I think that we have to start the first Big East What To Watch of the 2020-21 season with a disclaimer: This is what the schedule looks like when I hit the publish button. It almost assuredly will change between then and when the listed games actually roll up.
I’m typing this on Tuesday morning because 24 hours ago, Baylor’s participation in their event at the Mohegan Sun Casino was up in the air after head coach Scott Drew announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. Ultimately, after Arizona State voiced their concern about playing a team that had been hanging around their clearly contagious coach for who knows how long, the Bears withdrew. Last night, it became official that Rhode Island will be taking Baylor’s place in the event, and all of this matters because Villanova was scheduled to play either Baylor or ASU in the second game of the event.
This doesn’t even address the fact that Seton Hall is scheduled to host Baylor on Sunday. Quite honestly, if the Big East is going to be holding their teams to the standard of a two week shutdown in the event of a positive test within their team environment, then Seton Hall can not play Baylor about a week after Drew tested positive. Heck, it’s insane that the Bears aren’t actually hitting the pause button other than the fact that they aren’t going to Mohegan Sun.
So there’s that. Keep your eyes and ears open all season long for updates to the schedule, and I’ll try to update the spreadsheet at the bottom of each of these weekly posts when we know new information. In fact, if y’all want to be helpful, please drop into the @AnonymousEagle mentions on Twitter or the anon.eagle@gmail inbox to make sure I see a cancellation or postponement or rescheduling.
UPDATES: Seton Hall vs Baylor is off. Butler vs Eastern Illinois is off. Villanova vs Virginia Tech is ON.
Okay, so let’s move on to the actual point of the What To Watch: Pointing out the highlights of the week ahead in Big East basketball.
Wednesday, November 25: Xavier Musketeers vs Oakland Grizzlies (11am Central, FS1) — It’s the first game of the year! Sure, Xavier has a 96% chance of victory per KenPom.com, but it’s the first game of the year in the Big East, so we’re highlighting it here. There’s also a second reason why we’re highlighting this one, but you’ll need to wait a minute. Also, this is the first game of SIX STRAIGHT BIG EAST GAMES on FS1 on Wednesday. If you’re like me and you have a Roku streaming device, please remember to let your device know that you’re still watching every so often so it doesn’t shut down your app on you at an important juncture of the SEXTUPLEHEADER.
Wednesday, November 25: #3 Villanova Wildcats vs Boston College Eagles (6pm Central, ESPN) — It’s the first ESPN game of the year! No, that’s not the reason why we’re pointing this one out, although that is true. This one is actually the first high major test of the year for a Big East squad, as the Wildcats face off with the Eagles out of the ACC. Yes, BC is picked to finish 14th in the 15 team ACC this season, but they’re still projecting as a top 100 team on KenPom.com so it’s a quality matchup for Collin Gillespie et. al. As mentioned earlier, the Wildcats will play either Arizona State or Rhode Island on Thursday, but we’re not listing it because it’s still a hypothetical game right now.
Thursday, November 26: Xavier Musketeers vs Bradley Braves (11am Central, FS1) — Yes, that’s right, the Fightin’ Brian Wardles are in Cincinnati to take on the Musketeers bright and early on Thanksgiving....... 24 hours after Xavier plays Oakland. This is notable because of that quick turnaround for Paul Scruggs and the guys, but Bradley (#126) is also the highest ranked KenPom team facing a Big East team this week that’s not from a high major conference. This is quietly a pretty big game for both sides of the equation. By the way, it’s a quicker turnaround for Bradley than it is for Xavier, as Bradley is playing Toledo at Cintas Center 3 hours after Xavier’s game against Oakland.
Thursday, November 26: St. John’s Red Storm vs La Salle Explorers (1pm Central, FS1) — This contest against La Salle is worth mentioning just because the Explorers are ranked #150 in the preseason KenPom rankings even though they’re picked to finish 13th in the 14 team Atlantic 10. It’s a quality opponent for the Red Storm who are fielding a lot of question marks to start the year. Also: St. John’s is coming off of a 6pm tipoff against Saint Peter’s the night before. You gotta do what you gotta do to work your game onto FS1’s airtime, sure, but considering that the Peacocks are #186 in KenPom to start the year and look to be a factor in deciding the MAAC title this year, trying to come up with two wins in a 21 hour stretch against two pretty good teams is not a picnic.
Friday, November 27: Xavier Musketeers vs Toledo Rockets (11am Central, FS1) — YES THAT’S RIGHT IT’S AN 11AM TIPOFF FOR THE THIRD STRAIGHT DAY FOR XAVIER! That is dedication to a self-hosted multi-team event, let me tell you what. It’s also a potential recipe for disaster for Xavier, as Toledo is also a top 130 KenPom team to start the season. They look to be the favorites in the Western Division of the MAC. Sure, it’ll be the Rockets’ third game in three days, and sure, they’ll be coming off a shorter turnaround that Xavier given their afternoon game against Bradley the day before, but Toledo will definitely want to take a crack at a potential season defining win before leaving the Queen City.
Friday, November 27: Seton Hall Pirates at Louisville Cardinals (3pm Central, ESPN2) — It’s the third of three high major games at least scheduled for the Big East this week, although that could be four, and it might only be two. Still, Chris Mack has the Cardinals aimed at an NCAA tournament bid this season and were picked to finish fifth in the ACC this season. In fact, they actually picked up two first place votes as the ACC has 155 people voting in their preseason poll. This will be the second game of the year for Louisville, but the first for Seton Hall. In fact, Sandro Mamukelashvili and the Pirates only just exited a two-week pause to their program due to a positive test on the 23rd. We’ll see how that impacts their preparation for the Cards.
Sunday, November 29: Seton Hall Pirates vs #2 Baylor Bears (3:30pm Central, FS1) — Okay, look, I don’t think this game should be played and I don’t think it’s going to be played. But right now, as I type, it’s on the schedule, so I’m highlighting the fact that Seton Hall is slated to host the KenPom preseason #1 team in the country and the preseason AP poll #2 team. The Bears are the preseason pick to win the Big 12 for the first time in conference history. Jared Butler is the preseason Player of the Year in the Big 12, so Seton Hall will have their hands full upon their return to New Jersey.
Here’s the full Big East schedule for the first week of the season as we know it on Tuesday evening.
Big East What To Watch Week 1
|Wed., Nov. 25||Xavier vs Oakland||11:00 AM||FS1|
|Providence vs Fairfield||1:00 PM||FS1|
|Georgetown vs UMBC||3:00 PM||FS1|
|Butler vs Western Michigan||5:00 PM||FS1|
|#3 Villanova vs Boston College (at Mohegan Sun)||6:00 PM||ESPN|
|St. John's vs Saint Peter's||6:00 PM||FS2|
|Connecticut vs Central Connecticut||7:00 PM||FS1|
|Marquette vs Arkansas-Pine Bluff||9:00 PM||FS1|
|Thurs., Nov. 26||Xavier vs Bradley||11:00 AM||FS1|
|St. John's vs La Salle||1:00 PM||FS1|
|#3 Villanova vs Arizona State/Rhode Island (at Mohegan Sun)||8:00 PM||ESPN|
|Fri., Nov. 27||Xavier vs Toledo||11:00 AM||FS1|
|Seton Hall at Louisville||3:00 PM||ESPN2|
|Marquette vs Eastern Illinois||6:30 PM||FS1|
|Connecticut vs Hartford||7:00 PM||CBS Sports Network|
|Sat., Nov. 28||#3 Villanova vs Virginia Tech (at Mohegan Sun)||7:00 PM||ESPN News|
|Sun., Nov. 29|