Trick or Treat: The Big East Schedule EditionPosted by Todd Keryc on October 31st, 2013
In a little more than a week, the 2013-14 college basketball season will begin. Before it does, let’s take a closer look at the Big East schedule using today’s holiday to break it down.
TRICK: Non-Conference Play Will Mean More to Big East Teams This Season: You may have heard by now that a few prominent teams left the Big East this offseason. Of the top 10 teams from last year, six of them have left for other conferences. That includes two Final Four teams and five NCAA Tournament teams, with UConn’s APR issues being the reason for their exclusion, not their performance on the court. The departure of these perennial powerhouses means Big East teams will be missing important opportunities this year to register key wins against highly-ranked opponents. This puts added pressure on them to schedule serious non-conference games and to make those outings count, rather than relying on league play later on. Georgetown took note and did something smart, scheduling Michigan State for a neutral site game on February 1 in New York. They also have big non-conference games early against Oregon in South Korea and on the road at Kansas.
TREAT: A Chance to See A Couple of Old School Big East Rivalries: While most Big East fans were heartbroken when some of the league’s biggest names walked away, there is still the chance to see a couple of old match-ups unfold in non-conference play. Next week, Boston College visits Providence in their annual New England meeting, a rivalry that continued even when BC left for the ACC in 2005. On December 8, fans of New Jersey basketball will see their two premiere programs meet again as Seton Hall heads to Rutgers. The two biggest match-ups for Big East fans both involve old friend Syracuse. The Orange returns to its downstate home, Madison Square Garden, to take on longtime rival St. John’s on December 15. Then, on December 28, Syracuse is at home and will take on familiar foe Villanova.
TRICK: There Could Be Big East Meetings in November! Marquette and Creighton, both picked to finish in the top three in the Big East in the preseason poll, are each heading to the Wooden Legacy in California at the end of November. They are on opposite sides of the bracket but it is reasonable to expect them to meet in the championship game ahead of their two Big East regular-season meetings. In addition, Villanova and Xavier will both head to the Battle 4 Atlantis at the end of November. Yes, the Wildcats and Musketeers are also on opposite sides of the bracket, but should their paths cross in the championship or, more likely, one of the consolation games, we could see the new league in action a lot earlier than anticipated. It would not be the first time in recent history this has happened, as West Virginia and Oklahoma met last November at the Old Spice Classic even though the Mountaineers were in their first season as members of the Big 12. The Sooners won the early meeting and went on to sweep all three games last season, so perhaps these early meetings could give us a sign of things to come when league play opens for real.
TREAT: 10 Teams Means a Real Home-and-Home: Big East teams will play 18 conference games this season, meaning everyone plays everyone at home and on the road. Gone are the days of unbalanced scheduling based on rivalries, projected standings, and television requests. In its place comes a fair test to crown a regular season league champion. The teams should be relieved knowing they will not be facing road tests without getting a chance at retribution at home. Fans should be thrilled with the opportunity to see every team and every player in the Big East visit their town.
TRICK: Seton Hall Will Register Wins Early, But Beware: The Pirates have scheduled themselves into a hole early. The only chance for a big game in the first two months of the season is a potential Coaches vs. Cancer Classic championship meeting with Michigan State. However, Seton Hall would need to beat Oklahoma just to create that match-up. If they miss out on playing Michigan State, Seton Hall’s best non-conference opponents are Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and Rutgers. They will feast on the likes of Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU Brooklyn, and NJIT, but the Pirates will be hurting for marquee wins come conference play.
TREAT: The Big East Tournament Returns to Madison Square Garden: The World’s Most Famous Arena again hosts the Big East tournament in 2014 and the biggest beneficiary should be St. John’s. The Red Storm no longer has to worry about schools with New York City fan bases like Syracuse and UConn stealing their home court advantage. Georgetown will always have fans but it is hard to imagine teams like Marquette or Creighton packing the Garden at the expense of St. John’s. It’s only Halloween but it might be St. John’s who enjoys the biggest treat in the Big East come March.