Impact games in college basketball's first month

The biggest date at the start of the college basketball calendar is Nov. 14. That's because of Champions Classic, which will have Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky -- four of the top five teams in our preseason Power Rankings. It doesn't get any better than that -- and certainly not in November.

It also doesn't take a Bracketologist to project all four of these teams into the 2018 NCAA tournament. Barring a complete calamity off the court, we're talking about four legitimate national championship contenders and four very possible -- if not probable -- No. 1 seeds.

The intrigue comes when we dive a little deeper into the nonconference schedule. There are literally dozens and dozens of matchups that could be pivotal to the NCAA tournament selection committee.

Here are my top 12 "impact games" for November, plus a few honorable mentions.

  • Texas A&M Aggies vs. West Virginia Mountaineers at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany (Nov. 10, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN)
    The Aggies are hoping to land an early punch after missing the NCAAs in five of the past six seasons. Of equal interest are the senior-laden Mountaineers, who are this year's top candidate in the "Who can dethrone Kansas in the Big 12?" sweepstakes. For what it's worth, I think WVU is good enough to play in April.

  • Butler Bulldogs at Maryland Terrapins (Nov. 15, 8:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
    This is a genuine early bubble game between two middle-of-the-pack, major-conference question marks. The Terps were the "last team in" in our August bracket and are as good a name as any to be on everyone's lips during Champ Week. The Bulldogs, of course, have a whole lot to prove under new coach LaVall Jordan and his one-year record of 11-24 at UW-Milwaukee.

  • USC Trojans at Vanderbilt Commodores (Nov. 19, 9 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
    Both teams have serious aspirations about playing into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. And the Trojans, for all the hype heading into this season, were just 2-4 on the road against Top 75 teams last year.

  • Marquette Golden Eagles vs. VCU Rams in the Maui Invitational (Nov. 20, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
    The opener in Maui pits a pair of NCAA tournament regulars, each of which projected to miss the 2018 field in our August forecast. It's hard to imagine either playing their way back into the picture with a poor showing in Lahaina.

  • Creighton Bluejays vs. UCLA Bruins in Kansas City, Mo. (Nov. 20, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
    The Ball family consumes so much oxygen that it's hard to really know how good UCLA will be. We know Creighton is a top-40 team, however, and there figures to be a very pro-Bluejay crowd for this neutral site affair in Kansas City. I like the Jays in a mini-upset.

  • Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Oklahoma Sooners at the PK80 Invitational in Portland (Nov. 23, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
    In one of several intriguing matchups at this event, both teams will be looking to make an early-season statement. The Razorbacks were the "first team out" of our August projection, and the Sooners hope to move quickly past their 11-20, post-Final Four disaster.

  • Oakland Golden Grizzlies at Kansas Jayhawks (Nov. 24, 8 p.m. ET)
    The last time the Jayhawks lost a nonconference game at home was Jan. 5, 2014, to San Diego State. The Aztecs went to the Sweet 16 that season, and it's not inconceivable Oakland could do the same this year.

  • Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers in Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn (Nov. 25, 5 p.m. ET)
    The Crimson Tide are about a year behind the Golden Gophers in their program-building. The Gophers ended a four-year NCAA tournament drought last March; the Tide hope to return for the first time in six seasons in 2018. A win in this 50-50 encounter would be a significant step in that direction.

  • Purdue Boilermakers at Louisville Cardinals (Nov. 28, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
    It's not a bubble game, but it is the first legitimate test for Louisville in the post-Rick Pitino era. If David Padgett can win his first road contest, things may start to look up for the Cardinals. There is considerable talent returning for both of these teams.

  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan State Spartans (Nov. 30, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
    This is a great game for so many reasons. It has Bonzie Colson and Miles Bridges. It has the top-5 Spartans. It has the Fighting Irish, a Final Four sleeper.

  • Missouri Tigers at Central Florida Knights Nov. 30, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2
    Michael Porter Jr. taking it to the basket against 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall. Enough said.

Honorable mentions

  • Nov. 10: Iowa State at Missouri

  • Nov. 12: Bucknell at Arkansas

  • Nov. 13: Rhode Island at Nevada

  • Nov. 15: Indiana at Seton Hall

  • Nov. 17: Virginia at VCU

  • Nov. 22: Miami vs. La Salle

  • Nov. 23: Saint Mary's vs. Harvard

  • Nov. 23: Butler vs. Texas

  • Nov. 24: St. Bonaventure vs. Maryland

  • Nov. 26: Texas A&M at USC

  • Nov. 28: Northwestern at Georgia Tech

  • Nov. 28: Iowa at Virginia Tech

  • Nov. 29: Bucknell at Saint Joseph's