Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Or maybe the timing was intentional in anticipation of the upcoming baseball competition between the ACC and SEC at the College World Series.

Either way, we now know the schedule for the actual ACC/SEC Challenge. The one that will play out on the basketball court in December.

Whoever is responsible for setting the games – whether it’s ESPN, the conferences or some random computer – did a better job of creating interesting matchups than they did for the inaugural Challenge last year.

But they still could have done better.

For every must-see TV event like North Carolina-Alabama or Duke-Auburn, there are just as many serious yawners.

I mean, Cal at Missouri? I’m still having a hard time grasping the reality that either of those teams is a member of their respective conferences.

And when are we going to get that Rick Barnes-Clemson reunion at Littlejohn?

The conferences split last year’s inaugural event 7-7, with Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, UNC, Syracuse, Virginia and Wake Forest earning the victories. This year’s schedule has been expanded to 16 games with both the ACC and SEC adding new teams.

It begins on Tuesday, Dec. 3 with John Calipari bringing his Arkansas to South Florida to play Miami and his former team Kentucky playing at Clemson. One opening night games have Syracuse at Tennessee, Wake Forest at Texas A&M, Notre Dame at Georgia, Georgia Tech at Oklahoma, South Carolina at Boston College, Ole Miss at Louisville, Florida State at LSU and that highly-anticipated Cal-Mizzou showdown.

The Challenge concludes on Wednesday, Dec. 4 with all three Triangle teams playing at home – UNC vs. Alabama, Duke vs, Auburn and NC State vs. Texas – along with Virginia at Florida, Pittsburgh at Mississippi State and Virginia Tech at Vanderbilt.

Even though most of the teams’ rosters have been set, there’s still the potential for some movement between now and the time the games are played. But just for kicks and giggles, let’s take a look ahead and rank the matchups from 1 through 16.

16. Cal at Missouri

Forget for a moment that the geography of Cal in the Atlantic Coast Conference and Missouri in the Southeastern Conference makes such little sense. The Tigers were 8-24 (0-18) and haven’t won a game since last New Year’s Eve. The Bears were only slightly better at 13-19 overall (9-11 in the dearly departed Pac-12). If ever a game deserved to be carried by The CW, this is it. Better yet, just black it out.

15. Vanderbilt at Virginia Tech

Vandy is starting over with a new coach. Tech is starting over with a new roster after losing Sean Pedulla and Lynn Kidd to the transfer portal and Hunter Cattoor to graduation. You know it’s a blah matchup when the court they’ll be playing on is more interesting than the game itself.

14. Florida State at LSU

This has been a great series in football over the past couple of seasons. Basketball? Ho hum. It’s not as if either of these teams is lousy. Both of them are coming off winning seasons (though just barely) and might actually be better depending on how their transfers pan out. But with the College Football Playoff’s Selection Sunday coming up later in the week, the folks in Tallahassee and Baton Rouge will have other things besides basketball on their mind on Dec. 3.

13. South Carolina at Boston College

The Gamecocks were the surprise team of the SEC a year ago. But what will Lamont Paris do for an encore? The Eagles are a perennial ACC also-ran who lost their two best players, Quinten Post to the NBA draft and Jaeden Zackery to Clemson. With students out of town for the semester break, the atmosphere at Conte Forum might make the library seem loud.

12. Syracuse at Tennessee

The Volunteers deserved a better matchup than this. Maybe if it had been Barnes against Boeheim it might have been a little more interesting. With no sideline antics and an Orange team sans Judah Mintz, Maliq Brown, Quadir Copeland and Justin Taylor, there’s not much to look forward to. This game has blowout written all over it.

11. Notre Dame at Georgia

See FSU-LSU. Chances are the Irish and Bulldogs will also be fixed on looking ahead to the upcoming football Playoff bracket announcement. But with Notre Dame potentially on the rise with the return of ACC Freshman of the Year Markus Burton in Year 2 under coach Micah Shrewsberry and the Bulldogs’ Mike White looking to build on a surprise NIT run, this could actually turn out to be an entertaining basketball matchup.

10. Pittsburgh at Mississippi State

The Panthers won 22 games and should have been in the NCAA Tournament last season. The Bulldogs won 21 games and did make the field of 68. Both teams play a physical brand of ball. This one could turn out to be a war.

9. Georgia Tech at Oklahoma

This could actually be a decent game if the Yellow Jackets take an expected step forward in their second season under Damon Stoudamire. But the real appeal of the matchup is the return to Norman of Tech’s Javian McCollum. The transfer guard played for the Sooners last season, averaging 13.3 points and 3.4 assists while setting a school record by shooting 94.3% from the free throw line. There’s a good chance he won’t get a very warm welcome from his former fans.

8. Ole Miss at Louisville

New coach Pat Kelsey has cleaned house and brought in an impressive transfer class that raises hopes for a quick recovery from the 2 worst seasons in Cardinals’ history. This matchup, against a Rebels team that went 20-12 in its 1st season under Chris Beard, will be an early measuring stick for how competitive Louisville will be in 2024-25. It will also be a homecoming for former Ole Miss’ Dre Davis, who started his career with the Cardinals before transferring to Seton Hall.

7. Arkansas at Miami

The Hurricanes were a major disappointment last season. But they’re only the sideshow to the main event of Calipari and his debut season with the Razorbacks.

6. Wake Forest at Texas A&M

This is a matchup with major NCAA Tournament implications, especially for the Deacons, who have finished the past 2 seasons on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble. It’s also a return game for Wake coach Steve Forbes, who served as an assistant – along with current Aggies coach Buzz Williams – on Billy Gillispie’s staff at A&M from 2004-06.

5. Kentucky at Clemson

Tigers fans are used to seeing brand name opponents play their team in football. But other than ACC rivals UNC and Duke, it isn’t often a blueblood the caliber of Kentucky pays a visit to Littlejohn. The atmosphere itself will make this matchup worth the watch. It will also be the Wildcats’ first major test of the Mark Pope era against a team that made it to the Elite Eight a year ago.

4. Virginia at Florida

Nothing makes a matchup more interesting than contrast. And these 2 teams are about as opposite as they come. The Gators ranked 6th nationally in scoring offense at 85.6 ppg last season and want to get up and down the court in a hurry. The Cavaliers ranked 2nd in scoring defense at 59.7 and will be trying to slam the breaks on that tempo. Should be an interesting chess match.

3. Texas at NC State

The Wolfpack will be looking to build on their improbable run to the ACC Tournament championship and Final Four with a roster restocked with a large cache of transfers. Their opponent will be making its 1st appearance in the Challenge as an SEC member. The Longhorns are 1 of just 8 Division I programs that have made it at least as far as the round of 32 in each of the past 3 NCAA Tournaments.

2. Auburn at Duke

The Blue Devils return home after playing a true road game at Arkansas in last year’s Challenge. So at least this season’s freshman class will be surrounded by friends. They’ll need all the advantage they can get against a veteran Auburn team that won the SEC Tournament last year and returns 3rd-team All-American Johni Broome while adding high-volume scorer Miles Kelly from Georgia Tech. The contrast between Jon Scheyer and Bruce Pearl should also be fun.

1. Alabama at North Carolina

This isn’t just an Elite Eight rematch from a year ago. It’s an Elite Eight rematch between 2 of the nation’s best returning guards – UNC’s RJ Davis and Alabama’s Mark Sears. The Crimson Tide beat the Tar Heels 89-87 in Los Angeles last March to advance to the Final Four. Sears only outscored Davis 18-16 in the boxscore. But the ACC Player of the Year was a frigid 4-of-20 from the floor (0-of-9 on 3-pointers) and had a potential game-tying shot blocked in the final seconds. This is his opportunity for redemption. That in itself is reason to get excited about this matchup. The fact that both teams are again Final Four quality is a bonus.