Big East 2.0 in only its second season lacks some intrigue. By intrigue I mean a team or player that is a must watch. Last season that belonged to Naismith player of the year Doug McDermott and his team; Creighton. Providence and Villanova created intrigue as well. Providence had Bryce Cotton, who was a lot of fun to watch and who carried that team and Villanova had a superb record and were a consistent top 10 team in the country every week. That was then and this is now. McDermott has now moved on and so have three other Creighton starters from last year. Cotton has also graduated and Villanova returns everyone from last season despite G/F James Bell who graduated.
One might say Villanova fills the role as the intriguing team this year, and that is true. However, they lack a quintessential must watch player and the storyline that McDermott and Creighton carried last season. There are still many intriguing matchups which have the chance to gain intrigue as the College Basketball season develops. Although, there are no games this season, at least not yet, that I’m circling in dark red on my calendar.
A rematch of last season’s upset over the then 14th ranked Bluejays at home kicks us off. This win was a resume booster for a Xavier team on the edge of the bubble, but this season’s game will not have the same effect. The game will be a fun matchup because of last season’s upset. Yet, the result needs to be the same since a loss to Creighton at home will not look that good. The 2014-15 version of the Bluejays are returning only one starter from last season’s team and might miss out dancing this time around. Xavier needs to grab a W from this matchup.
Xavier lost a close game to the Friars last season at Dunkin Donuts Arena, 81-72. Providence will be in contention for the Big East like last season, so this will be a perfect opportunity for Xavier to pick up a big road win. X does not have that many chances to do that in their non-conference season. They play respected SEC teams Auburn and Missouri on the road. They also play at Cincinnati five weeks after this game. That is it. Missouri shouldn’t be a good team this year, and Auburn has a promising future, but this will be Bruce Pearl’s first season as head coach of the Tigers. As it goes with Cincinnati, a win or loss and how it impacts X’s resume depends on Cincinnati’s record. There are few opportunities for Xavier to pick up a good road win, so that makes this game against Providence much more important.
X gets another crack against Villanova on the road after an embarrassing 81-58 loss at the Pavilion last January. Xavier was outplayed in every way during that game. So much so, they looked like they still were an A-10 team. Besides Semaj Christon, Justin Martin (transferred to SMU), and Jalen Reynolds (who was suspended due to academics for this game), Xavier’s lack of vertical quickness and raw athleticism was put on full display. Xavier could not keep up with the Wildcats. This year’s team will only have Xavier’s second recruiting class as a Big East school, so they still have a talent gap to overcome. Their recruiting class and the addition of Indiana transfer Remy Abell has shrunk this gap of athleticism and skill relatively quickly. It will be cool to watch how Xavier will look this time around at Villanova with a roster that has 7 new players. I don’t expect a win, but I do expect a much closer score then a 23 point blowout.
It’s New Year’s Eve. It’s the tip-off of the Big East season. It’s a 10 p.m. game at home against the Georgetown Hoyas. I don’t know a game better to kick off the Big East season for Xavier then this one. The Hoyas are bringing in a top-10 recruiting class, and last season’s Big East second team selection guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera who could be the 2014-15 Big East POY. As good as that sounds, Georgetown would like to enact revenge at Xavier this season. The Hoyas blew a 17 point lead with less than 15 minutes left at Cintas Center last season. Falling against Xavier by a score of 80-67, a 30 point turnaround in under 15 minutes. Last season was one to forget for Georgetown, but there is no way John Thompson III and former Xavier verbal commit, Smith-Rivera, forget that game. This game has a storyline. The question is, will the sequel be as good of a game as the original?
Lastly, we finish this with Xavier's matchup with Butler on Feb. 21. This game is not only intriguing because it’s Butler, but because it’s near the end of the conference season. This matchup may bring this rivalry game to a whole other level, as a lot could be riding here. Especially playoff aspirations; more specifically the NCAA tournament. Butler will be much improved. Redshirt Junior G/F Roosevelt Jones is returning from a year of watching basketball due to a wrist ligament injury, and Butler brings in four star recruit Kelan Martin, as well as two other three star recruits. Butler is better, but they lack depth like last season. Though, this is still the Butler Bulldogs we are talking about and they are full of surprises. Ask No. 1 ranked Indiana and Gonzaga about Butler. They both suffered tough defeats against the Bulldogs in the 2012-13 season. By the way, Roosevelt Jones was a critical part of that team, so he knows a thing or two about what it takes for Butler to win. With regards to this rivalry, there is never a dull moment when Xavier and Butler go head-to-head (Gordon Hayward Buzzer Beater 2009).