The start of the 2010-11 college basketball season is only a few days away, and that means the return of early season tournaments in exotic locales and big-name matchups featuring some of the nation's gauging their talent against one another. Even in these early meetings, every team is being evaluated as teams move closer to Selection Sunday and each win or loss brings a team one step closer or further away from an invite to March Madness.
With several local teams in the running for a spot in the field of 68, it's important to take a look at where each team can help or hurt their cause against key opponents.
- 11/18 - 2K Sports Classic (They face Pittsburgh in Game 1 and either Texas or Illinois the next day.)
- 12/1 - @ Penn State
- 12/5 - vs. Temple
- 1/15 @ Villanova
Four years ago, the Terps surprised the hoops world when they won the 2K Sports Classic with a win over Michigan State, who was coming off a Final Four appearance. A repeat performance this season would certainly get them some attention in the polls, where they didn't get a single vote to start the season. If they can't pull of the shocker in the Garden, they still have some solid matchups to boost their profile before brunt of the conference schedule begins.
With all other things equal, Maryland's out of conference schedule certainly won't keep them from earning a bid if they find themselves on the bubble, but their is one flaw that could lead to some problems once conference games begin. Their trip to Happy Valley is their only true road game before a brutal stretch where they have to go on the road to face Duke, Wake Forest and Villanova in a seven day span.
- 11/12 - @ Old Dominion
- 11/18 - Charleston Classic (The Hoyas open up with Coastal Carolina and could potentially meet USC Upstate, Wofford, East Carolina, NC State, Charlotte or George Mason)
- 11/27 - @ Missouri
- 12/4 - vs. Utah State
- 12/9 - @ Temple
- 12/23 - @ Memphis
The Hoyas have a nice mix of games against respected opponents who will likely be ranked (Missouri & Memphis) as well as some games against some tough mid-majors who will make sure the Hoyas don't get away with sleepwalking through their early season schedule.
There may not be an opportunity for a signature win before they enter the Big East schedule, but there is a great opportunity for the Hoyas to build some consistency, which the team has severely lacked in recent years, against an out-of-conference schedule with solid depth from top to bottom. A good way to start building that comes in their season opener, against a tough Monarchs team that's won two of their last three against the Hoyas.
- 12/1 - @ West Virginia
- 12/5 - vs. Florida (BB&T Classic)
- 12/16 - @ Northwestern
- 12/22 - @ Pittsburgh
- 12/29 - Cable Car Classic (American faces Fordham in the first matchup and either Santa Clara or Delaware the next day.)
The Eagles went 3-12 out of conference last season, suffering most of those losses before transfer Vlad Moldoveanu was eligible to play. Now with a full off-season with the team, he should be able to help the team improve upon that mark this season with some winnable games in their early schedule.
As you can see, the schedule cranks into high gear with four matchups against BCS conference schools and a tournament at the end of the month in Santa Clara. Any wins they can get during December against these high quality opponents will be nice, but win or lose, the Eagles have to make sure they leave something in the tank for conference play. After all, the Patriot League has never sent more than one team to the dance.
- 11/18 - Charleston Classic (The Patriots open up with Charlotte and could potentially meet USC Upstate, Wofford, East Carolina, NC State, Coastal Carolina or Georgetown)
- 12/1 - vs. George Washington
- 12/21 - @ Duquense
- 12/29 - vs. Dayton
There isn't much pizzazz here. Their longest road trip of the season is to Charleston, where they have their best chance of bolstering their résumé against some solid schools. but unless they get a chance to play and defeat the Hoyas, there won't be many opportunities to make a statement before they enter their CAA schedule.
- 12/1 - @ George Mason
- 12/5 - vs. Navy
- 12/18 - @ Oregon State
- 12/27 - vs. UAB
- 1/2 - vs. Howard
The Colonials have lots of local teams on their schedule this season, since most of their travel budget is tied up with their cross-country trip to face Oregon State. Their game with Oregon State is the return game after the Colonials hosted Beavers, who are coached by President Obama's brother-in-law
, last season. While I'm sure the payoff for getting the President to attend a game was well worth it for George Washington last year, the long road trip and the hassles that come with it will certainly make things interesting as they work their way through their unusual itinerary.
On the bright side, it gives GW fans plenty of opportunities for bragging rights against local schools this season if they play things right against the Patriots, Midshipmen and Bison.
- 11/14 - @ Purdue
- 11/23 - vs. American
- 11/27 - vs. Oregon State
- 12/1 - vs. William & Mary
- 1/2 vs. George Washington
- 1/4 vs. Virginia
New coach Kevin Nickelberry has a nice mix of non-conference games that should expose his players to opponents of varying talent levels. The game at Purdue will serve as a reminder of how far the Bison have to go to have a chance at going to the tournament, but as they go through the rest of the schedule, they'll have chances to evaluate their progress against more reasonable opponents before they enter their conference schedule.
Of course, you can be sure the highlight of the schedule will be on the 27th, when they host Oregon State, which almost assuredly means another visit from President Obama, which should make for an excited crowd before and a great opportunity for an upset win to establish Nickelberry's tenure at Howard.
- 11/8 - @ Texas
- 12/5 - vs. George Washington
Starting the season on the road in Austin is daunting, but if there's one time when Texas should be susceptible to an upset, it's their season opener. We've seen countless teams over the past few years drop very winnable games to start the year because they were either unprepared or looking ahead to a big matchup. And let's not forget Navy has a fast-paced, unconventional offense that's never easy to prepare for. Combine all that with some streaky shooting and the Midshipmen have the ingredients in place to pull an upset against Texas if the cards fall right.