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The top non-conference games to watch in the 2022-23 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball season

Nov 6, 2022

The 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is still months away, but hoops fans know teams' fates can be decided by a few key games against top opponents during the regular season.

With that in mind, here are the top non-conference matchups to watch heading into the 2022-23 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball season.

Colorado vs. No. 11 Tennessee | Nov. 13 | 11 a.m. PT | ESPN

For years, Colorado men’s basketball was anchored by Buffs legends McKinley Wright IV and Evan Battey. But that era is now firmly in the rearview with Wright graduating in 2021 and Battey departing last year. 

Now Colorado’s future rests on the shoulders of a young core that includes Tristan da Silva and Pac-12 All-Freshman Team honoree K.J. Simpson. The new-look Buffs will have a major test early when they head to Nashville to take on No. 11 Tennessee in their third game of the season.

No. 23 Illinois vs. No. 8 UCLA | Nov. 18 | 6:30 p.m. PT | ESPNU

After a few tuneups, UCLA’s season will begin in earnest when it meets No. 23 Illinois for the opening round of the Continental Tire Main Event in Las Vegas.

If UCLA defeats Illinois at the early season tournament, it would get a crack at either No. 5 Baylor or No. 18 Virginia, giving the Bruins a golden opportunity to announce themselves as a force to be reckoned with for the 2022-23 season.

No. 3 Houston at No. 21 Oregon | Nov. 20 | 6:30 p.m. PT | ESPN

Houston has been as dangerous as any team in college basketball over the past two years, making it to the 2021 Final Four and upsetting higher seeded Arizona and Illinois in 2022.

Oregon last saw NCAA Tournament action as a 7-seed in 2021, falling to 5-seed USC in an all-Pac-12 Sweet Sixteen matchup. The Ducks are still getting over their disappointment from 2020 when the pandemic canceled a March Madness in which they would have almost certainly entered as a top-4 seed. Defeating one of the nation’s best in Houston would go a very long way to setting Oregon up for a deep March run.

No. 7 Duke vs. Oregon State | Nov. 24 | 12 p.m. PT | ESPN 

Pac-12 fans will get their first chance to see the post-Coach K era Blue Devils when Oregon State faces No. 7 Duke in Portland on Thanksgiving Day.

Oregon State is coming off a 3-28 season, but is less than two years removed from a magical March run to a Pac-12 Tournament title and Elite Eight appearance. With a Noon PT tipoff time, Pac-12 fans can watch the Beavs battle the Blue Devils while their turkeys are still in the oven.

Washington at No. 2 Gonzaga | Dec. 9 | 6 p.m. PT | ROOT+

The Huskies will head to Spokane in early December for a meeting with the No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs, which could have massive implications. After riding an undefeated season all the way to the NCAA Tournament Championship game in 2021, top-seeded Gonzaga was last seen making a surprise exit from the 2022 Tournament, falling to No. 4 Arkansas in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Huskies have fallen to Gonzaga in 12 of their past 13 matchups. If Washington could reverse this trend and pull off the upset, it would set the college basketball world ablaze and give the 2022-23 Huskies a signature win.

No. 13 Indiana vs. No. 17 Arizona | Dec. 10 | 4:30 p.m. PT | FOX

Two historic programs are set to meet up in the Las Vegas Clash at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Not only are they among the exclusive programs who have won a national championship, but both have high expectations into the 2023 season, being selected to finish second in their respective conferences.

It will be a big early test for an Arizona team that lost Pac-12 Player of the Year Bennedict Mathurin, Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Christian Koloko and all-conference wing Dalen Terry to the NBA, but still has a ton of talent for Tommy Lloyd, the conference's reigning Coach of the Year, to work with.

No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 8 UCLA | Dec. 17 | 2:30 p.m. PT | CBS

It doesn’t get a whole lot more blue-blooded than this. Kentucky and UCLA hold 19 NCAA titles between them.

The two basketball powerhouses will be meeting at a particularly salient moment. Kentucky will be out for blood after a first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament, falling as a 2-seed to last year’s tournament darling, No. 15 Saint Peters. After deep tournament runs in the past two years with the same core, the Bruins are giving it another go with a roster that still includes Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr.

To top it off, the two storied programs will be meeting at one of the most legendary basketball settings in the country, Madison Square Garden.

No. 11 Tennessee at No. 17 Arizona | Dec. 17 | 7:30 p.m. PT | ESPN2

Last year, the Wildcats announced themselves as a legitimate title contender in mid-December by knocking off the preseason No. 11 team, defeating Illinois 83-79.

Could history repeat itself?

The Wildcats have another mid-December date with the preseason No. 11 team, hosting Tennessee in Tucson. If Arizona can knock off the Volunteers, the hype train will take off at almost the exact time it did last year. 

Pac-12 US LBM Coast-to-Coast Challenge in Dallas | Dec. 18

The second annual Pac-12 US LBM Coast-to-Coast Challenge will feature two Pac-12 programs against two ranked Texas-based teams, starting with Stanford tipping things off at American Airlines Center against No. 12 Texas.

Led by reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and Dallas native Harrison Ingram, the Cardinal is hunting for its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2014, and a win over the Longhorns could go a long way toward solidifying their résumé come tournament time. That game begins at 10 a.m. PT on Sunday, Dec. 18.

Washington State will take on No. 5 Baylor at 7 p.m. PT to cap the Coast-to-Coast Challenge. It will give an upstart Cougars team the chance to match up against the 2021 national champions and pick up a signature win.

Both games will air on the ESPN Family of Networks.

No. 15 Auburn at Washington | Dec. 21 | 6 p.m. PT | Pac-12 Networks

With most University of Washington students heading home for the Holidays, members of the Huskies men’s basketball team will stay in Seattle to host No. 15 Auburn at the Alaska Airlines Arena on December 21.

A win over a preseason top-15 team would certainly help Washington's cause to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019.