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The Gavitt Tipoff Games: Previewing the B1G-Big East Opening Acts

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Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this year the Big Ten and Big East announced that they had established a new early season tournament, the Gavitt Tipoff.  There would be eight games a year pitting Big East vs. Big Ten.  Of course, this would have been great with the Big East of 3-4 years ago but the current Big East setup does offer some intriguing games for Big Ten members.  This year, the Tipoff runs today, 11/17, through Friday, 11/20.  Here is the game info and viewing info, along with a little preview of each game:

Tuesday

DePaul Blue Demons at Penn State Nittany Lions || 5pm ET || ESPNU

Aaron Yorke: It was cool to see Penn State get its season off to a good start with a win over VMI on Saturday, but tonight will be a more difficult test with DePaul in town. The Blue Demons return three of their top four scorers from last year, and that experience was on display in Saturday's season-opening victory over Western Michigan with Bill Garrett Jr., Myke Henry, and Tommy Hamilton IV all scoring in double figures. Garrett is a big guard who excels at drawing contact, and that will present problems for Penn State's foul-prone frontcourt. Pat Chambers should counter by allowing freshman Josh Reaves to use his athleticism on defense in an effort to keep Garrett out of the paint. Still, Garrett will probably manage to get his buckets, so the Lions will have to continue to find balance on offense the way they did versus VMI. Shep Garner went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc in that game, and he'll be counted on to stretch out the Demon defense alongside Payton Banks while Brandon Taylor attacks the interior. It will be interesting to see if Reaves gets more involved on offense in this one. He was touted as an aggressive scorer coming out of Oak Hill Academy, but the four-star recruit attempted just six field goals and zero free throws in his 26-minute debut.

Nebraska Cornhuskers at #11 Villanova Wildcats || 8:30pm ET || Fox Sports 1

On initial glance, one would believe that this game is going to be a blowout.  Afterall, Villanova is always an offensive threat and Nebraska was anything but that last year and is incorporating a lot of new faces.

Jesse has a different thought process though and thinks that Nebraska is going to match up well.  Nebraska should match up better than you would think with Villanova because they’ve focused on recruiting scorers in the last cycle, which should allow them to better matchup with the guard heavy lineup that ‘Nova will employ.  No interior? No problem.  Villanova frequently plays a 4 out 1 in system that de-emphasizes post play other than the traditional two post player sets you’ll see.  Is Nebraska going to win? Most likely not, but the game at least shouldn’t be a complete blowout.

[ed note: NEBRASKA BY FOUR! - jc]

Georgetown Hoyas at #3 Maryland Terrapins || 9pm ET || ESPN2

This is the highlight game of the Gavitt Tipoff and features two longtime rivals that have refused to schedule each other in the regular season since ’93.  The story goes that John Thompson II and Gary Williams had a bit of a squabble on who was owed the next home game so they were refusing to schedule each other (no matter that Georgetown didn’t actually play at Maryland since the mid 70’s..).

Georgetown lost their home opener to Radford in double OT, a la Wisconsin dropping their game to Western Illinois or whoever it was.  That level of bad.  Maryland on the other hand cruised comfortably to an 80-56 win over Mt. Saint Mary’s while the scoring was pretty even among starters.  It’s hard to identify a weakness on Maryland, but the key matchup is going to be can Rasheed Sulaimon keep D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera in check on the wing.  Maryland will most likely employ a rotation of players on DSR in order to keep them fresh while guarding DSR.  On offense they’ll need to get the post players involved, which in my opinion is the biggest change from last year when the post players were not much of an offensive threat.  If they can find a way to consistently involve the post on offense and the post players can pass back out to the wing, Maryland is very hard to stop.

For Georgetown, they’ll need to pick their poison when guarding Maryland.  Bradley Hayes will matchup nicely on the inside against Diamond Stone, but Georgetown is already down one post player for the year and Maryland can rotate four players through the post with ease, and if needed can move Jake Layman from the 3 to the 4 to play small ball.  Most likely Georgetown will try to find a way to shutdown Melo Trimble from creating offense and getting everyone in foul trouble, which is hard task.  Do that and Maryland will have to have others step up to facilitate on offense.

Prediction: Georgetown plays close for a while but ends up losing 84-68.

Wednesday

Illinois Fighting Illini at Providence Friars || 7pm ET || Fox Sports 1

Illinois looked awful over the weekend, like really awful.  Combine that with playing an underrated Providence team and it looks like Illinois is starting the season 1-2.  Our Illinois writer, who painfully viewed those said games over the weekend, claims that Kris Dunn is going to shoot the roof off the stadium against the terrible Illinois defense.  Not a great outlook here.

My prediction? The Big Ten goes 2-2 over the next two days with Maryland and Penn State bringing home the wins.  Nebraska may keep it close...but beating a Villanova team by employing a lot of freshman doesn’t sound like it’ll happen.  I’d love if Illinois could put it together for a win, but they’re decimated by injuries to key players and the defense overall has looked not so great.