The Gavitt Tipoff Games (named for late Providence AD and first Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt) begin tonight with Minnnesota traveling to face Providence. Now in its third year, the series is still searching for one conference to take the best-of-eight matchup, as both seasons have ended in 4-4 ties.
This year there’s no Villanova on the docket, but five of the eight games feature ranked teams and one other, Maryland-Butler, is a damn good matchup of perennially-ranked clubs.
That not enough for you? There’s just this little matchup of #1 Duke and #2 Michigan State. You might’ve heard of ‘em. They play! It’ll be really exciting!
We’ve got previews below!
Monday, 6:30pm | FS1
The Dunk will be rocking tonight as a dangerous Providence team (KP #24) welcomes the Gophers in what could be the best matchup of these Gavitt Games. Things run through Kyron Cartwright for the Friars, as the senior can dish it (6.7 apg in 2016-17) and score as well, but junior G Isaiah Jackson adds length on the wing and can shoot it from deep, as well.
There’s the added issue of age for the Friars—after Cartwright and Jackson, they’re a relatively young team. Freshman center Nate Watson will test Reggie Lynch inside, but Minnesota’s experience and interior D should be able to carry this matchup for them.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Here's the one non-conference game we could lose! I don't think Murphy will be able to repeat his performance from Friday, and I'm nervous about our bench needing to be used against a very good Friars squad.
Tuesday, 7:30pm | FS1
Steve Wojciechowski has found his Duke-esque shooter in Andrew Rowsey, who can gun the Golden Eagles back into any game. Marquette’s young, though, and Isaac Haas will test the size of C Matt Heldt in the paint. While the junior from Neenah can go toe-to-toe with Haas for a while, I like Purdue to control the paint and tempo in this one.
There are, of course, always caveats, and Marquette’s length gives them a shot to keep the Boilermakers under wraps. Haanif Cheatham and Sam Hauser are both long guards who present matchup problems and can get into the lane, but I like Purdue’s ability to get scoring out of Vince Edwards, while Carsen Edwards out-guns both Rowsey and sophomore G Markus Howard.
Wednesday, 5:30pm | FS1
Well, the bloom fell off this matchup pretty quick, huh?
Indiana, having taken their early-season beating at the hands of the in-state Sycamores, needs quickly to regroup against a ranked Pirates squad that gets double-digit scoring from four players (including a double-double from Angel Delgado). Myles Powell can score in bunches, and he’s accompanied once again in the backcourt by senior gunner Desi Rodriguez.
Justin Smith and Aljami Durham helped lead the Hoosiers’ skid-stopper against Howard at Assembly Hall, and with De’Ron Davis, they should be able to put together a fearsome three-man scoring lineup. Can they recover, though?
Candystripes for Breakfast: Unless something absolutely amazing happens (for us) or something horrifying happens (to Seton Hall), we're probably gonna get blown the ever living fuck out, because we are a shaky, shaky team right now.
Wednesday, 7:30pm | FS1
It’s more of the same from the Butler Way in life after Holtmann, as new HC LaVall Jordan has the Bulldogs cruising behind star forward Kelan Martin, who is averaging a double-double in the early moments of the season. I’d personally be curious to see if Maryland can take advantage of the undersized Bulldogs’ lineup, which has a 6’11” center but...not really anything special in the middle.
DJ: I watched Butler play Princeton last night and saw a team that will give Maryland problems. Everyone is aware that Maryland struggles against the zone and Butler dropped a 2-3 zone look in mid second half (that Princeton promptly destroyed from 3 point land), which made me sigh in fear of a long night on Wednesday. Maryland’s pretty terrible A/T ratio this year against crap competition doesn’t help my feelings towards seeing them against the zone either.
Wednesday, 8pm | BTN
A rare game, one where the road team is the more familiar with the home team’s environs. Creighton, as usual, can score in bunches, averaging close to 100 ppg early in the year. Marcus Foster is shooting the ball ridiculously well and scoring 23 a game in just 24 mpg, which will test a Wildcats’ backcourt defense that struggled against the pick-and-roll and allowed Dr. Loyola to pick their shots in the second half.
Even more typical for Creighton is a big white stiff inside (Toby Hegner, a bruiser from Berlin, WI)...he’ll test whether Dererk Pardon can stay out of foul trouble and score against a less athletic opponent.
For Northwestern...let me see how the ‘Cats fare against St. Peter’s tonight? Bryant McIntosh was not shooting the ball well at all in Northwestern’s opener, and it looks like Scottie Lindsey is going to be the headline-grabber for the ‘Cats in 2017-18, followed by the raw athleticism and sometimes-scoring ability of Vic Law.
One thing’s for sure: It’ll be a contrast in styles, and if Northwestern can keep this game from stretching far past 80, I like their odds...but if Creighton’s Foster and Khyri Thomas get easy looks in the paint, it’s gonna be a long night.
Thursday, 5:30pm | FS1
Here’s a test for the Huskers, who already haven’t looked convincing in a narrow win over Illinois-killer Eastern Illinois. Tune in to this one for Marcus LoVett, who is here to score and not much else, having pumped in 21 points on 5/10 shooting from deep in the Red Storm’s first win of the year, and stay for his backcourt-mate, Shamorie Ponds.
Jesse Collins: Nebraska did not instill a lot of confidence after Game 1, but this is a team with as much - if not more - talent than any team I’ve watched. They have athleticism, speed, and even can shoot the basketball. The problem? They also are far from playing fundamentally sound.
Bottom line, St. John’s is picked to be a middle-of-the-road team and Nebraska is picked to be terrible. Not getting blown out would be a win in and of itself.
#15 Xavier Musketeers at wisconsin badgers
Thursday, 7:30pm | FS1
The X has blown out Morehead State and will likely do the same to Rider on Monday, setting up a very, very good showdown with wisconsin in the Kohl Center. It’s all Trevon Blueitt for the Musketeers, though Lakeville, MN native J.P. Macura can gun Xavier back into things. Tyrique Jones has some size to bang with Ethan Happ, but Xavier would have to turn to ill-tested Sean O’Mara or Kerem Kanter after him.
If the Kohl Center gets cooking early and the Khalil Iverson who showed up against Yale (17 points after a 0-point outing against South Carolina State), I think the badgers pull off the home win and find themselves in the Top 25 by next Monday. (Also in small-but-possibly-instructive-sample-sizes: Both D’Mitrik Trice and Andy Van Vliet are shooting over 50% from deep. Meet the new wisconsin...not that different from the old wisconsin?)
Friday, 7:30pm | BTN
The Blue Demons took an expected 14-point loss to Notre Dame over the weekend, but there’s reason for optimism in Lincoln Park, as Tre’Darius McCallum and Eli Cain both demonstrated against the Irish that they can score in bunches and shoot relatively efficiently. If 6’5” G Max Strus can shoot a little better, the Blue Demons might have the firepower to keep pace with the Illini.
Leron Black has been on fire for Illinois so far, averaging 18.5 points in their first two contests. The Illini narrowly escaped UT-Martin after blowing out Southern, though, so we’ll see if they can keep claim to Illinois by dispatching its third-best team at home.
Thump: Feels like a toss-up, but really so does every non-conference game now. Rotation seems fairly set with three guards starting. No huge size advantage for DePaul, so Illinois should be able to score inside.
Other B1G Non-Conference Games:
#1 Duke Blue Devils vs. #2 Michigan State Spartans
Tuesday, 6pm | ESPN | State Farm Champions Classic, United Center, Chicago
Top two teams in the country facing off before either freshman class knows the way to their respective cafeteria? Check.
Unbelievable freshmen talent drawing every NBA scout on the planet? Yeah, Marvin Bagley III, Gary Trent Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., and Trevon Dural will draw some attention.
Experienced standouts? Yeah, and the personality contrast between humble Miles Bridges and the guy I’m positive a play-by-play announcer will call a douchebag live on the air this year is stark.
On the court, both team have phenomenal frontcourts; perhaps MSU’s experience edge up front is the difference. A decisive factor could be how well Josh Langford matches up with Grayson Allen at the 2; allow him to make a couple plays and start strutting, and the urge to punch him square in his Ted Cruz-looking mug likely becomes too great and then you get ejected and that’s no good.
ESPN’s basketball version of FPI calls it essentially a coin flip, with the smallest edge to MSU, though the Vegas is spread is currently Duke -1.5...if you care the least bit about college hoops, do not miss this game, as there won’t be a better one until March, if then.
Feel free to leave your predictions in the comments, and also to use this as your week’s open thread for Big Ten basketball.