College basketball rankings: The top 15 early-season college basketball tournaments and events to watch

College hoops season will get underway with a bang, as opening night is set to give us premier matchups between Duke-Kentucky and Michigan State-Kansas as part of the State Farm Champions Classic.

The event, which will be held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indy, is one of a handful of early-season events within the sport. Inarguably, it's one of the top-3 strongest over the first half of the hoops season. What are the others? I did some digging by grading the field for the most notable to find out.

1. State Farm Champions Classic

  • Date: Nov. 6
  • Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis
  • Matchups: Michigan State vs. Kansas, Duke vs. Kentucky
  • Comment: This is perennially one of the best tournaments in college basketball. What it lacks in field size it more than makes up for in overall star power. This season is no different. In this year's iteration we have Kansas, Duke and Kentucky, all three of which are top 4 in the AP poll to open the season, along with a Michigan State team that, despite losses of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson, is primed to be a favorite again in the Big Ten.

2. CBS Sports Classic

  • Date: Dec. 22
  • Location: United Center in Chicago
  • Matchups: Kentucky vs. North Carolina, Ohio State vs. UCLA
  • Comment: John Calipari vs. Roy Williams? Yes please. Both Hall of Famers bring in realistic Final Four aspirations to the season, so this pre-conference appetizer should be fantastic. And don't sleep on Ohio State-UCLA. The Bruins have loads of talent in Moses Brown, Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes. The Buckeyes have talent, too, including two of their top four scorers from last season returning. The weather in Chicago will be cold, but this event is going to be fire.

3. Maui Jim Maui Invitational

  • Dates: Nov. 19-21
  • Location: Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Hawaii
  • Matchups: Auburn vs. Xavier, Duke vs. San Diego State, Arizona vs. Iowa State, Gonzaga vs. Illinois
  • Comment: This is a big-time tournament, with big-time programs, and, potentially, a big time championship game. If the bracket breaks as expected, we could see Gonzaga-Duke -- two bona fide top-5 teams -- battle it out for the Maui title. Nonetheless, the field remains stacked. Auburn will be a top-15 team, Iowa State has a chance to surprise behind second-year star Lindell Wigginton, and San Diego State/Illinois could be fringe NCAA Tournament teams. Solid field overall and a healthy bump for the Maui locale.

4. NIT Season Tip-Off

  • Dates: Nov. 21 and 23
  • Location: Barclays Center in New York
  • Matchups: Louisville vs. Tennessee, Marquette vs. Kansas
  • Comment: When the worst team of the field in any event is Louisville, you know the field is pretty stacked. Both Tennessee and Kansas are top-6 teams, and Marquette, which has both Sam Hauser and Markus Howard back, could be top-25 by tip. The Golden Eagles have a real chance to show their mettle against Kansas, and the shooters to pull off a season-defining upset against the Jayhawks.

5. Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational

  • Dates: Nov. 22-23
  • Location: Orleans Arena in Las Vegas
  • Matchups: North Carolina vs. Texas, UCLA vs. Michigan State
  • Comment: This event lost a bit of its luster when UCLA star freshmen Shareef O'Neal and Tyger Campbell were lost for the season, but there is still plenty of reasons to tune in. If you're interested in star freshmen, UNC's Nassir Little and fellow bucket-getter, Coby White, should draw you in. If you want to see an experienced college athlete go to work, you'll fall in love watching UT's Dylan Osetkowski or Michigan State's Cassius Winston

6. Air Force Reserve Jerry Colangelo Classic

  • Date: Dec. 9
  • Location: Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix
  • Matchups: Gonzaga vs. Tennessee, Grand Canyon vs. Nevada
  • Comment: Gonzaga opens the season at No. 3 in the AP poll, Tennessee at No. 6 and Nevada at No. 7. I'd make a case all three are top-5 worthy -- and an even stronger one that Nevada deserves to be the highest-ranked of the bunch. The Wolf Pack bring back five of their top six scorers from last season's Sweet 16 squad, and add a freshman five-star in Jordan Brown to the mix as well as premium scorers Nisre' Zouzoua, Jazz Johnson and Trey Porter. There's a real chance three of the four teams in this field will be top-2 seeds come March.

7. Advocare Invitational

  • Dates: Nov. 22-23 and 25
  • Location: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida
  • Matchups: Villanova vs. Canisius, Oklahoma State vs. Memphis, Charleston vs. LSU, UAB vs. Florida State
  • Comment: On the whole, this event may have the most young, up-and-coming coaches. LSU fans love Will Wade, Oklahoma State fans love Mike Boynton, Memphis fans adore Penny Hardaway. Oh, and Villanova fans? They kind of like Jay Wright -- the man who has brought them two titles in three seasons.

8. Crossroads Classic

  • Date: Dec. 15
  • Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis
  • Matchups: Purdue vs. Notre Dame, Indiana vs. Butler
  • Comment: The Crossroads Classic never disappoints. Indiana-Notre Dame was a 3-point game decided in overtime last year, the year before both contests were within five points, and the year before that Indiana-ND and Butler-Purdue were both within single digits. You're guaranteed to have a good one every year, so 2018 is no exception. I think Indiana-Butler is the game to circle this year, but absolutely tune in for Notre Dame-Purdue if for no other reason than to watch Boilermakers star Carsen Edwards. He's the NCAA's most surefire walking bucket of the season.

9. Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis

  • Dates: Nov. 21-23
  • Location: Imperial Arena in Nassau, Bahamas
  • Matchups: Florida vs. Oklahoma, Wisconsin vs. Stanford, Butler vs. Dayton, Virginia vs. Middle Tennessee
  • Comment: Last year's winner wound up cutting down the nets in April, and other winners of the past -- Wisconsin in 2014, Duke in 2012, Syracuse in 2015 -- have manufactured remarkable NCAA Tournament runs and used their success in the Battle 4 Atlantis as a launching pad. That may mean nothing, but maybe it offers some hope to Virginia fans still stinging from that UMBC loss in the first round of the tournament. This field is pretty enticing on the whole. Florida-OU is probably the must-circle game. Florida-Virginia is the title game most likely to happen.
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Before winning the NCAA championship, Villanova won last year's Battle 4 Atlantis title. USATSI

10. Hall of Fame Classic

  • Dates: Nov. 19-20
  • Location: Sprint Center in Kansas City
  • Matchups: Missouri State vs. Nebraska, Texas Tech vs. USC
  • Comment: James Palmer Jr. for Nebraska, Bennie Boatwright for USC, and Jarrett Culver for Texas Tech are all somewhat off-the-radar names that NBA draft junkies will know of soon if they don't already. Will USC take advantage of the openness of the Pac-12? Will Texas Tech challenge Kansas in the Big 12 as it did for much of last season? Will Nebraska end its four-years-long NCAA Tournament drought? We'll learn a lot about how those questions may be answered early on in this event.

11. 2K Sports Classic

  • Dates: Nov. 15-16
  • Location: Madison Square Garden in New York
  • Matchups: UConn vs. Syracuse, Oregon vs. Iowa
  • Comment: Dan Hurley in Year One at UConn facing legendary coach Jim Boeheim, who has been at Syracuse for 40+ years, is an interesting matchup. The Huskies will be a heavy underdog to Syracuse, which has pro talent in O'Shae Brissett and Tyus Battle and hopes of making another deep run in March. Speaking of pro talent -- Oregon's Louis King and Bol Bol, the latter of whom is a 7-foot-2 specimen crafted out of a basketball lab, will be appointment television against Iowa.

12. Jimmy V Classic

  • Date: Dec. 4
  • Location: Madison Square Garden in New York
  • Matchups: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma, West Virginia vs. Florida
  • Comment: There's but one ranked team among this event at Madison Square Garden, but all four could be tourney teams. Overall, this field is solid. West Virginia's likely the best of the bunch but Florida isn't far behind. That matchup alone is enough to earn a passing grade. Plus, how OU fares in a post-Trae Young world, and how Notre Dame responds to missing the Big Dance are all underrated storylines entering the season.

13. Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

  • Dates: Dec. 22-23, 25
  • Location: Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu
  • Matchups: Indiana State vs. Colorado, UNLV vs. Hawaii, Rhode Island vs. Bucknell, Charlotte vs. TCU
  • Comment: If TCU and Colorado win out, we could have a terrific guard-on-guard matchup in the title game between Colorado's McKinley Wright IV and TCU's Jaylen Fisher. The Horned Frogs will be the event favorite, but Colorado and Rhode Island should give a fair amount of resistance to that end.

14. Legends Classic

  • Dates: Nov. 19-20
  • Location: Barclays Center in New York
  • Matchups: St. John's vs. Cal, VCU vs. Temple
  • Comment: This field's appeal is all about St. John's and just how good it might be in 2018-19 under Chris Mullin. The program has fallen on hard times, having logged three consecutive losing seasons, but the presence of Shamorie Ponds and the addition of Mustapha Heron give the Red Storm a legitimate shot to surprise as a Big East contender. VCU and Temple -- teams that won a combined 35 games last season -- should also be a worthwhile matchup. Both are expected to finish around the middle of the pack in their respective leagues.

15. Wooden Legacy

  • Dates: Nov. 22-23, 25
  • Location: Titan Gym in Fullerton, California
  • Matchups: Miami vs. LaSalle, Northwestern vs. Fresno State, Seton Hall vs. Grand Canyon, Hawaii vs. Utah
  • Comment: Miami, Seton Hall and Northwestern have major question marks entering the season -- Miami due to key NBA losses, Seton Hall due to losing four starters, and Northwestern coming off an underwhelming season -- so this event should provide clarity on how the 2018-19 campaign might unfold. The best player in the event may be LaSalle's Pookie Powell, who will have his work cut out for him against a dynamic and competitive guard in Miami's Chris Lykes.
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