In anticipation of the 2015 Gavitt Games, we collaborated on a roundtable with Big Ten Powerhouse, SB Nation's Big Ten hoops site.
See what we thought about the matchups below, and be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments.
1. What are your general thoughts regarding the 2015 Big Ten/Big East Challenge?
Thomas Beindit - Well, to start, I am excited about this event. Fans and the media often complain about the slow start to the college basketball season and I think this is a good way to get fans interested early. Not only should this event feature a bunch of conference contenders, but also national contenders. Having said that, I am generally a bit underwhelmed with the slate. There are some interesting games, but a lot of them seem to pit underwhelming teams against each other or put an underdog on the road, which usually does not lead to great games.
Christopher Novak - It's pretty exciting at the baseline. Getting the Big East some more exposure isn't a terrible idea at all, but with the release of the games, it's kind of hard to get really thrilled about it. Georgetown-Maryland is going to likely be awesome and I think Iowa-Marquette will be pretty fun. Other than that, the cupboard is pretty dry. Though, I will like seeing D.J. Newbill against DePaul.
Robert O'Neill - I like the idea, but the execution (at least for this year) leaves something to be desired. If you look at the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, they try to pair schools that had similar records or play near each other geographically. That happened in one or two matchups here, but that's all. I think a big key going forth will be having Butler in the event every year because Indiana is prime Big Ten country. I will say, though, I'm glad they're doing this for the next eight years and I look forward to it improving.
2. What do you think will be the top game?
Thomas - On paper, the top game is pretty clearly Georgetown at Maryland. Though the Terps will likely be pretty heavy favorites in this game, it should feature a local feel and revive an old rivalry game for both teams. From 1947 to 1980, the two teams met every year except for 1966 and 1975. Along with this, both teams have the "brand name" recognition to draw viewers and set up an exciting atmosphere. This is one that just made sense on paper and should be the highlight of the event.
Bryan Steedman - Georgetown and Maryland. It's early, but Maryland looks to be the best team from the Big Ten included in the field. Then you have Georgetown, one of the top teams from the Big East and a team that has had quite a bit of success under John Thompson. When everything is said and done these are two of the best teams in the challenge and is definitely the marquee matchup for this year's event.
Christopher - Georgetown-Maryland. Don't think this is much of a contest. The DMV gets a big-time matchup in College Park. Going to be quite fun.
Robert - It has to be Georgetown-Maryland. I don't think it's particularly close, and I think you guys did a good job explaining why.
3. What could be a surprisingly good game?
Thomas - One game to me that looks like it could be a little more intriguing that some expect is the Iowa and Marquette game. The Hawkeyes are set to face the Golden Eagles on the road and I think both teams could easily win that game. Neither team really looks like a true conference title contender next season, but both look to be solid and potentially NCAA Tournament teams if things go right. As such, it should be a pretty balanced matchup. Iowa also showed a lot of resolve last season and scored some major road wins over North Carolina and Ohio State. Perhaps this could be the next one.
Robert - Michigan/Xavier. Michigan should be a Top 15 team going into the year, especially now that Caris LeVert is returning, and Xavier was one of the Big East's most fun teams last year. They lost Matt Stainbrook, but they still have guys like Trevon Bluiett and Jalen Reynolds, not to mention the super-underappreciated Chris Mack. I think Illinois/Providence has the potential to be a fun one, as well. Especially if Kris Dunn returns to Providence.
Bryan - Penn State and DePaul. While it may be the worst pairing of the challenge and both teams are ghastly, that might work out here. Both teams are bad and struggle scoring, but this isn't a one sided affair and if you can get past the lack of appeal based on the two teams you're likely going to get a close and competitive game. So sure, few people are going to care much about it, but if it's a close game then why not?
Christopher - Have to agree with my fellow BECB cohort. Michigan-Xavier is definitely pretty intriguing. I'll be very interested in general to see how LeVert is featured in the offense after his injury, and X is consistently a very solid program. This one could be a doozy.
4. Which game looks the most underwhelming?
Thomas - The Penn State and DePaul game looks like a real snoozer. Neither team was good last year or in quite some time and neither team has the name recognition to make the game more intriguing. Perhaps they can prove my first impression wrong and put together a thriller, but on paper, this looks like a game that will not turn a lot of heads.
Bryan - Probably the Penn State and DePaul game. On one hand I wanted to say the matchup between Rutgers and St. Johns, but St. John's could be an interesting enough team to watch (especially with Chris Mullin taking over as head coach). But yeah, Penn State was ghastly this past season, even with D.J. Newbill. So we have one of the worst Big Ten teams without their best player playing one of the worst Big East teams. If it would have been DePaul vs. Northwestern at least there'd be somewhat of a location-based rivalry aspect of the game.
Robert - It's really tough to get excited about a Depaul/Penn State game, but DJ Newbill and Billy Garrett are both really good. While this is the worst game, I'll definitely be watching with some interest in what those two are able to do. I feel like the rest of the country doesn't know about them, so hopefully that game can be their coming out party, of sorts.
5. What game would you have liked to see?
Thomas - There are obviously a lot of different variables that go into scheduling an event like this, but for me, I was actually relatively unimpressed with the matchups from top to bottom. These are certainly not bad non-conference games, but there did not seem to be the same desire to create marquee matchups we have traditionally seen from the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Having said that, I would have really liked to see an Ohio State and Xavier game. The Buckeyes have become notorious for refusing to schedule in-state competition in recent years and this would have been a great opportunity. Plus, I can't imagine the excitement for Xavier if Ohio State had to travel to Cincinnati for a game.
Bryan - There could have been a very, very intriguing storyline for an Indiana and Marquette game, so probably that. Of course I would have liked to see Purdue participate in this, but I'm not surprised that they weren't included.
Christopher - Villanova vs. [insert elite B1G hoops team here]. Seriously, ‘Nova-Nebraska? No offense to the Huskers, but this is probably the lamest part about this challenge. The top team in the conference the last two seasons gets a dud of a game.
Robert - Indiana/Marquette in Milwaukee for Tom Crean reasons, Villanova/Wisconsin for basketball reasons. Can you imagine Villanova going into the Kohl Center or Wisconsin going into The Pavillion. It would be nuts. With that being said, I'll end on a positive note: It's so nice that college basketball, unlike it's gridiron brethren, plays nonconference games at actual on-campus arenas instead of neutral sites.
Thank you to Big Ten Powerhouse for this opportunity. We hope to collaborate a couple more times before the Gavitt Games.