On Wednesday night, the 2016 Gavitt Games matchups were tweeted by CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein. Initially, we were all caught a bit off guard by Creighton's inclusion, since it sounded like travel constraints would keep the Bluejays from partaking, and Xavier would be in instead. On Friday afternoon, though, Rothstein confirmed the schedule, saying "The matchups are set". Last year's matchups were highlighted by encounters between Georgetown and Maryland, Xavier and Michigan, Iowa and Marquette, Creighton and Indiana as well as Villanova and Nebraska. The undercard featured bouts between Illinois and Providence, DePaul and Penn State and finally, St. John's and Rutgers.
The 2016 Gavitt Games matchups are...
Well, let's go to the tweets.
Purdue will host Villanova as part of the 2016 Gavitt Games, sources told @CBSSports. Official date and time is TBD.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 13, 2016
Butler will host Northwestern as part of the 2016 Gavitt Games, sources told @CBSSports. Official date and time is TBD.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 13, 2016
Georgetown will host Maryland as part of the 2016 Gavitt Games, sources told @CBSSports. Official date and time is TBD.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 13, 2016
DePaul will host Rutgers as part of the 2016 Gavitt Games, sources told @CBSSports. Official date and time are TBD.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 13, 2016
Creighton will host Wisconsin as part of the 2016 Gavitt Games, sources told @CBSSports. Official date and time is TBD.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 14, 2016
Well, where do we begin?
For starters, Villanova playing Purdue is a massive upgrade from the Wildcats playing Nebraska. Sorry to any Husker readers out there, but the matchup didn't quite have the pizzazz as was desired. The Boilermakers will look a little different next year with Rapheal Davis and defensive stalwart AJ Hammons graduating, but will still have 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas as well as Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards, among others. It's not quite a premier delight, but it should be a solid contest at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.
I really like the idea of having Creighton playing Wisconsin. If Mo Watson Jr. does indeed head back to school, the backcourt of Watson Jr. and K-State transfer Marcus Foster lined up against the likes of Zak Showalter and Bronson Koenig could be tons of fun. Add in the talent the Badgers will have, as well as the Jays' depth of talent, and this could be a Top 25 matchup by the time it rolls around.
Georgetown/Maryland was one of the best games of the nonconference season last year, and it's a rivalry that should be rekindled even without the Gavitt Games. Both teams have their share of question marks going into this season, though.
Providence/Ohio State is a game that could be boom or bust. If Ben Bentil sticks in the NBA Draft, it'll be a good early test for Providence to see where they're going to get scoring from. If Bentil returns to Providence, it will still be a good test for the Friars to work on secondary scoring.
From there... the bottom kind of drops out. While DePaul-Rutgers has the potential to be an epic in the exact way that you think, the rest of the crop is above average at best and disappointing at worst. Butler-Northwestern is a matchup featuring two teams that just recently finished a home-and-home series. Iowa will still have Peter Jok aboard as well as Dom Uhl, but Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons and Adam Woodbury are all graduating so the Hawkeyes will not nearly be the same team they were last year when they play the Pirates, who will be aided by continuity in a big way in 2016.