Posted: Tuesday October 5, 2010 1:02PM ; Updated: Tuesday October 5, 2010 8:22PM
Luke Winn
Luke Winn>INSIDE COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The nation's toughest nonconference schedules (cont.)

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6. Wake Forest

Kyle Singler
Kyle Singler and the defending champion Blue Devils face a challening slate that includes a game vs. Michigan State.
John Biever/SI

ROAD
12/18 at Xavier
12/29 at Richmond

PROBABLE NEUTRAL
11/24 vs. Tennessee (NIT Season Tip-Off, New York City)
11/26 vs. Villanova/UCLA (NIT Season Tip-Off)

HOME
11/16 vs. VCU/Winthrop (NIT Season Tip-Off)
11/30 vs. Iowa
1/2 vs. Gonzaga

The Demon Deacons, like Georgetown, are willing to face non-BCS all-stars at home (Gonzaga) and on the road (Xavier and Richmond). The Richmond game is a homecoming of sorts for Wake freshman Travis McKie, whom Scout.com ranked as the No. 10 small forward in the 2010 class. Making the NIT Tip-Off finals in New York City is no guarantee, with VCU standing in the way in the early rounds. Wake has more overall size and athleticism, but the Rams will be starting four seniors, including likely all-conference point guard Joey Rodriguez, and former Demon Deacon Jamie Skeen, an athletic, 6-foot-9 power forward.

7. N.C. State

ROAD
12/1 at Wisconsin
12/4 at Syracuse

NEUTRAL
11/18 vs. East Carolina (Charleston Classic)
11/19 vs. Mason/Charlotte (Charleston Classic)
11/21 vs. Georgetown/Coastal Carolina/USC/Wofford (Charleston Classic)

HOME
12/19 vs. Arizona
1/11 vs. San Diego

In the first four days of December, we should find out whether this Wolfpack team -- newly loaded with elite freshman point guard Ryan Harrow and power forward C.J. Leslie -- is capable of playing its way onto the NCAA bubble. Wisconsin's Kohl Center is as difficult to win in as any ACC venue, and Syracuse has the front line (in Fab Melo, Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph) to do battle with State's Leslie, Tracy Smith and Richard Howell.

8. Duke

ROAD
11/27 at Oregon
1/30 at St. John's

NEUTRAL
11/22 vs. Marquette (CBE Classic, Kansas City)
11/23 vs. Kansas State/Gonzaga (CBE Classic)
12/4 vs. Butler (East Rutherford, N.J.)

HOME
12/1 vs. Michigan State
12/11 vs. St. Louis
1/5 vs. UAB
1/23 vs. Temple

The Blue Devils have an impressive schedule, even though it only includes one semi-tough road game, at St. John's in a Duke-friendly building, Madison Square Garden. Their visit to Oregon, allowing Medford product Kyle Singler to play his little brother, E.J., should be a cakewalk given how thin the Ducks are after a catastrophic offseason. Kansas State, a possible opponent in the CBE Classic final, would give Singler and the Brothers Plumlee a physical test in the paint. Duke's best home game, against Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, is the No. 1 nonconference matchup in the nation.

9. Kansas State

ROAD
12/3 at Washington State

SEMI-ROAD
12/18 vs. Florida (in Sunrise, Fla.)

NEUTRAL
11/22 vs. Gonzaga (CBE Classic, Kansas City)
11/23 vs. Duke/Marquette (CBE Classic)

SEMI-HOME
12/21 vs. UNLV (in Kansas City)

HOME
11/16 vs. Virginia Tech

Coach Frank Martin is willing to bring his team to South Florida, because of his roots as a high school coach there and his recruiting ties to the area. Thus we're rewarded with an intriguing meeting between the Wildcats and Gators on Dec. 18 in Sunrise -- a game that features two of the country's better scoring guards in Jacob Pullen and Kenny Boynton. The CBE Classic organizers (as well as ESPN) would love to see a K-State-Duke final in Kansas City. A win there for the Wildcats could make them the nation's No. 1-ranked team.

10. Illinois

SEMI-ROAD
12/4 vs. Gonzaga (in Seattle)

NEUTRAL
11/18 vs. Texas (2K Sports College Hoops Classic, New York City)
11/19 vs. Pitt/Maryland (2K Sports College Hoops Classic)
12/22 vs. Missouri (in St. Louis)

HOME
11/13 vs. Southern Illinois
11/30 vs. North Carolina
12/8 vs. Oakland

The Illini are the only team to crack the top 10 despite not playing a true road game. Trekking to Seattle to face Gonzaga pretty much counts as a road game, though. Winning the Coaches vs. Cancer event at Madison Square Garden -- by beating Texas and (most likely) Pitt -- would send an early statement that Illinois is a legit Big Ten contender. And 11 days after that's over, the Illini get to host North Carolina, a game in which I'm excited to see super-freshmen Jereme Richmond and Harrison Barnes match up on the wing.

Six other schedules worth mentioning

UCLA (at Kansas, vs. BYU in Anaheim, vs. St. John's at home, potential NIT Tip-Off games vs. Villanova, Tennessee/Wake)

Purdue (playing at Virginia Tech and West Virginia)

Virginia Tech (at Kansas State, vs. Mississippi State in the Bahamas, at home vs. Purdue)

Arizona (vs. BYU in Salt Lake City, at N.C. State, vs. Kansas in Las Vegas, home vs. New Mexico State)

North Carolina (at Illinois, home vs. Kentucky, semi-home vs. Texas, potential Puerto Rico Tip-Off games against Minnesota and West Virginia/Vandy)

Florida (at Florida State, at Xavier, vs. Kansas State in Sunrise, Fla., home vs. Ohio State)

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