On Tuesday, the Big East unveiled its conference schedule for the coming season.
After Villanova won the NCAA title last year, the conference is hoping for a successful encore as it prepares to enter the 2016-’17 season.
Punctuated by Villanova’s title, the Big East is riding a tidal wave of momentum. Not only does the conference boast the current national champion, but it also has a potential top-10 team in Xavier, as well as top-25 contenders Seton Hall (who won the Big East Tournament), Creighton and Butler.
While some proclaimed the Big East dead when it reconfigured to become a basketball-centric conference in 2013 while losing Syracuse, Connecticut and Louisville, the conference clearly has debunked that myth.
Dana O’Neil of ESPN offered a great breakdown on how the Big East is thriving heading into the 2016-’17 season.
Back to the release of the conference schedule:
With a round-robin method of scheduling, there are not many surprises or intriguing games to get wrapped up in. We knew every league member would play each other twice.
However, there are some tidbits to gloss over. Let’s dive right in and dissect the conference schedule and offer some quick takeaways.
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Villanova gets the perfect team to feast on for its conference opener
Now is a good time to look away, DePaul fans; you are not ready for this. The Wildcats will open Big East play with a home opener against a young Demons squad that might take up the basement this coming season.
The award for best Big East opener goes to….
With Villanova to likely have its way with DePaul, the best Big East opener on December 28 has to be the clash between Seton Hall and Creighton in Omaha. Both teams are coming off encouraging finishes last season, and with the Pirates bringing back everyone except Isaiah Whitehead, and Creighton thinking about a return to the Big Dance with the backcourt of Maurice Watson and Marcus Foster, this game should be quite the doozy.
While it’s not a marathon as in years past, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will still have a Big East flair
Two games on New Year’s Eve and three games on New Year’s Day will give Big East hoops junkies their fix as they celebrate 2017.
The best New Year’s Eve game will be the matinee matchup between Villanova and Creighton. The Bluejays, who will be at home team, could make a huge statement with a win.
If you want to stray from watching college bowl games on New Year’s Day, three games could tickle your fancy. There is hardly any must-see action, but Marquette at Seton Hall is your best bet for competitive intrigue.
MLK Day will act as this year’s marathon
Last season the Big East had to postpone its usual New Year’s Eve marathon due to college football, and that will be the case again. To celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, the Big East will hold its marathon on his day (January 16).
Marquette visiting Butler at noon Eastern will tip off the day, with Creighton traveling to Xavier for the second game of the marathon. DePaul visiting St. John’s will be the middle game of the afternoon and the undercard for the night games.
The headliner is a rematch of the Big East Tournament championship when Seton Hall and Villanova tangle in Philadelphia for a 6:30 p.m. ET showdown. The nightcap will have two longtime Big East squads tangle when Providence heads to D.C. to play Georgetown.
Circle the Villanova-Xavier matchups
As two teams which are expected to rank in the top 10 most of the season, Villanova and Xavier figure to have some intense battles. Last season, both teams split the series with each team winning rather convincingly on its home court.
This time around Villanova will host Xavier on Tuesday, January 10, with the return game in Cincinnati set for Saturday, February 11.
Finales worth mentioning
In a vacuum, DePaul’s home finale against Xavier is a nondescript event. However, this is the last game for the Demons at Allstate Arena before they move into their new South Loop arena the following year. The Allstate Arena has been the home of the Demons for 35 years and is the home to many memories. That said, the arena is outdated and too far away from DePaul’s campus. The time was due for a change in venues.
Still, it will be a bittersweet moment for DePaul fans.
As for games that could have postseason ramifications, all games outside of the aforementioned DePaul-Xavier contest (and perhaps the Providence-St. John’s matchup) could have huge implications.
The key finale to watch: Seton Hall at Butler. Both teams will aim to shore up their resumes prior to the Big East Tournament.