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The Top 5 games of the 2016-17 Big East Conference season

The Big East schedule was officially released recently. Which games should fans be looking forward to the most?

Big East Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Last season, the Big East produced some of the most entertaining conference games in all of college basketball. From buzzer-beaters to upsets to thrilling highlight plays, the Big East did not disappoint during conference play in the 2015-16 season. This year, fans should expect more entertaining basketball all season long, especially with the defending national champions involved.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest games to look forward to when conference play kicks off on December 28th.

Providence at Georgetown

January 16, 2017, 9:00 P.M. ET, Verizon Center, Fox Sports 1

MLK Day will be something Big East fans should be looking forward to all year. All 10 teams will be in action, and all five games will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1. The marathon will run all day, with the first game beginning at Noon ET and the final game getting underway at 9 p.m.

The final game between Providence and Georgetown features two teams heading in different directions. Providence will move on without their top two scorers from last season in Ben Bentil and Kris Dunn. While they will miss having arguably the greatest duo in college basketball last season, this opens up the door for players like Kyron Cartwright and Rodney Bullock to show that they have the abilities to lead Ed Cooley’s team back to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. Losing their two main pieces from last season to the NBA Draft, not too many people know what to expect from Providence this season, and they will show the world what they are made of against a tough Georgetown team on a big stage.

On the other end, after failing to meet expectations last season, Georgetown looks like they may break out again this season. Despite losing leading scorer D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, the team looks in good shape to return back to the NCAA Tournament after failing to get to the “Big Dance” last season. The Hoyas have tremendous depth, led by L.J. Peak, Isaac Copeland, and Bradley Hayes.

In a meeting that matches up Providence’s strong backcourt and Georgetown’s deep frontcourt, expect this one to be a tight game to close out an exciting day in the Big East.

Xavier at Villanova

January 10, 2017, 7:00 P.M. ET, The Pavilion, Fox Sports 1

Despite the fact that neither team won the Big East Tournament, these teams were the top two Big East teams in the regular season last year, and both managed to earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Wisconsin defeated Xavier in the second round, Villanova caught fire in the NCAA Tournament, and the rest is history.

Last year, Villanova and Xavier split the two games they played, with both teams winning on their home floor. This year, both teams look a little different, but many key contributors are back. Josh Hart, championship game hero Kris Jenkins, and Jalen Brunson are the biggest names returning to Villanova this season, while Edmond Sumner, Trevon Bluiett, and J.P. Macura will lead the Musketeers. Myles Davis is currently suspended, but could return before the marquee game against the Wildcats.

Many expect these two teams to have the most success out of the Big East once again this season, and anytime they face off this season it will be must-see television.

Creighton at Xavier

January 16, 2017, 2:00 P.M. ET, Cintas Center, Fox Sports 1

The matchup between Creighton and Xavier is the second of three games that made this list that will take place on MLK Day. Along with Xavier, Creighton is another Big East team that could be in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth. A berth would be the first time they make it to the “Big Dance” since the Doug McDermott era.

This year, Creighton will go as far as Maurice Watson Jr. takes them. The former Boston University transfer broke out for the Bluejays last season, averaging 14.1 points per game, 5.1 assists per game, 2.6 rebounds per game, and 1.0 steals per game. He was already one of the best players in the Big East last season, and with Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono no longer in the conference, he is the likely favorite for Big East Player of the Year.

In this game against Xavier, he will be matched up with another elite point guard in Edmond Sumner. Last year as a freshman, Sumner averaged 11 points and 3.6 assists per game.

For Creighton, this matchup against Xavier could be crucial in earning a potential NCAA Tournament berth.

Villanova at Georgetown

March 4, 2017, 12:00 P.M. ET, Verizon Center, FOX

Need we say more? Anytime these two teams match up, no matter the rosters, no matter the standings, no matter the situation, it is always a fun game to watch. Both fanbases remember 1985. Both fanbases remember when the No. 8 seeded Villanova Wildcats shocked the No. 1 seeded and title-favorite Georgetown Hoyas to win the NCAA Championship.

More than 30 years have passed, and the memories still never go away. However, today, things are the opposite. Villanova is obviously the defending NCAA Champions, so they are no longer the underdog. Georgetown is looking to prove themselves after a hectic season last year. This will be the final regular season game for both teams, so this game could be crucial. And with the history of this rivalry, anything can happen.

Seton Hall at Villanova

January 16, 2017, 6:30 P.M. ET, The Pavilion, FS1

A Big East Tournament Championship Game rematch on MLK Day? No way this one wouldn’t make the list.

Although Villanova got the championship that is more important, Seton Hall stunned the Wildcats a season ago to win the Big East Tournament. Isaiah Whitehead was sensational, and connected with a game-winning and-one with 18 seconds left to give the Pirates their first Big East title since 1993.

Whitehead, however, is gone, but most of the other contributors from last year for Seton Hall are back. Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado, and Ismael Sanogo are all back, and Seton Hall will once again be a tough test for the Wildcats.