Previewing the Gavitt Games
This week opens up the 2nd year of the Gavitt Games aka the Big East-Big Ten challenge. The series was created to honor the late, great Dave Gavitt, former Athletic Director at Providence and the first ever Big East commissioner. Last year, the first year of the tournament, the conferences tied 4-4. Heading into the Games, the Big East is the only conference in the country that survived opening weekend undefeated. Below is a breakdown of the day-by-day match-ups and predictions.
Monday November 14th 7/6c PM BTN
#4 Villanova at #15 Purdue
The defending National Champs head to West Lafayette to take on preseason 15th ranked Boilermakers. Nova will have their hands full down-low with the three-headed beast of Swanigan, Haas and Edwards who combined for 64 points and 37 rebounds, granted it was against McNeese State. Swanigan became the 3rd college player ever to record 20 points 20 rebounds and 5 assists (the others were Ben Simmons and Blake Griffin). The keys for Nova are their guard play and depth, led by Sophomore Jalen Brunson and All-American Josh Hart. They need to be aggressive and looks to force Purdue guards into turnovers. Nova needs an all-hands-on-deck effort on the glass to counteract Purdue’s height and physicality.
Prediction: Villanova 78-71
Tuesday November 15th 6:30/5:30c PM FS1
#25 Maryland at Georgetown
Big match-up in the DMV area as tow of the premier programs go head-to-head in DC. Maryland was preseason ranked 25th coming off of a Sweet Sixteen run and returns star guard Melo Trimble. The Hoyas are coming off, yet another, disappointing season under JTIII which featured an 8th place finish in the Big East and a 15-18 record. Georgetown, as usual, has a ton of talent, the questions each year is, will JTIII get the most out of them? Answer is usually no, but this team features a rock solid starting 5 anchored by Isaac Copeland and LJ Peak. Add in transfer Rodney Pryor who dropped in a career high 32 points in his first G-Town game and this can be a potent lineup. On the flip side, the Terps bring back All-American guard Melo Trimble who highlights the team. They have depth but will need someone else to step up and help Trimble make plays.
Prediction: Maryland 72-69
Tuesday November 15th 9/8c PM FS1
#9 Wisconsin at #22 Creighton
Wisconsin had an incredible roller-coaster season last year with the abrupt retirement of Bo Ryan followed by an immediate Sweet Sixteen run by Greg Gard. The Badgers return a ton of talent from last year’s team highlighted by Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. Throw in complementary pieces Vitto Brown, Ethan Happ and Zak Showalter and you’ve got one of the most dynamic starting units in the Big Ten. For Creighton, it is all about guard play and boy do they have a pair of good ones. Maurice Watson Jr. absolutely dazzled crowds all season in Big East play and has established himself as one of the premier guards in the league. McDermott’s crew adds the now eligible Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster to their back-court making them one of the most elite duos in the country. CenturyLink Center is one of the most difficult places to play in the country, but Wisconsin has experience and has played in hostile environments before; rebounding will be the key in this game.
Prediction: Wisconsin 81-80
Wednesday November 16th 7/6c PM FS1
Northwestern at Butler
Another very difficult venue to play in, historic Hinkle Fieldhouse will be the site of game #4 in the Gavitt Games. The key for Butler is how will they replace the leadership and production from Kelen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. Kelan Martin and Andrew Chrabascz is a good place to start. Martin is a do-it-all player, much like Roosevelt Jones before him, it is very much a “you go, we go”. For Northwestern, they lose Tre Demps and 7-footer Alex Olah from last season’s team but return a healthy Vic Law, Bryant McIntosh, and Sanjay Lumpkin. If Junior Scottie Linsdey (s/o Fenwick) can continue to show growth on both ends of the floor, the Cats will have a formidable group looking to push the school to its first ever tourney bid.
Prediction: Butler 74-64
Thursday November 17th 7/6c PM BTN
Providence at Ohio State
No team lost more than the Providence Friars, All-American guard Kris Dunn and All-Conference forward Ben Bentil have left for the NBA, Junior Lomamba tranferred and the cupboard looked bare for Cooley. Enter a solid recruiting class and things have leveled out a bit in Providence. The Friars return Rodney Bullock and Jalen Lindsay, they have a lot of new faces that need to step up. Ohio State returns a lot of talent from last year’s team and looks primed to be fighting for the 4th spot in the Big Ten. Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, JaQuan Lyle and Keita Bates-Diop are all back giving them a solid 7 man rotation.
Prediction: Ohio State 77-62
Thursday November 17th 8:30/7:30c PM FS1
Rutgers at DePaul
Easily the worst game of the slate, the two cellar-dwellers of each conference battle it out in the worst arena in each respective league, the Allstate Arena. Located a stones throw away from O’Hare airport the Demons will kick off their final season in the building against the Scarlet Knights, before making the move to downtown Chicago. Rutgers loses quite a bit to transfers but still bring back Deshawn Freeman and Mike Williams. There is hope around the program as they bring in new coach Steve Pikiell from Stony Brook. He is welcomed change around the team as they have lacked charisma and respect for a long while. DePaul is still searching for something to go their way, they also lose a lot to graduation and transfer but bring back two of their best players from last season Billy Garrett and Eli Cain.
Prediction: DePaul 66-62
Thursday November 17th 9/8c PM BTN
Seton Hall at Iowa
Peter Jok and Dom Uhl are back for the Hawkeyes and Fran McCaffrey. Jarrod Uthoff is gone but there is still plenty to work with on this roster. Iowa is off to a 2-0 start against lesser opponents Savannah State and Kennesaw State. The key for Iowa is 3 points shooting. The Hall returns 4 starters from last season with Khadeen Carrington, Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Ish Sanogo all coming back. The loss of Isaiah Whitehead will hurt but grad transfer Madison Jones looks to fill that gap. Early on it has been all Carrington and Delgado for the Pirates and I expect that to continue moving forward, Delgado looks very polished early on while playing through injury, granted it is against lesser competition.
Prediction: Seton Hall 81-72
Friday November 18th 9/8c PM BTN
St. John’s at Minnesota
This is a very interesting game between rebuilding squads. St. John’s enters its 2nd year under head coach Chris Mullin and looks to be much improved from a season ago. The Red Storm return Federico Mussini, Kassoum Yakwe, and Yankuba Sima, add-in highly touted Freshman Shamorie Ponds and now eligible Marcus Lovett and the Mullin has much more talent to work with. The Golden Gophers are led by Depree McBrayer, Nate Mason and Illinois State transfer Reggie Lynch. I’d expect Minnesota to be a bit more competitive in the Big Ten this year but they still have some work to do for a tournament bid.
Prediction: Minnesota 74-70
Overall Prediction: 4-4
This should be a shot across the bow for the committee members of this tournament, DON’T MAKE THE TOTAL GAME AMOUNT EVEN. The whole points of these damn things in the first place is to prove your conference is better. So how the hell does it make sense to play 8 games and tie every year? Mind blowing. Hopefully a change will be made after this season ends 4-4 as well.