We already got a little dose of it over the weekend, but it's Thanksgiving Week and that means holiday college basketball tournaments all over the dial. The only downside is that because of all of the tournaments, we're stuck with the games we know will happen, and we have to ignore the potential games that could happen if things break right for our favorite conference. The good news there is that there's likely WAY more than these five games that will be great this week, and that's just in the Big East!
The tournament schedules mean basketball is all over the timescape, too, and we have to publish the Big Five before the weekly AP poll comes out because the first game of note is coming up just a little bit past noon today.....
Last Week: 2-3 (thanks for nothing, Georgetown, Creighton, and.... Marquette again? DAMMIT)
This Season: 6-4
Monday, November 23: St. John's vs #19 Vanderbilt (1:30pm Central, ESPN2) - You play a ranked team, you get in the Big Five, that's how it works. It's the first big national appearance for Chris Mullin as head coach of the Red Storm (because no one watched their Gavitt Game vs Rutgers) as they're 3-0 through a tumultuous start to the season. The Commodores are similarly undefeated, and seem poised for a great season under Kevin Stallings. Could be a big win for the Johnnies in the Maui Invitational.
Monday, November 23: Marquette vs #22 LSU (6pm Central, ESPN2) - Like I said, ranked opponents get you on the list. This game has lost a significant amount of luster over the first 10 days of the college basketball season, entirely because of how Marquette has played in their three games. This should be a big deal showdown between two top 10 recruits in Ben Simmons and Henry Ellenson, but so far, only Simmons has shown immediate and consistent impact for his team. If MU figures out how to avoid horrifying three point shooting - and a 45% mark in the second half against Iowa makes you say "maybe" - then we could have a hell of a show tonight.
Thursday, November 26: #23 Xavier vs Alabama (11am Central, ESPN2) - I flipped a coin between this and Villanova-Stanford, and this won. No, that's a lie. I said "hey, Stanford won the NIT last year! They should be pretty good, right?" *buzzer noise* KenPom projects Stanford to be really bad, as in "only favored to win one Pac12 game" bad. So we go with the Musketeers taking on the Crimson Tide, even though Alabama looks like they are a middle of the pack in the SEC this season. Xavier's riding a nice wave right now following a home win over Mizzou and a road win over a ranked Michigan squad, so hopefully they dodge a trap game against Northern Kentucky on Monday and head to the Advocare Invitational (aka Orlando Classic; aka Old Spice Classic) for this one with an unblemished record.
Thursday, November 26: Providence vs Evansville (8pm Central, ESPNU) - I know what you're thinking right now: "Evansville? Has he lost his damn mind? The Purple Aces are one of the five best games of the week?" Well, let's put it to you this way: Evansville is 2-0 on the season, including a home win over Belmont. Yeah, THAT Belmont. They held Craig Bradshaw scoreless on three attempts behind the arc, something that Marquette was unable to do. On top of that, KenPom projects the Aces as the second best team in the Missouri Valley, trailing Wichita State and tied with Northern Iowa. Odds are Evansville is going to snag a win or three in their four tries against those guys, and PC getting the win here in the Wooden Legacy could end up being huge by March.
Saturday, November 28: Creighton vs Western Illinois (7pm Central, FS2) - I don't know how I can possibly let a Big Five escape away without pointing out the Bluejays having to defend their home court against the Leathernecks of WIU. We all know what kind of damage they can do to a team that usually has such a strong home court advantage.