Once league play starts, we generally speaking just have games between Big East foes to deal with for the Big Five. However, this week, because of the “bye week” spots in the schedule where each team takes turns playing only one game per week instead of two, we get two major non-conference games. Due to the random nature of the schedule, the two non-con games are two of the biggest games of the week for Big East teams. That’s how it goes sometimes, I guess.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017: #11 Butler at Seton Hall (7:30pm Central, FS1) - The Bulldogs could use a road win. Their three losses: at Indiana State, at St. John’s, at Creighton. Losing in Omaha is no big deal. The other two? Ehhhhhhh, not great. They have road wins over Utah, Georgetown, and DePaul, and they had to go to overtime for the last two. Seton Hall’s a quality team and they can definitely give Butler some problems. Snagging a road win here would do a lot to restore some shine to the Bulldogs’ overall profile, especially if they don’t end up in a massive deficit in the first half. Seton Hall needs a win, too. They snapped a three game slide with a home win over St. John’s on Sunday, but as SHU hovers around the bottom end of teams in the NCAA tournament field, they need to get a quality win on the board. Right now, the Pirates are only 2-4 against KenPom top 50 teams.
Thursday, January 26, 2017: #24 Xavier at #19 Cincinnati (5pm Central, ESPN2) - CROSSTOWN SHOOTOUT! This game goes in the Big Five every year, regardless of when it’s played. It went in every year when Marquette was conference partners with Cincinnati, and now as conference partners with Xavier, I don’t have to pretend that I want to see the Bearcats win the game. Because, seriously, screw those guys. On top of all of that, the Musketeers are in desperate need of a big time win. Losing three straight to Villanova/Butler/Creighton isn’t that big of a deal, especially with the first two coming on the road. They did lose to the Jays in the game where Maurice Watson was injured, which is not a good sign for XU, and neither was Myles Davis up and quitting the team over the weekend. They snapped the losing streak by beating Georgetown, but a road win over a Bearcats team on target to win the AAC easily will really look good for them. #ZipEmUp
Sunday, January 29, 2017: #12 Virginia at #1 Villanova (12pm Central, Fox) - Ok, look. I can’t honestly recommend that you watch this game. The top ranked Wildcats are ranked #321 in Adjusted Tempo on KenPom at exactly 65 possessions per game, while the Cavaliers are dead bleeping last in this category, coming in under 60 possessions. KenPom is targeting this game for a mere 55 possessions. It’s going to be nigh unwatchable basketball. But it is between two teams ranked in the top 20, and whichever team ends up with the win will have a significant feather in their cap for their postseason profile.
The Big East Women’s Basketball Game Of The Week
Friday, January 27, 2017: #21 DePaul at Creighton (7pm Central, FS1) - This was going to involve Creighton one way or another. The Bluejays beat Seton Hall in overtime on the road on Sunday, which moved them into a first place tie with DePaul at 8-1. Partial credit has to be paid to Marquette for handing the Blue Demons that loss to create the tie and thus make this the game of the week. Had the Jays lost to Seton Hall, Creighton would have been tied with Marquette for second place, and that would have made Sunday’s game between the Bluejays and the Golden Eagles the showcase item of the week. It’s still pretty close, of course, as MU would love to get revenge on the Jays for that 20 point stomping at the Al in early January.
The Worst American Athletic Conference Game Of The Week
Wednesday, January 25, 2017: Connecticut at South Florida (6pm Central, ESPNU) - There were some hard choices to be made for this item this week. We used the “expected road blow out” bit last week, and while it would have been fun to point out Cincinnati’s 99% chance of victory (according to KenPom) against USF on Sunday, that game is in Ohio, not Florida. Tack on the Bearcats getting the featured spot against Xavier, and I didn’t want to repeat an AAC team in this Big East focused list. That brings us to UConn/USF. It’s in Tampa, and the Huskies have a 69% chance of victory. As nice as that is, that’s not the reason this gets the spot. USF is currently #272 in the KenPom rankings, and there is a very real chance that they end the year sub-300. They started the AAC schedule at #235 and it’s been all downhill since then. This game definitely could be a major kick down the stairs for South Florida.... if you have any faith in Connecticut to actually win the game.