After all, Marquette doesn't play a game at all this week due to a combination of Finals Week and intentionally waiting until grades post to allow Luke Fischer to be eligible for one more game. I thought that at least one or two other schools would have the same schedule, which would turn into a blanket of quiet for most of the week, followed by a smattering of less than stellar games on Saturday or Sunday.
I was wrong, or at least wrong enough to the point where picking five games this week wasn't even remotely hard. We've got two games against ranked opponents, including one on the road, plus two more road games against power conference opponents. Well played, Big East.
Last Week: 4-1
Tuesday, December 9: #7 Villanova vs Illinois (6pm Central, ESPN) - This might have not looked like a marquee match up at the start of the season, but the Jimmy V Classic has lucked into a brilliant one. We expected the Wildcats to be good, and they've held up their end of the deal, going 8-0 with wins over VCU and Michigan on consecutive nights. Now they get a surprising 7-1 Illini team that used a win over Baylor in Vegas to vault themselves into the top 25 last week. That lone loss came in the last week to Miami (FL), though, and as a result, John Groce's squad finds themselves on the outside of the Associated Press' list. They'll certainly be motivated to get back in the top 25, and a win over the Wildcats, even on a neutral floor, will accomplish that.
Tuesday, December 9: Seton Hall at #11 Wichita State (6pm Central, ESPN2) - This might not have looked like a marquee match up at the start of the season, but ESPN has lucked into a quality competitor for their own Jimmy V Classic broadcast. Yes, that last sentence was intentional. The Pirates are 7-0 after destroying Rutgers on Saturday, and Isaiah Whitehead was just named Big East Rookie of the Week after averaging 18.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, including scoring 25 points in just 21 minutes against the Scarlet Knights. The Shockers, of course, are almost exactly what we expected: 5-1 after finally losing their regular season winning streak against Utah last week. Their D1 opponents have all been top 175 KenPom teams, and that streak's not ending here.
Wednesday, December 10: Georgetown vs #10 Kansas (6pm Central, Fox Sports 1) - This one's a rematch from last season at Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks came away with an easy 86-64 win. That was a team that had four guys score in double figures in that game who are no longer with the Jayhawks, though, while Georgetown has taken solid pieces from last year along with D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera and a returning Joshua Smith in order to get off to a 5-2 start. They have a win over Florida down in the Bahamas, plus two very compelling games against Wisconsin and Butler down there, too. Kansas has been outstanding this season even with their losses, with only a blowout loss to Kentucky marring their record.
Saturday, December 13: Xavier at Missouri (3pm Central, ESPN2) - Last week, the Musketeers bounced back from a 1-2 outing in the Wooden Legacy by getting a big home win over Alabama. After hosting IUPUI on Tuesday, they'll head out to Columbia to tangle with Kim Anderson's Tigers. Mizzou might be 4-4 on the season, but after opening the season with a loss to UMKC, their other three losses are all understandable: Arizona & Purdue out in Maui, plus a trip to Norman to face the Sooners.
Sunday, December 14: #15 Butler at Tennessee (1pm Central, ESPN) - The surprising Bulldogs are riding high after picking up a win over Northwestern on Saturday. A win here (and over Kennesaw State tonight) and they'll head across town to the Crossroads Classic game against Indiana at 9-1. At some point, Butler will have to figure out whether or not Brandon Miller will even be allowed back on the sidelines, but for now, they'll get a chance to score a quality win against a Vols team that's only lost to two ranked teams and, of course, your very own Golden Eagles.