This is the last week of the Big Five where we'll only feature Big East men's basketball games. The conference schedule starts next next week Wednesday, and there's actually no games on either Monday or Tuesday. We'll revert to the same conference season format as last year, and if you remember what that was, you're in for a bigger treat this season. But we'll get to that next week.
Even with Christmas blocking out a few days on the schedule this week, we still ended up with 12 games, and a fairly simple set of choices as to what the five best games are. There's a teensy bit of a stretch on the slate, and if you want to argue that it doesn't belong there, that's fine, because there are better teams available. It'll make sense when we get to it.
Last Week: 3-2
Monday, December 22: DePaul vs Colorado (3:30pm Central, ESPNU) - The Blue Demons are out in Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic to start the week. There's potentially better games than the Buffs later this week (Wichita State, Nebraska), but we can't count our chickens before they hatch. Still, Colorado's off to a 6-3 start, with the losses coming in their only three contests against top 60 KenPom teams. It'll be a nice test for DePaul to live up to the "Beat Stanford" standard and not the "Lost to Lehigh" standard.
Monday, December 22: #17 St. John's vs Long Beach State (6:30pm Central, CBS Sports Network) - Yes, The Beach is 4-7 this season against D1 teams. Here's their losses, in order: at BYU, at Xavier, at UCLA, Washington in the Wooden Legacy event, at Stephen F. Austin, at San Diego State, and at Texas. That's how they ended up as the #104 team in KenPom right now. They've been in almost all of those games, so they're definitely not going to be afraid of the Johnnies. St. John's is coming off of a win over Saint Mary's where they had to rally from a 15 point deficit, which is probably going to have them focused on a strong performance here.
Monday, December 22: Providence vs Miami (FL) (8pm Central, Fox Sports 1) - After dropping three straight, Providence has bounced back with three wins, including victories against two top 100 KenPom teams in Rhode Island and UMass. Here they get a Hurricanes team that got off to an 8-0 start including wins over Florida and Illinois, but they've stumbled lately. They're 2-2 in their last four, including losses to the Green Bay Fightin' Wardles and, most recently, Eastern Kentucky. Both of those were at home in Coral Gables, while this one will be at the Barclays Center as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational.
Tuesday, December 23: #7 Villanova vs NJIT (6pm Central, Fox Sports 1) - Yep, this is the one that doesn't quite fit. I could have gone with Xavier hosting Florida Gulf Coast (#122 KenPom) or Belmont (#114) visiting Butler, but the Highlanders seem like more fun to include. Marquette fans are all familiar with the fits that NJIT gave the Golden Eagles, and I think everyone knows about NJIT's success against Michigan. This will be their third crack against a Big East team after opening their season with a loss against St. John's. The Wildcats are looking to stay undefeated and a win here will send them to the Big East schedule with a record of 12-0.
Saturday, December 27: Georgetown vs Indiana (11am Central, ESPN2) - This is the Indeed Invitational, which is a thing I've never heard of before. Hey, as long as it provides me with high quality non-conference games, I'm not going to argue. The Hoyas have only suffered three losses by close margins this season, and this will be a great opportunity to add to their resume. Indiana only has two losses on their slate, but with one of them at home against Eastern Washington and a generally sad schedule, they'll be looking to keep themselves afloat with a win.