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Andy Wittry | | January 7, 2020

10 can't-miss men's basketball conference matchups to circle this winter

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Other than a few exceptions like the Big 12-SEC Challenge, non-conference play is essentially over in the college basketball season. Until the 2020 NCAA tournament tips off, we'll almost exclusively watch games between teams in the same conference and we're here to highlight some of the best matchups in the next three months.

Here are 11 can't-miss games to watch in conference play. 

Memphis at Wichita State, Thursday, Jan. 9

The Tigers and Shockers are arguably the two best teams in the AAC and they'll meet twice in the regular season, starting with a matchup in the second week of January. Both teams have a top-20 defense based on efficiency and each team is building a considerable win streak. Memphis has won 10 games in a row, including a road game at Tennessee, a neutral-site game against N.C. State and at home against Ole Miss, while Wichita State has won six straight with wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and VCU.

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Auburn at Florida, Saturday, Jan. 18

The Tigers are the other remaining undefeated team after their 12-0 start, and a trip to Gainesville projects to be their next game in which they'll have less than a 50 percent chance of victory, according to

Florida (8-4) hasn't matched its preseason ranking with its play on the court but it's still a top 25 team nationally based upon its net efficiency margin.

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Louisville at Duke, Saturday, Jan. 18

This is the only regular-season matchup between Duke, which is currently No. 1 on, and Louisville (No. 4).

They also have consistently been the two highest-ranked ACC teams in the AP poll, so this game could potentially determine which school finishes atop the conference standings and earns the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament. These are two of the teams that have held the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll this season so if we're lucky, we might also get a rematch in the second or third weekend of the NCAA tournament.

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Butler at Villanova, Tuesday, Jan. 21

Villanova has been the class of the Big East since the conference reorganized, having won five of the last six regular-season titles. This season is a different story, as Butler has been the best team in the conference through non-conference play. The Bulldogs are 13-1, and ranked No. 7 on and No. 11 in the AP poll.

Their only loss so far was a one-point road loss at Baylor.

A game between Villanova's top 10 offense and Butler's top 10 defense is bound to be good.

Gonzaga at Saint Mary's, Saturday, Feb. 8

The Zags are the sixth team to be ranked No. 1 this season and they have the potential to hang on to it for a while, given that they're 14-1, riding a six-game winning streak, owners of the most efficient offense in the country and they've been the class of the WCC for the last two decades.

According to, Gonzaga's trip to Saint Mary's in early February is the game in which they have the lowest chance of victory of any conference game this season at 52 percent. The site projects a one-point Gonzaga win.

Saint Mary's has an offense that ranks just behind Gonzaga at No. 6 nationally and the Gaels are the best 3-point shooting team in the country at 42.7 percent, so they could get hot from deep and potentially knock off the No. 1 team in the land.

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Duke at North Carolina, Saturday, Feb. 8

The first Duke-North Carolina meeting of 2020 doesn't come until more than a month into the new year, which is good for the Tar Heels. Star freshman Cole Anthony is currently recovering from knee surgery and the school announced in mid-December that he would miss four to six weeks.

So Feb. 8 is presumably late enough in the season for Anthony to not only be back on the court, but hopefully for him and the Tar Heels, to also have played in a few other games before facing off with the Blue Devils.

Kansas at West Virginia, Wednesday, Feb. 12

Kansas has lost its road trip to West Virginia in five of the last six years and since historically the Big 12 has been the Jayhawks' conference to lose in the Bill Self era, this is the game to keep an eye on as Kansas' greatest opportunity to lose a conference game.

This game shouldn't only be viewed from the Kansas perspective, either. West Virginia (11-1) is riding high after being Ohio State on a neutral court, adding to their resume that includes a road win at Pittsburgh and neutral-site wins over Northern Iowa and Wichita State.

The Mountaineers are proving that last season, when they finished 15-21, was an outlier and West Virginia is likely back to its old form as an NCAA Tournament team that will challenge to win double-digit games in the Big 12.

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Dayton at VCU, Tuesday, February 18

VCU was the preseason pick to win the A-10 and if a revote was cast, Dayton would surely be the favorite after non-conference play. The Flyers are 11-2, ranked No. 20 in the AP poll and they have the No. 5 offense in the country, led by 6-9 sophomore Obi Toppin.

The Rams are still the second-best team in the A-10, at least based upon efficiency margins, and their only losses came away from home against Purdue, Tennessee and Wichita State.

Dayton and VCU will meet twice in the regular season, first in Dayton on Jan. 14, then in this matchup in mid-February.

Oregon at Arizona, Saturday, Feb. 22

The Pac-12 only has two teams ranked in the latest AP Top 25 poll — No. 4 Oregon and No. 25 Arizona — and they'll meet twice in the regular season. Expect points in this matchup, as these are the two most efficient offenses in the conference, each loaded with elite talent, and neither defense ranking in the top 40 nationally.

This is one of two games in Pac-12 play that Oregon has less than a 50 percent chance of victory, according to

North Carolina at Duke, Saturday, March 7

Duke-North Carolina Part II is set for the last day of the ACC regular-season schedule. Depending on the length of Cole Anthony's absence after he underwent knee surgery, this game could potentially have a huge impact on the Tar Heels' NCAA tournament selection and seeding hopes.

They're 8-5 through 13 games and just 2-2 in games played without Anthony.

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