Two games against top 50 KenPom teams, two more against teams in the top 125, and a borderline inexplicable road game for a team that desperately needs any kind of win whatsoever is what makes up our Big Five this week. This is quite impressive, as there are only 11 games during the week and none at all on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.
That's a very strong non-conference slate for the league, and next week's Big Five will include the start of the conference schedule. Who woulda thunk that it got here so fast?
Last Week: 2-3 (Thanks for nothing, Georgetown, Villanova, and Creighton.)
This Season: 20-10
Monday, December 21: #10 Providence at Massachusetts (6pm Central, CBS Sports Network) - Wellllll, look at those Friars, popping into the top 10 this week. Maybe the most impressive thing about this ascension (not this one) is that PC has been playing with Kris Dunn for the last two and a half games. He missed the second half against Boston College and all of the Bryant and Rider games with an illness. Dunn is apparently a game time decision for tonight against the Minutemen, who are not to be taken lightly. They're #121 in KenPom right now and they're 4-0 at home, although they admittedly haven't beaten anyone notable and had to go to overtime to take down New Orleans. Still, they don't turn it over all that much and they don't let you shoot threes against them, so Providence will have to figure out how to win on the road with that mix.
Tuesday, December 22: #6 Xavier at Wake Forest (6pm Central, WatchESPN) - This is the yearly Skip Prosser Classic game between these two teams, honoring the man that took Xavier to three NCAA tournaments and Wake to four NCAA tourneys. Wake is off to a nice 8-2 start with losses to a quality Richmond team and a very good Vanderbilt squad. Xavier's favored to win this one according to KenPom, but it's not going to be a fun trip to North Carolina, either. With that said, you know that Chris Mack is going to have Xavier fired up to defend that #6 ranking, since it's the highest that X has ever been ranked in program history.
Tuesday, December 22: Georgetown at Charlotte (6pm Central, CBS Sports Network) - Look, I don't know why the Hoyas are returning a home game against the 49ers from last year. All I know is 1) They're going to Time Warner Cable Arena (where the Hornets play) instead of 9,000 seat Halton Arena for this game, 2) The Hoyas are 0-2 against the Big South this season, 3) Both of those Big South teams (Radford & UNC-Ashville) are top 200 KenPom teams today, and 4) Charlotte is 2-8 with wins over Furman & Appalachian State, and thus, they have a KenPom rank of #282. DO NOT LOSE THIS GAME, GEORGETOWN.
Tuesday, December 22: DePaul vs #20 George Washington (8pm Central, FS1) - Like the Georgetown game, this is a return bout from a game in DC a year ago. Last year, the Blue Demons got shut down by a GW team that ended up in the NIT. This year, Mike Lonergan has the Colonials at 10-1 with only a reasonable loss to Cincinnati on a neutral court as their lone black mark. GW has wins over SIX Power Eight conference teams right now, and I'm sure they'd be thrilled to continue to burnish their NCAA tournament profile. Meanwhile, DePaul hasn't beaten a KenPom top 150 team this year in six tries, and that includes their losses in their last three games. Turn it around, DePaul.
Tuesday, December 22: St. John's vs #25 South Carolina (8pm Central, CBS Sports Network) - This game pops up into the schedule are part of the Hall of Fame Shootout at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. The Gamecocks are one of six remaining unbeaten teams in the country right now, sitting at 10-0. They've played just one road game, but they did come away from the Paradise Jam with the tournament title. St. John's, on the other side, is in a bad way. It seemed like they had righted the ship after getting stomped by St. Thomas Aquinas in their exhibition game, and you can't fault them for losses to Vanderbilt or Indiana. On the road at Fordham was a little twitchy, and now they've made that much worse with losses - AT HOME - to Incarnate Word and NJIT. And now they get a SC team that's itching to keep that 0 in the loss column, not to mention make a statement now that they're ranked. Uh oh.