I asked everyone what games they are most excited to see. There are the traditional rivalries... and then there are the games that will make the pretender/ contender statement. Our panel:
Cincinnati Bearcats Blog (Twitter) | Connecticut The UConn Blog (Twitter) | DePaul Blue Demons Nation | DePaul Chicago College Basketball (Twitter) | Georgetown Hoya Prospectus | Marquette Cracked Sidewalks (Twitter) | Pittsburgh Cardiac Hill (Twitter) | Rutgers On the Banks (Twitter) | Seton Hall South Orange Juice (Twitter) | South Florida VoodooFive (Twitter) | St. John's Rumble in the Garden (Twitter)| Villanova By the Numbers | Villanova The Nova Blog (Twitter) | Villanova VUHoops (Twitter) | West Virginia The Smoking Musket (Twitter)
Answers... after the jump>>
Rumble in the Garden (Twitter): St. John's vs. UCLA is the game for me, as mentioned. That's gonna be crazy pants - angry longtime fans, an eager Ben Howland, Steve Lavin with that "hey, it happened" face and the internal "I would murder these motherf--'s with a butter knife if I could" monologue...
Lavin plays a nice, aw-shucks guy - and by all indications, he really is a nice, thoughtful fellow. But if I had been done like Lav was at UCLA, I know I would want to beat the living snot out of the Bruins. It's not the firing, that makes sense. It's the attempts to get rid of him behind his back, the newspaper attacks that seem a little personal, it's the fans whose hate extends to this day and their "I-tell-it-like-it-is" version of the truth (which usually means you're listening to slanted b-s)...
To quote the many Lovelacian politicians in this election season, I would want to "shove "it" down their throats" if I were Steve Lavin.
WVU vs. Pitt - The backyard brawl produced two great games last year and it will be no different this year.
Cardiac Hill (Twitter): Just one? Man, you're tough. Well, if you're only giving me one, I'd probably take Syracuse and Michigan State. Two of the top coaches today and both teams may be in the top five if everything breaks right.
If you're asking me which Pitt game, it'd be Pitt/Tennessee. The game will be downtown in the city's new arena and part of the Big East SEC Challenge. And I'm sorry, but I've got to squeeze one more in - Temple vs. Villanova. Two Philly teams battling it out over Christmas break.
Blue Demons Nation: Two games – opening game against Chicago State. DePaul has been quite down the past two years, and fans are hesitant to believe things are looking better under Oliver Purnell. Getting their first glimpse of the new-look Blue Demons may allow DePaul fans to begin to believe things are going to be better. In years past, it was these sort of games (low major teams, with bad RPI rankings) that came into DePaul and left with victories.
Second game will be the Oklahoma State game, as it is the Blue Demons first game against a high-major program and how DePaul can react to being a likely heavy underdog will tell a whole lot about this team.
On the Banks (Twitter): While it's probably going to be a tough year at RU, I'm actually excited to attend Rutgers vs. UNC at MSG this year. While RU is going to be very undermanned and out talented, there's a shot here to come in and make a statement. Play hard, stay close and show some people that Mike Rice is the right guy for Rutgers.
RU probably won't win, but a good effort here--and all season long--could go along way toward changing the basketball culture on campus.
OOC - St. John's at UCLA -- That will be just downright entertaining to watch!
VUHoops (Twitter): Pittsburgh at Villanova: It's going to be a College Gameday showdown between two teams that have had some notable face-offs in the Jay Wright era. For the first time in a while, the Panthers will be coming in to play this game in the Pavilion -- a 6,500 seat arena where the student section has as much impact on the game as the players.
With that and the impact this game could have on the Big East standings, it should be a good one.
Chicago College Basketball (Twitter): Pittsburgh's Coaches vs. Cancer semifinal and finals match-ups against Maryland and either Texas or Illinois should tell us a lot about one of the top teams in the league.
Villanova by the Numbers: Almost too many to count...many Villanovans will look to the Georgetown game, as the Hoyas and Wildcats have had a number of very good games lately. I still think the conference title and #1 seed in the Big East Tournament will probably come down to the Pittsburgh-Villanova series.
It is crucial that the Wildcats take the Pavilion game on February 12. Given the game was selected for ESPN's GameDay, the Pavilion will be crazy. Should be a very good game. I am sure the Pitt fans will return the favor when the 'Cats visit the Peterson Event Center in March...the last conference game for both teams.
Half-home, half-real answer: As a rehabilitated St. John's fan (I grew up in northern Jersey...sue me), if the Johnnies actually turn out to be an NCAA Tournament-level team like I think they could be, I'd love to see the Garden lit up for Duke on Jan. 30. Does Bootsy Thornton have any eligibility left?
Why: The Huskies have won the last ten games against the Pirates and 17 of the last 18, however, if there were a year the Pirates breakthrough, it's this year. I expect the Pirates to beat Jim Calhoun and his Huskies in New Jersey. And rather convincingly.
Hoya Prospectus: Georgetown - Mizzou is a good non-conference game. Forty minutes of Hell versus GU's controlled play (which, while they run more now, is still controlled).
Then the big rivalries - Pitt/Syracuse/Connecticut/Georgetown/Villanova.
VoodooFive (Twitter): Seton Hall-Rutgers of course! Actually I'm excited to see the Nova-Georgetown matchup. That should be a fun one to watch. I'll agree with everyone else with Lavin and the Johnnies going to UCLA.