The Big East starts conference play this week, which means we alter our setup slightly. Let's be honest: With a 10 team league, picking five game each week means talking about half the games every single week. That's kind of boring, when you think about it. So, in order to have some more fun, we'll only highlight the THREE best men's basketball games in the Big East during conference play.
How do we get to five to live up to the title of the article, though? We'll add the best women's basketball game of the week in the Big East to get to four, and then, for the fifth game, we'll make fun of the American Athletic Conference by highlighting the worst game of their terrible schedule every week.
Thursday, December 31: #6 Xavier at #16 Villanova (11am Central, FS1) - Well, let's see what the undefeated Musketeers are made of right off the bat. This will be just the third true away game for Xavier, but they did win both of their previous ones, including a huge come from behind win over Wake Forest in their most recent game. Villanova's got two losses on the season, but both came against teams that are currently ranked in the top five in the AP poll and the top *three* on KenPom. This game won't decide who wins the league title at the end of the year, but right now, it sure looks like it could end up being a tiebreaker for sure.
Thursday, December 31: #12 Providence at #9 Butler (1:30pm Central, CBS Sports Network) - And once that barnburner wraps up, we head straight to Indianapolis for the Big East's other two ranked teams. Providence slipped out of the top 10 this week after... wait, they won! They beat UMass by 34! On the road! What the hell, voters??!? Anywho, Providence is still a house a-fire at 12-1, and you could argue that Ben Bentil is actually their most important player right now, not Kris Dunn. Butler has just one loss on the season, too, a neutral court defeat against a very good Miami Hurricanes team. Think about this: one of these teams will be tied for last in the Big East after this game is over.
Saturday, January 2: #9 Butler at #6 Xavier (12pm Central, FS1) - I ended that last game preview with that sentence because I knew this game was coming up next. There's a very distinct chance that whoever loses this game could go from top 10 team to 0-2 and in last place in the Big East in a span of just about 52 hours or so. It's not like they won't be able to recover from that, if it happens, but the possibility is out there. Or, to look at it another way: Both teams could be scrapping to bounce back from a season opening loss.
The Big East Women's Basketball Game Of The Week
Sunday, January 3: #25 DePaul at St. John's (4pm Central, CBS Sports Network) - The Blue Demons are barely clinging on to a spot in the Associated Press poll after dropping a home game to Loyola-Chicago last week. They're going to want a big win to get themselves feeling better about their chances at a league title this season, and that's what they get when they visit St. John's here. Meanwhile, the Red Storm have designs on a league title after going 9-2 in the non-conference, including a high quality win at home against current #20 in the country South Florida. Besides a match up of two of the powers in the league this year, we also get two contenders for Player of the Year butting heads in DePaul's Megan Podkowa and SJU's Danaejah Grant.
The Worst American Athletic Conference Game Of The Week
Saturday, January 2: UCF at East Carolina (6pm Central, ESPN3) - Sadly, the AAC's two worst teams are playing halfway decent teams this week. So, we slide up the standings until we find a terrible game, and this one's between the third and fourth worst teams in the AAC. This is made even better by the fact that it's at East Carolina, and their 8,000 seat high school gymnasium/arena is a joke. Every time I see a terrible AAC team playing at East Carolina, I'm reminded why I'm thrilled to bits that Marquette and the rest of The Seven got the hell out of that league.