The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012
While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame. However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.
25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM
The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.
24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM
Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young. Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.
23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM
One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success. It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.
22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM
The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.
21. Seton Hall v. Washington, Mohegan Sun (Uncasville, CT), November 17, 7:30 PM
Seton Hall has a distinct advantage in travel for this tournament up at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. While the Pirates are making a relatively short trip from New Jersey, Washington must fly all the way across the country. Both teams are looking to find new identities after losing top players from last season’s teams. Seton Hall must replace underrated guard Jordan Theodore and big man Herb Pope, while the Huskies lose Terrance Ross and Tony Wroten from their 2011-12 squad. The winner of this game will likely play Ohio State, while the loser will get Rhode Island, assuming the Buckeyes win that match-up.
20. Villanova @ Vanderbilt, December 1, 5 PM
In years past, this game would be one of the highlights of the SEC-Big East Challenge, but this year it looks like it may be a game between two middling teams trying to claw back to the top of their respective conference charts. Villanova is coming off its worst season in years. Vanderbilt is coming off a very solid year that included a huge upset of Kentucky, but lost much of the team that got them there.
19*. USF v. UCF/USF @ UCF, November 10, 7 PM/January 2, 8 PM
Okay, so 25 games is a bit of a white lie. A year before intrastate rival UCF joins the Big East, USF will take on the Golden Knights in a home-and-home series that will open and close the non-conference slate. While UCF faded a bit last season and failed to make the NCAA Tournament, they were still a strong team with a 22-11 record and a win over then-#4 UConn. This directional-Florida rivalry is sure to heat up once both are Big East members, though these two games will probably help jumpstart things.
18. Villanova v. Temple, December 5, 9 PM
Along the same lines of the USF-UCF match-ups, this game is intriguing for a number of reasons. Obviously, there is the whole Philadelphia ‘Big 5′ part of the game, which is always significant, but with Temple set to join the conference in basketball next season, this game may become one of the conference’s biggest rivalries. Villanova looks to hold off the Owls and regain the form that made them Big East contenders for most of Jay Wright’s tenure, while Temple wants to score a big victory for the conference’s newbies.
17. Providence v. Mississippi State, December 1, 12 PM
Led by veteran guards Vincent Council and Bryce Cotton and, once he’s healthy, super-freshman Kris Dunn, this year’s Friar team will likely look to run all over the court. Mississippi State generally prefers a much, much slower brand of basketball. The Bulldogs have been a solid program for a number of years; a win at the Dunk for Providence could really set the stage for what the Friar faithful hope to be a big leap for the program this season.
16. Villanova v. Purdue, Madison Square Garden, November 15, 9:30 PM
Purdue has been one of the Big Ten’s most consistent programs under Matt Painter, but they face the challenge of replacing three of their top four scorers from a year ago, including star forward Robbie Hummel. Guards D.J. Byrd and Terone Johnson highlight the Boilermakers squad this year, and should provide a tough test for Villanova’s young backcourt. Villanova may actually have a slight advantage in the frontcourt if they get big performances from Mouphtaou Yarou and JayVaughn Pinkston. This game is part of the 2kSports Classic, and Villanova will follow this up with a game against either Alabama or Oregon State, depending on the outcomes.
15. Georgetown v. Texas, Madison Square Garden, December 4, 7 PM
The Hoyas take on the Longhorns in the first game of the Jimmy V. Classic at the Garden. The dynamic guard combo of Myck Kabongo and Sheldon McClellan should be a tough match for Hoyas Markel Starks and freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who looks to take over where Jason Clark left off. If Georgetown’s Otto Porter has a big game, that may be the equalizer that the Hoyas need in this one.
14. Syracuse v. Temple, Madison Square Garden, December 22, 12 PM
This game should garner a lot of interest within the conference, as departing power Syracuse takes on incoming Temple at MSG. Temple returns a few big players, including senior guard Khalif Wyatt who averaged over 17 points per game last season. He’ll be countered by Syracuse’s consistent veteran, Brandon Triche. If Temple gets hot from behind the arc the Owls may have a chance at the upset, but otherwise the vaunted 2-3 zone will be hard to crack, especially for a team who doesn’t see it often.
13. Marquette @ Florida, November 29, 9 PM
In a rematch of last year’s Sweet Sixteen game, Marquette travels down to Gainesville to face another incredibly talented Gator team. The Gators bring back Kenny Boynton, Patric Young, Mike Rosario, Erik Murphy, and a number of other big contributors to their 2012 Elite Eight run. Marquette is, once again, predicated on a solid combination of experienced players, led by Vander Blue, Jamil Wilson, and Junior Cadougan, but beating Florida on the road might be too much for this Golden Eagles squad. If they can pull the upset, it will be a real statement win.
12. Notre Dame v. Purdue, Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN), December 15, 4:30 PM
Though these schools are only a few hours from one another, they’re heading down to Indianapolis for this in-state grudge match. Notre Dame has fairly large expectations this season after returning most of their rotation players from last year. As stated above, Purdue is a rock-solid team almost every year, so they’ll be a good test for the Irish. If Notre Dame is for real, this is a game they should be able to take.
11. Marquette v. Wisconsin, December 8, 6 PM
Sticking with the in-state rivalry theme, Marquette and Wisconsin face off in what may become one of the most physical match-ups of the season. Both teams pride themselves on playing aggressive man-to-man defense. Marquette’s experienced backcourt players face off against a Badgers lineup looking to replace star Jordan Taylor, who was the heart and soul of their lineup for a number of years. Wisconsin returns some firepower in swing man Ryan Evans and versatile big Jared Berggren, who can light it up from beyond the arc if given the chance.
10. Syracuse v. San Diego State, USS Midway (San Diego, CA) November 11, 4 PM
It’s not every year that you convince Jim Boeheim to fly his team to California, but the Orange will travel for the chance to play on an aircraft carrier. This game was originally scheduled for Friday, but has been postponed until Sunday due to rain in the forecast, and frankly, holding out a few days to play this game on the ship is a better option than moving things inside. San Diego State returns its top three scorers from last season — guards Jamaal Franklin (17.4 points per game), Chase Tapley (15.8), and Xavier Thames (10.1). Franklin is a possible All-American candidate, and will be a real test for the top of the zone. Where Syracuse has a major advantage is in the frontcourt, where 6’9″ Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” Baye Keita, and 6’9″, 288-pound freshman DaJuan Coleman have significant size on the Aztecs.
9. Georgetown v. UCLA, Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY), November 19, 8 PM
The Hoyas face UCLA in the first round of the Legends Classic, and will move on to face either #1 ranked Indiana or Georgia. Obviously, the big player that Brooklyn fans hope to see is Shabazz Muhammad, although he is still stuck in NCAA limbo as his family’s connections with a few financial agents are investigated. Even if Muhammad can’t go, UCLA is an incredibly talented team, bringing back the Wear brothers, center Joshua Smith, and adding talented freshman forward Kyle Anderson this season.
8. Louisville @ Memphis, December 15, 2:30 PM
In another match-up of future conference foes (and former conference foes as well), Louisville travels to Memphis to take on a habitually talented-yet-raw Tigers team. The Tigers lose Will Barton from last year’s team, but bring back Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford, Tarik Black, and add talented freshman Shaq Goodwin to the mix. While Memphis has a ton of talent, Rick Pitino‘s disruptive defense should prove to be too much for the Tigers.
7. UConn v. NC State, Madison Square Garden, December 4, 9 PM
Following Georgetown’s game with Texas, UConn takes on trendy ACC pick NC State. The Wolfpack are coming off of a big NCAA Tournament run after they snuck into the big dance, and look to be a force on paper, if they carry that momentum forward. Highly ranked freshman Rodney Purvis headlines a strong class for NC State, which they hope will help propel them to the same level of in-state rivals UNC and Duke. UConn will be an interesting team to watch this season for a number of reasons. If they come out and play inspired ball, despite having no postseason to play for, it could secure Kevin Ollie‘s job. A win over the Pack would be a huge step in the right direction.
6. Cincinnati v. Xavier, US Bank Arena (Cincinnati, OH), December 19, 7 PM
Last year’s Crosstown Shootout got pretty ugly down the stretch, when a brawl between the two archrivals broke out on the court. Needless to say, a rivalry that was already big is now even more prevalent in the public consciousness. While I’m sure that both teams will be on their best behavior this season, they will be playing with serious chips on their shoulders. Cincinnati expects to have a big year in the Big East, and should contend for a top four finish, while Xavier brings in almost a brand new rotation. Travis Taylor, who only logged 14.5 minutes per game last season for the Musketeers, is the top returning player in scoring and rebounding.
5. Georgetown v. Florida, USS Bataan (Jacksonville, FL), November 9, 9 PM
Boats are really ‘in’ this year. Like Texas, which I wrote about earlier, Florida’s talented backcourt should prove to be a staunch challenge to the Hoyas this season. Unlike Texas, Florida has Patric Young, who can be a force to be reckoned with down low at his best. The Patric Young-Otto Porter match-up should be one to watch, especially if the wind is a factor that takes Florida’s deep shooting out of the game.
4. Notre Dame v. Kentucky, November 29, 7 PM
One team returns almost its entire rotation, the other brings in an entire new team. There is little doubt which team has more raw talent, as the Wildcats win there in droves. However, without an Anthony Davis or a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist this year, it may take longer for this edition of Calipari’s marauding band of freshman to gel. Enter: Notre Dame. South Bend can be a very tough place to play, and the Irish run an effective system with a ton of veterans who know their roles. If this game is nearly as good as the last one the Wildcats played in the state of Indiana, we’ll all be glued to our TV sets.
3. UConn v. MSU, Ramstein Air Base (Frankfurt, Germany), November 9, 5:30 PM
After games in locations all over the country, in the Carribean, and on ships, a game in Europe was probably the logical next step. UConn and German native Niels Giffey open the season against Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team at Ramstein Air Base in Frankfurt. This game is an awesome opportunity for those stationed at Ramstein to see some top level college basketball action. After playing UNC in the Carrier Classic last season, Michigan State seems to be the leader in exotic non-conference game locations. Next year’s match-up against Youngstown State at the North Pole should be a lot of fun.
2. Marquette v. Ohio State, USS Yorktown (Charleston, SC), November 9, 7 PM
Yes, another aircraft carrier game. Marquette takes on a very dangerous Ohio State team that brings back do-it-all forward Deshaun Thomas and scrappy guard Aaron Craft as well as a number of valuable role players like Lenzelle Smith, Jr. This game will be a very tough one for Marquette, who will just be starting life without Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. However, in a lot of ways, this game is more about the experience for Marquette. Coach Buzz Williams has said as much: “This is one of the top five things I’ve ever done in my life… I think it’s something our guys will always cherish… It’s bigger than winning and losing.”
1. Louisville v. Kentucky, December 29, 4 PM
Was there any real doubt as to what would be ranked #1 on this list? Louisville-Kentucky is one of the best rivalries in the entire sport, and has been further enhanced by last season’s Final Four match-up, and the fact that these two teams are ranked #2 and #3 in the nation to enter the year. Louisville should hold many of the same advantages that Notre Dame will have a month earlier with regards to experience and depth, but the Cardinals are more talented than the Irish, and will have the additional motivation to avenge their losses to Kentucky last season. This should be an incredible match-up, and is no doubt the highlight of a deep set of good out of conference games involving Big East teams.
Dan Lyons is a writer for Rush The Court’s Big East microsite. He also contributes to Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and Ultimate Athlete Magazine. You can find Dan on Twitter@Dan_Lyons76.