The move to 20 games in high-major conferences meant more inventory for networks of conference games in December. The only league of the top six — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12 and Big East — that doesn’t play a conference game prior to New Year’s this season is the Big 12.
Here are the best conference games this month:
Iowa at Purdue, Dec. 3: Iowa is the surprise in the Big Ten. Keegan Murray is playing at an all-Big Ten level so far this season. The Hawkeyes do have size issues. Purdue does not. The Boilermakers are the toughest team to match up with in the country. This is a monster test for the Hawkeyes.
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Illinois at Iowa, Dec. 6: Oh, look, it continues for Iowa. They get Kofi Cockburn on Monday after Purdue. That means Iowa has to go through Zach Edey, Trevion Williams and Cockburn in back-to-back Big Ten games. Wow.
Virginia Tech at Duke, Dec. 22: The Hokies have the preseason ACC player of the year in Keve Aluma. But Duke may have the national player of the year in Paolo Banchero. This will be a barometer game for the Hokies to see where they stand in the ACC.
Villanova at Creighton, Dec. 17: The Bluejays have one of the best home courts in the Big East. They are not a contender for the Big East title. But they can disrupt the top of the league by upsetting Nova.
Providence at UConn, Dec. 18: The Huskies were in the Big East last season but without fans. This will be the first Big East home game for the Huskies with fans and it’s against their former and now renewed rival. Bring it on.
Marquette at Xavier, Dec. 18: The Golden Eagles have the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year Darryl Morsell playing as well as any transfer on a given team. The Golden Eagles have already beaten Illinois at home and West Virginia in Charleston. Xavier knocked off Ohio State at home. This should be a showdown of Big East challengers.
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St. John’s at Seton Hall, Dec. 20: This rivalry is going to get better as the Red Storm rise back up. Both teams have tournament potential but the Pirates have a marquee win in beating Michigan. So far the Red Storm is still searching for one.
USC at Washington State, Saturday: The Trojans head on the road in the Pac-12 as one of the favorites in the league. The Trojans have already won two true road games. They are ready to take their act on the road. The Cougars need to prove they are a contender not a pretender.
Arizona at UCLA, Dec. 30: The best rivalry in the Pac-12 should be ready to go with the Wildcats one of the surprise teams in the country. This should be a highly entertaining game. A win by the Wildcats would send shock waves to the rest of the Pac-12.
LSU at Auburn, Dec. 29: LSU is off to a great start. Auburn has the look of an SEC title chaser behind star Jabari Smith. This will be a great test.
BUZZER BEATER: Watch Dayton's wild buzzer beater against No. 4 Kansas
Arkansas at Mississippi State, Dec. 29: The Bulldogs have been a bit of a disappointment so far. They need to establish themselves early in the SEC. Knocking off contender Arkansas would be a great start.
Tennessee at Alabama, Dec. 29: Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler vs. Alabama’s Jahvon Quinerly will be one of the better playmaking matchups in the SEC.