Hello, hello! Big East basketball is back on tap, with fans once again! That puts a little pep in your step, doesn’t it? At least enough to counteract the sun being down by the time you log off of work, I hope. It may be dark earlier now, but nothing shines brighter than the return of Big East basketball!
Let’s take a look at where things stand as the season opens.
Here’s what the nation thinks about the Big East entering the season:
Big East Rankings
And here’s how the Big East coaches had things:
Big East Coaches’ Poll
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Villanova is the clear favorite in the conference, with UConn sitting firmly in second. Xavier is generally considered the third best team. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. St. John’s received top 25 votes in the AP, but sits outside of the top 50 in both KenPom and T-Rank. They don’t even make the top 75 in the latter. Creighton received the third most votes of any Big East team in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll but was picked to finish 8th in the conference by the coaches of the Big East.
All of this will be ironed out over the next four months, but it reflects the chaos within the conference and across the landscape of college basketball this year.
All times Eastern
Tuesday, November 9
Mount St. Mary’s at Villanova, 4:30, FS1
Central Connecticut at UConn, 6:30, FS1
IUPUI at Butler, 6:45, FS1
Fairfield at Providence, 7:00, FS1
Niagara at Xavier, 7:30, FS1
Mississippi Valley State at St. John’s, 7:45, FS1
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Creighton, 8:00, FS1
SIUE at Marquette, 8:30, FS1
Wednesday, November 10
Fairleigh Dickinson at Seton Hall, 1:00, FS1
Coppin State at DePaul, 9:00, FS1
Thursday, November 11
Sacred Heart at Providence, 6:30, FS1
Kennesaw State at Creighton, 8:30, FS1
Friday, November 12
Central Arkansas at Butler, 6:30, FS2
Kent State at Xavier, 6:30, FS1
New Hampshire at Marquette, 8:30, FS2
Villanova at UCLA, 11:30, ESPN2
Saturday, November 13
Coppin State at UConn, 12:00, FS2
Dartmouth at Georgetown, 2:00, FS2
Saint Peter’s at St. John’s, 4:00, FS2
Central Michigan at DePaul, 6:00, FS2
Troy at Butler, 8:00, FS2
You may have picked up on something about the TV listings being weird for opening night. How can all of those simultaneous games be on FS1? And why are they staggered like that? It’s because FOX Sports is debuting whip-around coverage of the games that night. Like NFL RedZone, they will jump from game to game to give you the highlights from each as they happen. If you want to watch any of those games individually, they can be found in the FOX Sports App.
There are 21 Big East games in the opening week, with at least two games every day. Villanova gets the opening tip for the conference against Mount St. Mary’s. The Wildcats have played Mount St. Mary’s four times in school history, winning all four contests. The last time was in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA tournament, with the #1 seeded Villanova knocking off the Mountaineers by 20 points.
Saturday will feature non-stop Big East action, opening with UConn and Coppin State at noon and finishing with Butler hosting Troy at 8:00. None of these games should be particularly close, but it’s a good day to lay back on the couch and get an idea of what the Big East has to offer this season.
Game of the Week
Unquestionably, the game of the week is #4 Villanova at #2 UCLA. The Wildcats have actually won three straight in this series, including a 3 vs 6 matchup in March Madness back in 2009. However, UCLA took the one meeting between these two out west in dominant fashion, beating Villanova 93-65 in 2001. 11th seeded UCLA made a run in the tournament last year before losing to Gonzaga in what must be an early contender for the game of the decade. The Bruins return all of their starters from that run and look poised to be a championship contender. Meanwhile, Jay Wright’s squad returns Big East Preseason Player of the Year Collin Gillespie from injury and will be looking to make some noise out west to open the season.
My prediction: Villanova 89, UCLA 83. I foresee a high-scoring game with the experience and coaching from Villanova making the difference at the end.
Stat of the Week
Last season, the Big East started the year 15-0 before Villanova’s OT loss to Virginia Tech. The Big East should be favored in it’s first 15 games to open this season before Villanova plays at UCLA. The conference could easily open with the same record in back to back years, with the same team losing first in each season.