The new college basketball season is officially here and there are plenty of headlining tournaments in November and December to get things started.
Michigan State leads the way atop the preseason poll and it will start off opening night against Kentucky in a rare No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup at the annual Champions Classic. Duke and Kansas round out what figures to be a special night at Madison Square Garden.
That’s not it for Michigan State in non-conference play, though. The Spartans will also head to the islands to take on the Maui Invitational later in the month. This year’s field also includes notable teams in BYU, Kansas, UCLA, Georgia and Virginia Tech.
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Battle 4 Atlantis will be must-see material as well. Half of this year’s field is made up of teams that were ranked top 15 in the AP preseason poll. Gonzaga and North Carolina could meet in the finals, and a juicy first-round matchup between Seton Hall and Oregon will get things started out in the Bahamas.
Below are the notable college basketball tournaments and events throughout November and December, including dates, locations, teams, TV channels, tip times and reasons to watch.
College basketball schedule 2019-20: Major NCAA tournaments & events
Reasons to watch: Is there a better way to start a season than a doubleheader of No. 1 vs. No. 2 and No. 3 vs. No. 4? Madison Square Garden plays host to the annual Champions Classic and it should provide plenty of action on opening night. Even though the two-game event always includes these powerhouses, this year’s Champions Classic is the first-ever time that its participants are ranked Nos. 1-4. Grab a seat and settle in.
Reasons to watch: The sixth-annual Veterans Classic doubleheader to honor our nation’s servicemen and servicewomen takes place on Navy’s home floor in Annapolis, Md. Auburn vs. Davidson is the game to watch, as the Tigers start the year ranked after last year’s run to the Final Four while Davidson brings back almost everyone and could find itself in the AP poll in no time.
Armed Forces Classic
Reasons to watch: Washington starts the season outside of the AP top 25, but it won’t be unranked the following week if beats Baylor. The Huskies welcome two top-tier freshmen in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels to one of the top frontcourts in the country. Baylor, meanwhile, returns studs Tristan Clark and Jared Butler to go along with Auburn transfer Davion Mitchell.
Phil Knight Invitational
Reasons to watch: No, it’s not the jam-packed 16-team event as it was in 2017, but this year’s doubleheader will make the Phil Knight Invitational worth watching. The matchup between Memphis and Oregon will feature as much freshmen talent as you will see all season long. Don’t sleep on the nightcap, either. Oklahoma has tournament aspirations behind forward Brady Manek and Oregon State has the best player in the country you don’t know yet in Tres Tinkle.
Myrtle Beach Invitational
Reasons to watch: Villanova and Baylor will be the favorites heading into the tournament but Mississippi State is a legitimate darkhorse. The Bulldogs return four players who started 10 or more games from last year’s 23-win team.
Reasons to watch: The new-look Florida Gators could be a force to be reckoned with early on and throughout the season. Mike White’s team has retooled with Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear and a solid freshman class and will take home the hardware at the Charleston Classic barring an upset.
Reasons to watch: Duke makes its return to Madison Square Garden with a late matchup against Cal. Georgetown vs. Texas should be the more intriguing contest, as it features a pair of teams that have underwhelmed in recent years but have the pieces to do some damage in the NCAA Tournament.
Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off
Reasons to watch: The defending champs take on UMass to open the Hall of Fame Tip-Off and Arizona State and St. John’s make up the opposite side of the bracket. Virginia loses three key contributors from last year’s title team and will be tested early in the year.
NIT Season Tip-Off
Reasons to watch: This year’s NIT Season Tip-Off field feels like its made up of teams that will be overlooked in their respective high-major conferences but have the pieces to sneak into the tournament and win a game against a higher-seeded team. Maybe this neutral-site event provides a first glimpse into that becoming a reality.
Reasons to watch: It doesn’t truly feel like it’s college basketball season until the Maui Invitational. Six high-major teams, BYU and host Chaminade make up this year’s field and the allure of a Michigan State vs. Kansas title game is all the buzz. If the Spartans and Jayhawks enter Maui undefeated and meet in the championship, one of the two teams would likely leave the islands with two top-five wins on the season.
Reasons to watch: Barclays Center plays host to the Legends Classic, which could result in a championship matchup between Wisconsin and Auburn. Both teams lose key pieces from last year, and a win in a neutral-site tournament could provide a spark as the season progresses.
Hall Of Fame Classic
Reasons to watch: Four high-major teams and four games at the Sprint Center in a span of 24 hours. This is a pretty wide-open field with Oklahoma being the only team that reached the NCAA Tournament last season.
Reasons to watch: Two intriguing matchups between mid-major and high-major opponents kick off the Cancun Challenge. Wichita State is looking to rebound from missing the tournament last season against South Carolina while Northern Iowa, led by stud underclassman A.J. Green, battle a West Virginia squad that should be much improved.
Battle 4 Atlantis
Reasons to watch: To get an idea of just how loaded the Battle 4 Atlantis field is this year, the loser of No. 12 Seton Hall vs. No. 15 Oregon will need a win Thursday to avoid the 7th/8th-place game. The Maui Invitational and Champions Classic get the headlines at the start of the season, but the Battle 4 Atlantis has consistently provided the best fields in recent seasons and this year is no exception. The semis could feature Cole Anthony and the Tar Heels against Juwan Howard’s Michigan squad with Gonzaga taking on either Seton Hall or Oregon. Every game in this tournament is worth watching.
ESPN Orlando Invitational
Reasons to watch: Is this finally the year Maryland lives up to expectations? An Orlando Invitational title would be a nice start. Beyond the Terrapins, there are a handful of fun teams in the field worth following during this tournament and as the season continues. Harvard and Davidson are two of the strongest mid-major teams in the nation, USC has another roster loaded with talent and quality transfers, and Texas A&M has a trio of double-figure scorers in Savion Flagg, T.J. Starks and Wendell Mitchell.
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