One of the most important games of any non-conference schedule is the first game of a multi-team tournament. Kevin Pauga, a Michigan State assistant athletic director, has been preaching this for years.
He’s right. Losing the first game and ending up in the losers' bracket could mean missing out on critical games.
Here are all the must-watch Thanksgiving games this weekend, through Saturday, and what’s at stake. Stay tuned for the best games to watch on Sunday, as some holiday tournament finals will be in action.
College basketball: Thanksgiving tournaments weekend what-to-watch guide
*All times listed in ET
Saturday, Nov. 24
6 p.m. — Houston at BYU, BYUtv, Provo, Utah
BYU has a star and stat stuffer in Yoeli Childs. But BYU needs, desperately has to have a quality non-conference win before it gets to the WCC. This is BYU’s best shot after losing at Nevada. Utah, Utah State and at Illinois State probably won’t do it for BYU. Houston will start to see its schedule get tougher with games upcoming against Oregon, at Oklahoma State, Saint Louis, LSU and at Utah State. Getting at least one road win with this slate is imperative before Houston gets into the AAC.
Sunday, Nov. 25
1 p.m. — Villanova vs. Florida State, ESPN, Orlando Advocare Invitational championship
The Seminoles had to go to overtime to knock off LSU in the semifinals while Nova took care of Oklahoma State. Nova still needs a win this season over a perceived NCAA tournament team. This would suffice. How the Wildcats handle the Seminoles length will be one of the more interesting subplots. A Florida State win will continue the narrative that this team can challenge for a top four finish in the ACC.
4 p.m — Oklahoma State vs. LSU, ESPN2, Orlando
The third-place game could be a bench mark for the Cowboys. Oklahoma State will get plenty of chances in the non-conference. But this would continue to show the Big 12’s depth if the Cowboys knock off LSU. Leaving 1-2 would put a damper on the month of November for LSU. The Tigers can’t lose twice to Florida State by letting the disheartening loss to the Seminoles affect them against the Cowboys.