NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Kentucky

This is a reality everyone is keenly aware of given the state of the pandemic, and yet it is one that bears repeating: this college basketball season -- like most of the sports world over the last few months -- will be anything but ordinary. 

Early-season events like the Maui Invitational and Champions Classic have been moved because of the pandemic. Teams have already canceled or postponed games because of COVID-19 outbreaks. And coaches across the country are having to deal with scheduling hiccups, paused practices and other fall out. Welcome to sports in 2020.

Schedule-makers and coaches alike have been flexible to try and make things work, though, and there remain a handful of early-season tournaments and Multi-Team Events (MTEs) worth watching. So with that, here is your guide to soaking in all the goodness the sport has to offer as the season comes back, ranked.

1. Maui Invitational

Dates: Nov. 30-Dec. 2 | Schedule

Location: Asheville, NC

Field: Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, No. 16 North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, No. 19 Texas, UNLV

The Maui Invitational is always a gem to whet the hoops appetite, and this year's field is an absolute doozy. In addition to some of the strongest brands in the game -- North Carolina, Indiana and Texas -- the field also includes teams with star power capable of making noise in 2020. Between Kellan Grady (Davidson), David Duke (Providence), Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana), Garrison Brooks (UNC) and Ziaire Williams (Stanford), this field is loaded with big names primed to set us up for some big games, even if they are not played in Hawaii as usual.

2. CBS Sports Classic

Dates: Dec. 19 | Schedule

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Field: No. 23 Ohio State, No. 16 North Carolina, No. 10 Kentucky, No. 22 UCLA

This will be must-watch television. It's a doubleheader on Dec. 19 starting with Ohio State and North Carolina at 2 p.m. followed by UCLA and Kentucky at 4:15 p.m. All four are preseason top-25 clubs in this annual event.

3. Empire Classic

Dates: Nov. 25-26 | Schedule

Location: Uncasville, Connecticut

Field: No. 3 Villanova, Rhode Island, No. 18 Arizona State, Boston College

This field was set to be even better -- Arizona State was initially scheduled to face No. 2 Baylor in the first round of action -- but the Bears withdrew this week after its coach, Scott Drew, tested positive for COVID-19. It leaves the field lacking without the preseason No. 2 Bears, but this event still gets respect in my book because of preseason No. 3 Villanova's involvement. Viable title contender to go next to an uber-talented ASU team that could win the Pac-12.

4. Crossover Classic

Dates: Nov. 25-27 | Schedule

Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Field: Memphis, Saint Mary's, Northern Iowa, Western Kentucky, South Dakota State, No. 15 West Virginia, VCU, Utah State

At the top of the bracket, Memphis and Penny Hardaway headline the field. At the bottom, Bob Huggins and West Virginia. It's all set up for the two to potentially meet in the championship game, which would allow us to see the Mountaineers -- a team primed to contend in the Big 12 and beyond -- take on a Hardaway-led Tigers team that has a top-10 big man recruit in Moussa Cisse. WVU's frontcourt is as talented as they come, so a potential great matchup and a solid field across the board.

5. Fort Myers Tip-Off

Dates: Nov. 25-27 | Schedule

Field: No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 6 Kansas, Auburn, Saint Joseph's

Location: Fort Myers, Florida

Arguably -- actually, you know what, inarguably -- this event will give us the best early-season matchup on the schedule when Gonzaga and Kansas face off at 1:30 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving. The Zags are preseason No. 1 for the first time in program history, while KU is No. 6. Bill Self has a reload on his hands as he looks to reshuffle things after a 28-3 season, so we waste no time finding out just how fruitful those efforts might be. 

6. Louisville's Multi-Team Event

Dates: Nov. 25-Dec. 4

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

Field: Louisville, Seton Hall, Winthrop, Duquesne, UNC Greensboro, Little Rock, Prairie View A&M, Southern Illinois, Western Kentucky, Evansville

Big field, but a top-heavy one. Louisville is the obvious headliner, and it'll be interesting to see how the Cards look under Chris Mack without Jordan Nwora. But Seton Hall should be one to watch, too, especially without leading scorer and NBA-bound guard Myles Powell. That's assuming they clear COVID-19 protocols ahead of time after an outbreak within the program, however.

7. Texas Tech, Houston MTE

Dates: Nov. 27-29

Field: No. 17 Houston, No. 14 Texas Tech, Boise State, Sam Houston State

A nice local event ... and Boise State. This MTE features a Houston club I expect will win the AAC, a Texas Tech club I expect will finish top-3 in the Big 12, and a Boise team that might challenge for the MWC. Should be a fun early-season look to see how Texas Tech replaces Jahmi'us Ramsey and Davide Morretti.

8. San Diego State MTE

Dates: Nov. 25-27 | Schedule

Location: San Diego, California

Field: San Diego State, No. 22 UCLA, Pepperdine, UC Irvine

San Diego State is coming off one of its best seasons in program history. And the Aztecs kick their season off with a tough one, on Nov. 25, against UCLA. That game is followed by a showdown with UC Irvine on Nov. 27. How SDSU replaces Malachi Flynn will be the big story here, and how UCLA fares is equally noteworthy. The Bruins won nine of their final 11 games to end last season.

9. Wisconsin, Marquette MTE

Dates: Nov. 25-27 | Schedule

Field: Marquette, No. 7 Wisconsin, Arkansas Pine Bluff, Eastern Illinois

Two-game MTEs must be played in five days, per the NCAA. So the dates here may push the originally-scheduled Wisconsin-Marquette game on Dec. 4 to a standalone outing as opposed to an MTE outing. But either way, this is a four-team slate featuring a preseason top-10 team in Wisconsin and a rebuilding team in Marquette who just lost leading scorer Markus Howard