Big East and Big Ten announce Gavitt Tipoff Games series to kick off college basketball season

Bruce Bennett

The series starts in 2015. St. John's fans, who do you want to see?

For the Big East, the newly announced Gavitt Tipoff Series - eight television-friendly and fan-friendly early season matchups between Big East teams and Big Ten teams - is a brilliant idea.

The annual series, named after Big East founder Dave Gavitt, will begin at the start of the 2015-2016 season during the first full week of the season. the series will be an annual early-season staple at least until 2022. The games will be played Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week. Eight Big East teams per year will participate and each Big East team will play a minimum of six times during the eight year span.* Each Big Ten team would participate a minimum of four times.

St. John's is definitely in the mix to host early, and at Madison Square Garden:

Television coverage will be controlled by the conference of the home team. Games in Big East arenas will be broadcast on FoxSports1 and Big Ten games will be either on the Big Ten Network (BTN) or ESPN.

Via press release, Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman expressed excitement.

"We look forward to partnering with the Big Ten to stage a new series of basketball games among our schools and to pay homage to Dave Gavitt, the Big East's founder, who was an inspiration to many of us and one of the most impactful contributors in the sport of basketball," said Ackerman.

"We have natural connections with the Big Ten through our shared geographic regions," she continued, "and these competitions promise some exciting new rivalries for our players, coaches and alumni. With March Madness, college basketball always ends with a flourish, and the Gavitt Tipoff Games will allow us to open the season with a bang as well."

"We are excited to honor Dave Gavitt and his contributions to the sport of basketball through the establishment of the Gavitt Tipoff Games," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany.

Scheduled contests like tese are a boon to the sport. Instead of starting off the season not with easy-to-win "buy" games against the lowest of Division I, participants will give their fans a marquee reason to come to games, to flip on the television, to talk about their fandom and teams well before conference play or March. College basketball has had a popularity problem; viewers tune in to March Madness, where the sport takes over the nation, but quality compelling basketball is missed in the other four months of the season.

Ratings for regular season games increase during conference play for top conferences and name brand programs, but still lag far behind middling college football games.

Can this series change that?

For the Big East, at least, this series is a great way to remain on a wide regional radar. The Big East's first year as a basketball-only conference was good, but too parity-riddled. The last season saw the Big East with a number of evenly-matched teams that were not quality enough to reach the NCAA Tournament, hurting perception value. But those teams are good enough to be a serious challenge to programs in football conferences, which will make scheduling top marquee games difficult.

For St. John's, being in an appealing geographic area should once again be a boon. The Big Ten Network recently opened offices in New York City and hopes to make inroads in the Big Apple; and Madison Square Garden is loved as a venue for televised big games.

Which team would you most like to see St. John's play, based on quality, interest, name recognition, matchups, geographic proximity? Take our poll!

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