ESPN's Big Monday slate won't officially start until Jan. 17, but the network announced on Thursday that it's providing us three extra Big East Monday games to tide us over starting in late December.
Preseason favorite Pittsburgh makes the most appearances with four, followed by three apiece from Villanova and Syracuse. The most notable snub from the list is Seton Hall, which will not make a Big Monday appearance even though the Pirates are expected to be improved after narrowly missing the NCAA tournament last season.
1. Syracuse at Villanova, Feb. 21
Comment: In the lone meeting between these two Big East contenders a year ago, Syracuse flattened Villanova in front of a national TV audience and a packed house at the Dome, sending the Wildcats into a late-season tailspin. This is Villanova's chance for revenge in another late-February matchup that will likely have Big East title implications.
2. Syracuse at Pittsburgh, Jan 17
Comment: Pittsburgh knocked Syracuse from the ranks of the unbeaten last season with an 82-72 victory at the Carrier Dome that served notice that the Panthers were better than many expected. In January, it will likely be Syracuse who's regarded as the underdog when these two contenders meet again.
3. Pittsburgh at West Virginia, Feb. 7
Comment: This will be Pittsburgh's first visit to Morgantown since an emotionally charged game last February that lived up to the rivalry's Backyard Brawl moniker. Several objects were thrown onto the court after Pittsburgh nearly erased a double-digit deficit, forcing West Virginia coach Bob Huggins to grab a microphone and attempt to subdue the rowdy crowd.
4. Georgetown at St. John's, Jan. 3
Comment: Not only is St. John's on a path toward relevancy thanks to new coach Steve Lavin's recruiting success, the Red Storm may also be competitive immediately as a result of their nine seniors. They'll be challenged in this game by a Georgetown team that for once will rely more on its backcourt than any NBA-bound 7-footers.
5. Connecticut at Pittsburgh, Dec. 27
Comment: The first Big East Big Monday game of the season will serve as an ideal litmus test to determine whether UConn has improved since last year's ugly season ended in the NIT. The Huskies lost three key seniors, but return point guard Kemba Walker and add a deep recruiting class.