Big East Preview: Ranking the 15 most intriguing non-league games
The Dagger's Big East preview continues with a look at the conference's 15 most intriguing non-conference matchups next season.
1. Louisville at Kentucky, Dec. 29
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Comment: One of college basketball's fiercest rivalries will again feature two of the sport's top teams. Louisville will be out for revenge after its comeback bid fell short in last year's Final Four meeting, but the Kentucky team the Cards face only returns one player who even played in that game.
2. Syracuse vs. San Diego State, Nov. 9 (San Diego)
Comment: It took a game on a historic aircraft carrier to lure Jim Boeheim out of the greater New York area for a non-conference matchup. The outdoor setting could play to the Orange's favor, however, because the two-three zone typically forces teams to shoot from the perimeter and San Diego State's jump shots may not be as accurate as usual in the ocean breeze.
3. Louisville at Battle 4 Atlantis, Nov. 22-24
Comment: Will concerns about Louisville's suspect outside shooting prevent the Cardinals from living up to their No. 2 preseason ranking? Here's the first good barometer. A win over Northern Iowa in the opening round will earn Louisville a semifinal date against either Missouri or Stanford. Looming on the other side of the bracket are Duke, Memphis, VCU and Minnesota.
4. Kentucky at Notre Dame, Nov. 29
Comment: Even though Kentucky won't be visiting top-ranked Indiana this winter due to the stubbornness of the two head coaches, the Wildcats will travel to one of the Hoosier State's other elite teams. They'll meet Notre Dame in the Big East-SEC Challenge, an intriguing matchup since this will be the young Wildcats' first true road game and first taste of a slowdown, patient offense like the Irish run.
5. Georgetown at Legends Classic, Nov. 19-20
Comment: An already difficult Georgetown non-conference schedule that features Florida, Tennessee and Texas could become even tougher if the Hoyas win their semifinal matchup at the Legends Classic against UCLA. Waiting in the title game will probably be Indiana, the preseason No. 1 team in the nation.
6. Louisville at Memphis, Dec. 15
Comment: This longtime regional rivalry will become a conference game next season when the Tigers join their old Conference USA foe in the new-look Big East. There should be no complaints about Louisville and Memphis also squaring off this year, however, since the Tigers' array of perimeter weapons will give the Cardinals' vaunted defense a stiff test.
7. Cincinnati vs. Xavier, Dec. 19
Comment: The first Crosstown Shootout since last year's infamous brawl will still have some intrigue but it's also lost some of its luster. Not only will the game be played off campus, it also suffers from Xavier's offseason woes. With Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease having graduated, Mark Lyons and Dez Wells having transferred and two top freshman ineligible, the Musketeers may struggle to be competitive this year.
8. Pittsburgh vs. Preseason NIT, Nov. 12-23
Comment: It's crucial for Pittsburgh to make it to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals because the Panthers' non-conference schedule could use the boost of facing Michigan and either Virginia or Kansas State. That won't be easy, however, because possible quarterfinal opponent Lehigh returns C.J. McCollum and a handful of other key players from the team that upset Duke last March.
9. Connecticut vs. Michigan State, Nov. 9 (Germany)
Comment: In addition to the spectacle of a game on a military base in Germany, this season-opening matchup between UConn and Michigan State will provide some idea of where the Huskies stand. UConn has little in the way of proven interior talent as a result of the departures of Alex Oriakhi, Michael Bradley and Roscoe Smith, but their backcourt led by Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier and freshman Omar Calhoun is one of the best in the Big East.
10. Georgetown vs. Florida, Nov. 9 (Jacksonville)
Comment: Right away, Georgetown and Florida will get an idea of where their revamped squads stand. The Hoyas lost their three leading scorers but will rebuild around promising sophomore Otto Porter, an obvious breakout candidate in the Big East. Florida graduated Erving Walker and sent Bradley Beal to the NBA, but the Gators still have volume shooter Kenny Boynton and deep, experienced frontcourt headlined by Patric Young and Eric Murphy.
11. Temple vs. Syracuse, Dec. 22 (New York City)
Comment: Temple won't be fazed by facing the Orange in New York City since Duke and Kansas are also on the Owls' rugged non-conference schedule. Although the Owls lost some key players off last year's team, guard Khalif Wyatt is an Atlantic 10 player of the year candidate.
12. South Florida at Oklahoma State (Dec. 5)
Comment: If South Florida is going to return to the NCAA tournament this March, it won't be because of the Bulls' non-conference schedule. This visit to Oklahoma State is by far the most difficult game South Florida will play prior to the Big East season, which makes a key road win against the youthful but improved Cowboys all the more vital.
13. Marquette at Maui Invitational, Nov. 18-20
Comment: A potential semifinal against North Carolina would be fun, but getting there will require passing a significant quarterfinal test. Up first for Marquette is Butler, which returns most of last year's team and adds the outside shooting it so desperately needed in the form of Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke and freshman Kellen Dunham.
14. Saint Joseph's at Villanova, Dec. 11
Comment: The Holy War may be a mismatch this season, but in a new twist, it won't be because Villanova is the favorite. Although the Wildcats are the home team, they have a lot to prove after a disastrous 2011-12 season and the unexpected departures of starting guards Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek and forward Markus Kennedy.
15. Wisconsin at Marquette, Dec. 8
Comment: One of the nation's better non-conference rivalries will feature two teams trying to overcome personnel losses. Marquette must do without Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, the all-conference duo that led the Golden Eagles to the Sweet 16 last March. And Wisconsin is trying to replace point guards Jordan Taylor and Josh Gasser, the former of whom graduated and the latter of whom is lost for the season due to a torn ACL in practice last weekend.
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