Fans from Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Villanova got a first look at the obstacles in their schools' paths toward a possible Big East title on Friday when the conference finally released its schedule for the 2010-11 season. Here are five early observations:
• If Seton Hall misses the NCAA tournament again this season, it won't be because of a lack of strength of schedule. The Pirates open at Atlantic 10 favorite Temple and later play Arkansas, Dayton and Richmond. They will also play in a Paradise Jam tournament that includes the likes of Alabama, Xavier, Old Dominion and Clemson. TV executives clearly don't think that much of Seton Hall's NCAA tournament chances: Only six of the Pirates' Big East games are on national TV and four of those are only on ESPNU.
• Syracuse will not have an opportunity to avenge its NCAA tournament loss to Butler next season, but the Orange will have a chance to even the score against another team that dealt them an embarrasing defeat last year. Division II LeMoyne will visit the Carrier Dome for an exhibition rematch on Nov. 9.
• Thirteen of Villanova's Big East conference games will be nationally televised next season, the most of any program in the conference. Defending champ Syracuse and preseason favorite Pittsburgh are next with 12 apiece. Bottom feeders DePaul and Providence each make the least national TV appearances in conference play with five apiece, but curiously their Feb. 17 matchup will be nationally televised in primetime on either ESPN or ESPN2.
• If St. John's manages to escape its opener at St. Mary's unscathed, the Red Storm will have a realistic chance to enter Big East play undefeated. Duke and UCLA loom on the schedule during Big East play, but only potential a potential Great Alaska Shootout title game against Arizona State and a possible matchup with Northwestern at home looks dangerous in the preseason.
• For Cincinnati to make a surprise run to the NCAA tournament next season, it will have to overcome a Big East schedule full of obstacles. In a week in mid-January, the Bearcats will play three straight road games against potential upper division opponents Syracuse, Notre Dame and St. John's. Then the Bearcats later close Big East play with challenging road games against Georgetown and Marquette and home games against Connecticut and Georgetown again.