs. Houston Big 12 Showdown in February and March:
Photo Cred: CBS Sports
Welcome to the Big 12, Houston. The Cougars enter the Big 12 with a bang as they face Kansas for the first time on February 3 in Lawrence. The Jayhawks will return the favor when they visit Houston for the final game of the regular season before the conference tournament begins. This marks the start of a new chapter for Houston, taking on top Big 12 teams like Kansas and Texas (twice), as well as Baylor in their inaugural year in the conference.