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On The Menu: December 29, 2015

As the calendar prepares to transition to 2016, teams across the country are adjusting their mindsets from non-conference play to the rigors of the conference schedule. The American and Big Ten are the first major conferences to dip their toes into league play, this afternoon and evening. But a few other teams still have non-league scores to settle.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Game information courtesy Matt College Sports on TV Website, which has even more games listed.

All times listed are Eastern, adjust accordingly.

American Athletic Openers

Tulane Green Wave (7-6) at Memphis Tigers (8-3), 1 p.m. (ESPNU)
Temple Owls (5-5) at No. 22 Cincinnati Bearcats (10-3), 3 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 17 SMU Mustangs (11-0) at Tulsa Golden Hurricane (8-4), 5 p.m. (ESPN2)

While the Tigers and Bearcats are heavily favored to open the league portions of their respective schedules with wins over the typically mediocre Green Wave and temporarily down Owls, the undefeated Mustangs will face a stiff challenge from a Golden Hurricane squad that could use a quality win, particularly with a trip to Cincinnati looming on Saturday. With the Ponies ineligible for the NCAAs, an American Athletic regular season title is still a worthy goal to chase, as is a shot at perfection.

Big Ten Openers

No. 14 Purdue Boilermakers (12-1) at Wisconsin Badgers (8-5), 7 p.m. (BTN)
No. 1 Michigan State Spartans (13-0) at Iowa Hawkeyes (9-3), 9 p.m. (BTN)

Purdue last defeated Wisconsin back on March 3, 2013—an unexpected victory from a team that won just four more games than the current Boilermakers have already tallied this time around. With the Badgers still finding their way under Greg Gard, expect A.J. Hammons and company to snap their skid. Later, the undefeated and top-ranked Spartans will aim to continue their recent dominance of the Hawkeyes, who last defeated MSU in 2011—by 20 in Iowa City. But look for Fran McCaffrey's team to look to take advantage of Denzel Valentine's absence from the Spartan roster after his recent knee surgery.

Final Non-Conference Tests (For Some Anyway)

Texas Southern Tigers at No. 23 Baylor Bears, 3 p.m. (ESPNU)

This is where the "for some" comes in, as the Bears and the rest of the Big 12, along with 10 SEC members, will dive back into non-league play for those leagues' challenge series on January 30th. The Bears' game against Georgia in that event will be a bit more difficult than this matchup with a Texas Southern squad that's not nearly as quality as last season's version.

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks at UAB Blazers, 3:30 p.m. (ASN)

Speaking of matchups between teams who have regressed a bit since last season, the Lumberjacks—still favorites in the Southland—travel to Birmingham to take on the Blazers, who will need to win C-USA to make the field of 68, for a game that is a good example of the type of scheduling quality mid-majors should focus on.

Richmond Spiders at Texas Tech Red Raiders, 5 p.m. (select FSN outlets)

With Arkansas the Red Raiders' SEC/Big 12 Challenge opponent, this Tech's last chance to grab a decent non-conference win. However, they've already defeated Little Rock and South Dakota State in Lubbock, so they have made a habit of topping quality mid-majors at home.

Florida State Seminoles at Florida Gators, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

While the Gators still get a visit from West Virginia on January 30th, this is FSU's last opportunity to grab a quality win before ACC play begins. I will be driving up to Gainesville for this one tonight—my last game at the O'Connell Center before renovations commence this offseason.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons at LSU Tigers, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

While the Bayou Bengals will welcome Oklahoma to the PMAC for the SEC/Big 12 event, they might want to take care of business against a Demon Deacons' squad who might count as yet another eyebrow-raising loss in the Selection Committee's deliberations.

Robert Morris Colonials at Georgia Bulldogs, 7 p.m. (SEC Network)

The Bulldogs will look to extend their win streak to four with a victory over the perennial NEC favorites. This might just be a holiday trap game.

Northeastern Huskies at North Carolina State Wolfpack, 7 p.m. (ACC RSNs/ESPN3)

Remember, the Huskies already have a win in an ACC building, having toppled Miami—a higher-quality team than the Wolfpack—back on November 27th.

George Washington Colonials at UCF Knights, 7 p.m. (ASN/MASN2/CSN Mid-Atlantic Plus/ESPN3)

The last time we saw the Colonials, their four-game win streak came to an ignominious end at DePaul, who had complete control throughout their 82-61 win. A loss in Orlando would be even worse for Mike Lonergan's squad.

Saint Louis Billikens at Kansas State Wildcats, 8 p.m. (FS Kansas City/ESPN3)

The 9-2 Wildcats should pick up their 10th non-conference win over a Billiken squad that's won just once in their last seven contests.

Cal Poly Mustangs at No. 20 Texas A&M Aggies, 8 p.m. (SEC Network+)

The Mustangs play their third game in a row in the Lone Star State. Don't expect them to pick up a second victory to wrap up that road swing, however. The Aggies look like they could be a decent bet to win the SEC with Kentucky's early struggles.

Connecticut Huskies at Texas Longhorns, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

UConn travels to Austin in lieu of opening American Athletic play tonight, but this isn't the Huskies' final non-conference game—they'll host former Big East rival Georgetown on January 23rd. Last season, the Longhorns stunned UConn, 55-54, in Storrs. Kevin Ollie's team will look to return the favor this evening in a matchup of two squads who wouldn't mind picking up a quality win before jumping into conference play on Saturday.

UC Irvine Anteaters at No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

The Jayhawks' final warmup before hosting Baylor and Oklahoma to start Big 12 play on Saturday and Monday comes against an Anteaters squad that should provide a nice test, especially for KU's big men.

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