Top 10 early-season bracket games

Updated: November 13, 2012, 12:29 PM ET
By Joe Lunardi

There's no doubt that the most anticipated games of this year's Tip-Off Marathon are at the State Farm Champions Classic in Atlanta. The Michigan State-Kansas/Duke-Kentucky twin bill is itself worthy of a Final Four.

There's only one problem. These two great matchups -- and many others like them -- are more sizzle than steak when it comes to Bracketology. We know that all four teams will be in the NCAA tournament, we know all four teams will be protected seeds and we know all four teams are contenders for the Final Four in April.

When evaluating the biggest bracket-impact games of the nonconference season, we have to dig a little deeper. We have to think ahead to the most likely bubble scenarios of Selection Sunday and work backward to the games that could make or break teams at the final cut line.

So while many college basketball fans will be watching marquee matchups in prime time, I'll be dialed into the following 10 games more than any others (at least until conference play begins).

1. Wichita State Shockers at Virginia Commonwealth Rams (Nov. 13, ESPNU)

This 2012 NCAA tournament rematch features a pair of potential bubble teams, especially in the case of Wichita State. If the Shockers hope to avenge last year's tourney upset and return to the NCAAs in 2013, they'll need to win one of two major road challenges on an otherwise mediocre nonconference slate (at Tennessee, Dec. 13).