If you’re a Power 5 men’s basketball program with Bracketville dreams, November and December are primarily about two things:
1. Building confidence (and minutes for newcomers) against directional cupcakes chasing a check
2. Putting some non-conference “name” pelts up on the wall in order to start building that March resume
Indiana snatched a very big pelt — Kansas — last Friday in Hawaii. Purdue almost tagged defending national champion Villanova for another Monday night at Mackey Arena before falling, 79-76.
And more games to stick a pin in for future reference are coming hard and fast this week. Wisconsin (1-0, No. 4 Sagarin) visits Creighton (1-0, No. 42) in one of the showcase Big Ten-Big East Challenge pairings Tuesday evening, along with a visit by Maryland (1-0, No. 45) to Georgetown (1-0, No. 28) in a tussle with Beltway bragging rights on the line.
Michigan State (0-1, No. 19) takes on Kentucky (2-0, No. 9) in the Spartans’ second marquee test in less than a week, having dropped a 65-63 decision to Arizona at Honolulu last Friday. Some other dates — and matchups — worth keeping an eye on before the end of the calendar year:
THE B1G’S THREE MOST IMPACTFUL ‘HOLIDAY’ SEASON GAMES — ACC/BIG TEN CHALLENGE EDITION
1a. Michigan State (No. 19 Sagarin) at Duke (No. 1), Nov. 29.
Another test for a young Spartans team. Gang Green and the Dookies have met four times since 2011 — all on neutral floors — but this is the first matchup between the two storied giants in Durham since Dec. 2010 (Duke won, 84-79).
1b. Iowa (No. 53) at Notre Dame (No. 30), Nov. 29
The Hawkeyes (2-0) are averaging 103.5 points over their first two tilts to open a ‘rebuilding’ year. Team Fran could wind up facing Virginia (Nov. 25 at the Emerald Coast Classic), either Memphis or Providence (Nov. 26), and then the Irish over a five-day span.
2. North Carolina (No. 3) at Indiana (No. 12), Nov. 30.
Yogi who? James Blackmon dropped 26 on a good Kansas team in a victory that served a national wake-up call. And served notice.
3. Purdue (No. 10) at Louisville (No. 5), Nov. 30
Big Isaac Haas (7-foot-2) has opened the season like a tower of terror (22 points, two blocks per game) for the Boilers. But Rick Pitino and the Cardinal don’t scare easily.
THE B1G’S THREE MOST IMPACTFUL ‘HOLIDAY’ SEASON GAMES — NON-ACC/BIG TEN CHALLENGE EDITION
1. Wisconsin (No. 4) at Marquette (No. 33), Dec. 10.
Bucky is 4-4 over the Badgers’ last eight visits to Milwaukee dating back to 2000. The Eagles handed former coach Bo Ryan his last loss — a 57-55 setback in Madison — last Dec. 12. Ryan announced his retirement a few days later.
2. Purdue (No. 10) vs. Notre Dame (No. 30), Indianapolis, Dec. 17.
Can Matt Painter avenge the last meeting between the two old rivals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse — a 94-63 Irish thumping on Dec. 20, 2014?
3. Louisville (No. 5 Sagarin) vs. Indiana (No. 12), Indianapolis, Dec. 31.
The first of a three-game, neutral-home-away (1-1-1) series between two powers separated by just 100 miles.