(Editor's Note: Please welcome rsaccoma2016 to the staff! He should be helping out from time to time with game coverage this season, in addition to his weekly post previewing the weekly action for our conference rivals this season.)
Our new and improved BIG EAST conference begins this Friday and Saturday. Of the ten games, two of them are not your usual small-market-easy-win opponents, which means competition right off the bat. Hooray for basketball!
First, your Villanova Wildcats will be challenged by the Lafayette Leopards in the on-campus Pavilion. The Wildcats 2012-2013 season concluded with a first round (technically "second round" but the first round after the 4 play-in games) loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels. Lafayette did not partake in post season play. I doubt the Patriot League level of play will trump Villanova's offense, and I predict Lafayette traveling home with their tails between their legs.
After a quick exhibition tonight vs. Humboldt St. in which they will try to perform better than Saturday's embarrassing 82-80 come from behind win against Division II San Francisco State, St. John's will face the 20th ranked Wisconsin Badgers on Friday night. Wisconsin is starting off the season after a disappointing round of 64 exit at the hands of the Ole Miss Rebels. The Johnnies are coming off a second round exit in the NIT last season, and have been pegged by some experts as the sleeper in the BIG EAST. This game will be played at the brand new Sanford Pentagon in the populous city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I see Wisconsin taking this one easily, being led by Junior guard Traevon Jackson.
The other exciting upcoming matchup of the week is between the 19th ranked Oregon Ducks and Georgetown. The game will be played in Camp Humphreys, a United States military base in South Korea. I think we all remember how the Hoyas' last visit to the Far East went. Oregon's season ended last year with a memorable Sweet 16 loss to eventual champions Louisville. Georgetown's season ended even more memorably (at least for us). We all remember their loss that started Florida Gulf Coast's unprecedented run to the Sweet 16. Oregon's Damyean Dotson was on fire in the tournament so we can see how electrifying the sophomore can be this season. I see Georgetown coming back Stateside 0-1.
The sole preseason ranked BIG EAST member is the Marquette Golden Eagles, who face the Southern University Jaguars at home. The Jaguars almost shocked the nation as the then #1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs snuck by them in the round of 64. Not a chance that kind of close play appears here, however. Look for seniors Jamil Wilson and Chris Otule to fill in the missing production due to Vander Blue's departure as the talented Marquette freshman get their feet wet.
Another noteworthy opener is Providence vs. our former BIG EAST friends, the Boston College Eagles. Neither team saw any post-season action last year. With Providence's dominance on the boards and great ability to force turnovers, I see the Friars starting 1-0 in the first premier Fox Sports 1 game of the year. How many times will Bill Raftery make us smile? Infinity, I say.
The BIG EAST newcomers open their 2013 schedule against Alcorn State, who started last season a dismal 2-13, the last of those 15 games coming on a road loss to the Syracuse Orange. All eyes will be on Bluejays senior forward Doug McDermott, who led the country in scoring last year and looks to cement his place as an All-American for a second straight season.
Xavier opens at home vs. the Gardner Webb Runnin' Bulldogs. Gardner Webb had a win last season against DePaul, but who didn't, really? They also ended the season on an 8-2 streak, which included a first round exit in the College Insider Tournament.
(Editor's Note: What the hell is the College Insider Tournament? Wait, I don't even want to know.)
Seton Hall faces off against the Niagara Purple Eagles. Niagara exited early to Maryland in the NIT to close their season, which the Pirates finished 15-18 overall, going an atrocious 3-15 in Big East play. I actually see the Pirates stealing this one, however, being at home in the Prudential Center led by senior guard Fuquan Edwin.
DePaul will welcome the Grambling State Tigers with open arms. Last season, you the reader had as many wins as the Tigers, who finished 0-28. I know it's fun to make fun of them, but come on you guys! BIG EAST solidarity in this one.
Butler takes on the Lamar Cardinals, who finished last in the Southland Conference at 3-28 last year. Roosevelt Jones, out with a wrist injury for the season, will be missed, but the newest collection of no-names who we will quickly learn to hate will be more than enough here. Butler will give newly named Brandon Miller a win in his first game as head coach.
Enjoy the first week of this unfamiliar conference. We'll get a good look at the new teams for the first time.
More from VU Hoops:
- The Sun's Arizin: Villanova Wildcats news and links for November 4, 2013
- Five Observations from the Wisdom of Crowds Voting Results
- Villanova vs. West Chester: Video highlights
- Villanova vs. James Madison final score: 'Cats lose must-win game 31-21
- Villanova vs. West Chester recap: Wildcats make use of quick start, win 88-50