Tonight is the start of the regular season in college basketball. Preseason polls have been released, predictions made and tonight the games finally start.
Four games are on the slate as North Carolina takes on FIU, Ohio State plays Alcorn State, Syracuse takes on Albany and Murray State plays California.
Those games are happening half a country away, what are the most intriguing games in Chicago this season? Here's my take on the Top 10.
Tom Izzo (left) will certainly be interested in number six.
10. Northwestern vs. Chicago State: March 3, 7 p.m., Welsh-Ryan Arena - This game will come at the end of a long season for Chicago's two best shots at the postseason. While Chicago State will need to win the Great West Tournament to reach the CIT, Northwestern should be in the fight for an at-large berth. The Wildcats can't afford to lose to the Cougars in Welsh-Ryan Arena, but this should be a good game of contrasting styles. Last season Northwestern won 75-63, so expect the game to be competitive. 9. DePaul vs. Detroit: Nov. 28, 1 p.m., Allstate Arena - The Titans are a team the Blue Demons can't take lightly. Detroit should be much improved this season and is a sleeper contender in the Horizon League. DePaul needs a convincing victory to help gain confidence and continue building towards a positive season. This is a must win for the Blue Demons, but one that won't come easily.
8. Utah Valley vs. Chicago State: Jan. 28, 7:30 p.m., Jones Convocation Center - The Cougars and Wolverines played two great games last season. This year they are both expected to be near the top of the new Great West Conference. How Chicago State handles this game could set the tone for the remainder of the conference season. While a 123-121 four overtime thriller probably won't happen again, it should be an exciting game.
7. UIC vs. DePaul: Dec. 13, 5 p.m., Allstate Arena - Two local teams resume their series with this game in the middle of December. DePaul narrowly defeated UIC at the Pavilion last season, 67-63, but the Flames have lost a lot of talent and the Blue Demons are a year older. DePaul should win easily, but you never know what will happen in a cross-city series.
6. Michigan State vs. Northwestern: Jan. 2, 5:30 p.m., Welsh-Ryan Arean - 70-63, that was the score in favor of the Wildcats the last time these two played. The Spartans bookend Northwestern's January schedule, but the just past New Years match-up is the most important Big Ten home game of the season. Michigan State is sure to be motivated. The Spartans are once again amongst the best in the country, so a victory would be a great step towards an at-large berth for Northwestern.
5. Oregon State vs. UIC: Dec. 16, 7 p.m., UIC Pavilion - Craig Robinson and the quickly improving Beavers come to Chicago to take on the Flames. While Oregon State is expected to be one of the top teams in the Pac-10 this season the bigger story is the homecoming of President Barack Obama's brother-in-law. Robinson is making a name for himself as a national recruiter and this game will give his program some Chicago exposure. It's also the type of national exposure game the Flames and the Horizon League need.
4. Notre Dame vs. Northwestern: Nov. 27, 7:30 p.m., UIC Pavilion - The Chicago Invitiational Challenge offers up one of the most intriguing games of the season in Chicago with this netural-site game between the Fighting Irish and Wilcats. Both of these teams have at-large berth aspirations, so this will be a huge game for the NCAA Tournament bubble come Selection Sunday. The low-post game between Luke Harangody and Kevin Coble - who probably won't guard each other - should be a good look at two completely different examples of how to be an effective forward in the college game.
3. Loyola vs. UIC: Jan. 15, Feb. 13, UIC Pavilion, Gentile Center: These two Horizon League foes from Chicago were picked 9th and 10th in the Horizon League preseason poll. That means that last place in the league could come down to these two match-ups. UIC won both match-ups last season, but this year could be Loyola's chance to exact some revenge. Both of these games should be emotional, hard-fought contests.
2. DePaul vs. Providence: Jan. 14, 8 p.m., Allstate Arena - 0-18, that record will continue to haunt the Blue Demons until they can find a way to get a Big East victory during the 2009-10 campaign. DePaul's best shot is when the Friars, who lost a considerable amount of talent to graduation, come to Allstate Arena in the middle of January. Sure, the Blue Demons will have other chances, like February 16 vs. Rutgers, but DePaul should just get this out of the way as early as possible. Expect a very competitive game.
1. Butler vs. Northwestern: Nov. 18, 7 p.m., Welsh-Ryan Arena - Butler will be a nationally-ranked team when they come to visit Welsh-Ryan Arena for their second game of the regular season. This early game will set the tone for the remainder of Northwestern's season. A victory will continue to push outside attention to unseen heights. A close loss won't kill momentum, but losing big to Matt Howard, Gordon Hayward and co. would call into question how competitive the Wildcats can be without Craig Moore. There's no way around it, this game in just nine days is huge. Seats are still available, so if you want to see this excellent match-up grab yours soon.