PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Two massive Big East matchups

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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GAMES OF THE DAY: No. 6 Xavier at No. 16 Villanova, 12:00 p.m.

I think, at this point, the consensus seems to be that if anyone is going to be able to knock Villanova off of their perch atop the Big East this season, it’s going to be this Xavier team, which makes the first game of the Big East season for these two so intriguing. The issue for the Wildcats this season has been from beyond the arc: they aren’t shooting threes very well at all but they’re taking more than half of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. There was a notable change in the in the win over Penn, where they stopped settling for so many threes, but will it translate to a game where they are actually going to be challenged?

As far as Xavier is concerned, there actually is a bit more than just pride on the line here. With Michigan State falling earlier this week, a win at Villanova might be enough to get the Musketeers into the top three, if not the top spot, in the rankings come Monday. I know that doesn’t mean much in the big picture, but you’re out of your mind if you don’t think it matters to the kids on that team … and to the suits in the Big East office. This league has been a bit of an afterthought since it split off from the American — it’s not mentioned as a member of the “Power 5” anymore — so you better believe it matters in the league offices whether or not they’ll have someone ranked No. 1.

No. 12 Providence at No. 9 Butler, 2:30 p.m.

I’m not sure there are two more surprising teams in the country this season than Butler and Providence, and it’s not just because they’re winning games. It’s how they’re winning them. Providence has just one loss on the season — against Michigan State — despite the fact that Kris Dunn has missed two and a half games already this season. And Butler has turned into a run-and-gun offensive powerhouse who can struggle on the defensive end of the floor.

That’s where I think Providence has the advantage here. If Butler has a weakness, it’s their ability to defend on the perimeter; penetrating guards can give them problems, and that’s precisely what Dunn is. It’s going to be interesting to see if they can game-plan a way to slow him down the same way Chris Holtmann game-planned a way to take away Purdue’s massive front line.

NOTABLES

  • Drake at Wichita State, 2:05 p.m.
  • Creighton at St. John’s, 2:15 p.m.
  • Wofford at Harvard, 2:30 p.m.
  • Gonzaga at Santa Clara, 5:00 p.m.
  • BYU at Saint Mary’s, 11:00 p.m.