Thanksgiving Weekend Games Will Test Big East TeamsPosted by George Hershey on November 27th, 2013
The week of Thanksgiving features some of the best non-conference games of the season. Most of the Big East teams will face stiff tests over the next few days as they look to bolster their resumes and get ready for conference play. Here is a look at some of the key questions that those teams will look to answer during the second half of Feast Week.
This tournament features two Big East teams, Marquette and Creighton. Each was already scheduled to play in this tournament before Creighton joined the league, so they were placed on opposite sides of the bracket and will not meet each other until the championship game.
Creighton will open against Arizona State on Thursday in its first game against a ranked opponent this season. That game will be a challenge for the Bluejays as the Sun Devils will have an advantage athletically and have a superstar player in Jahii Carson who can go toe to toe against Doug McDermott. Creighton will be tested by Arizona State’s size, speed, and confidence after beating Marquette and UNLV. The key question Creighton will have to answer is whether players other than McDermott can step up against arguably more talented teams. McDermott has proven his ability to score against anybody, but the rest of the team will have to supplement his play with outside shooting and great defense. The Bluejays will then face either Charleston or, more likely, San Diego State, and if they win both games, will probably see Marquette on Sunday. A win against Arizona State and a run in this tournament would give Creighton a lot of confidence going forward.
Marquette has a much easier path to the finals as the Golden Eagles will play Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, and if they win that game could get a rematch of last year’s Sweet Sixteen game against Miami (or George Washington). On the other side of the bracket, Creighton or Arizona State would be the most likely other finalist. After forging a valiant comeback against the Sun Devils a few days ago, Marquette would love to have another shot to play ASU on a neutral court. A championship game against Creighton would also be a nice preview for the Big East opener on New Year’s Eve between two of the top contenders for the league title. The key question for Marquette is if it can replicate its second half against Arizona State in which the team finally showed an ability to score, something that had been sorely missing in its previous games.
Battle 4 Atlantis
Two more Big East teams, Villanova and Xavier, are in the Bamahas this weekend to take part in the excellent Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
Xavier faces off against #23 Iowa in its first Atlantis game. The Musketeers have been a pleasant surprise so far this season, starting 5-0 with a solid win over Tennessee under their belt. In the second round they will either play Tennessee again or UTEP, having already beaten the Vols at home. The Iowa game will be an excellent chance for Xavier to pick up a great win because Iowa is talented and experienced but Xavier’s ability to hit threes gives them a shot every time they step on the court. Semaj Christon is the best player on the team, but the play of his supporting cast will be more important this weekend — he has to have some help. Is this Xavier team as good as people have started to think? Is it an NCAA Tournament team? A big win or two in the Bahamas will go a big way towards helping their case for a spot in the field of 68 come March.
Villanova begins by playing USC on Thursday. The Trojans are led by Dunk City’s former coach Andy Enfield and the jury is still out on a 4-1 squad that has yet to play a top team. Villanova should be able to beat USC handily, setting up a likely semifinal contest against Kansas. The Jayhawks are on another level than all but maybe 10 teams this year, but the Wildcats are no slouches themselves. As an underdog, Villanova will have the opportunity to test themselves against a national championship contender and learn from the process. After that, the Wildcats will most likely play Tennessee or UTEP on Sunday, either of which could be a winnable game. Villanova has yet to play against solid competition this season, so critics want to know if this is a team that will battle for a conference title or a middle-of-the-pack team that will live on the bubble all season. Their three games in Atlantis will give an early look into how Villanova fares against some possible NCAA Tournament competition.
Old Spice Classic
After making it to the Maui Invitational championship game last year, Butler will duke it out at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando this season. The Bulldogs should beat a struggling Washington State team on Thursday, but will then be faced with the fighting Marcus Smarts of Oklahoma State. That game will be very tough for Butler as the fifth-ranked Cowboys have played great so far, and Smart has been nothing short of amazing. If Butler loses that game, they will then probably play either LSU or St. Joseph’s, another good opportunity for the Bulldogs. Butler has beaten some solid teams already, but the next three games will show everyone just how good they are. Do the Bulldogs have enough players other than Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall who can create offense? Can they continue to force turnovers and crash the defensive glass against more athletic teams? Those are the key questions for Brandon Miller’s team this weekend.
Providence vs. Kentucky in Brooklyn
Providence finished as runners-up in the Paradise Jam on Monday, but the Friars will play the freshman-laden Wildcats on Sunday night in Brooklyn. It’s great to see the school play a neutral-court game against one of the best teams in the nation. It will be very difficult to come out with a win, but after seeing Cleveland State lead Kentucky for most of its game against the Wildcats, it will give Providence hope that an upset is possible. The Friars played well enough in the Virgin Islands, but got off to terrible starts in all three games. They came back to win in the first two, but ran out of magic against Maryland in the championship game. Will Providence be able to stick with Kentucky early? The Friars can’t afford to get off to another slow start against such a good team.
Other Games to Watch
- St. John’s vs. Penn State – Friday @ 7:00 PM
- DePaul vs. Oregon State – Sunday @ 4:00 PM
- Seton Hall vs. Fairleigh Dickinson Sunday @ 2 :00 PM