Complete Preview for Big East Basketball's Opening Day Games

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 30, 2013

Complete Preview for Big East Basketball's Opening Day Games

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    Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

    On New Years' Eve, the new edition of the Big East opens up play as the 10 teams in the league will play in a quintuple-header. 

    The day starts off at high noon in Cincinnati with St. John's taking on league newcomer Xavier and it ends in Omaha with Creighton hosting Marquette.

    Here is a preview of each of the five games being contested in the Big East conference on Tuesday. 

St. John's at Xavier

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    Time: 12 p.m. ET

    Where: Cintas Center; Cincinnati, Ohio

    The Big East marathon begins with an intriguing matchup of two darkhorses for the conference title. 

    St. John's (9-3) are enjoying a three-game winning streak after falling to Syracuse back in mid-December. 

    Steve Lavin has a young, energetic team led by junior D'Angelo Harrison (19.5 points per game) and sophomore Jakarr Sampson (12.7 PPG), who at the very least will entertain crowds in every game they play this season. 

    Other than falling flat at the Battle 4 Atlantis, Chris Mack's Xavier (10-3) team put together a strong performance in nonconference play. 

    The Musketeers had a down year in their final Atlantic 10 campaign and will be looking to make a statement in their inaugural Big East clash.

    Key Player to Watch: Semaj Christon, G, Xavier

    Sophomore guard Semaj Christon will be the X-factor on Tuesday afternoon at the Cintas Center as he provides the Xavier offense with an all-purpose threat. 

    The 6'3" guard is the Musketeers' leading scorer with 14.7 points per game, but he has been inconsistent in his last three games as he has put up a total of 29 points against Cincinnati, Alabama and Wake Forest. 

Seton Hall at Providence

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    Time: 2:30 p.m. ET

    Where: Dunkin Donuts Center; Providence, R.I.

    For years, Seton Hall (9-4) and Providence (10-3) have been beaten up on by the top teams in the Big East. 

    That should not change with the new alignment of the conference, but Tuesday's Big East opener will give the Pirates and Friars a chance to get off on the right foot. 

    Kevin Willard's Pirates have seen Sterling Gibbs step up in the scoring department to partner with senior Fuquan Edwin, and they should record a decent amount of conference wins by the time the season wraps up.

    Providence is a team in complete shambles as freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock have been suspended for the season, while sophomore playmaker Kris Dunn is out for the year due to shoulder surgery. 

    As for who the Friars do have left on their squad, Bryce Cotton leads the team with 19.5 points per game and will be the driving force of the team's offense. 

    Key Player to Watch: Fuquan Edwin, G/F, Seton Hall

    For the Pirates to leave Providence with a road victory, Edwin will have to step up to provide his team with a second consistent scoring threat to partner Gibbs. 

    Edwin missed three games in nonconference play during the month of December, and Tuesday would be a great time for him to get back into the rhythm of scoring. 

DePaul at Georgetown

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    Time: 5 p.m. ET

    Where: Verizon Center; Washington, D.C.

    The third game of the day is the one you might want to take a nap during. 

    Georgetown (8-3) is expected to take care of business against DePaul (8-5) at home in the nation's capital. 

    DePaul has pulled off wins against two teams from the power conferences, but those victories came against Northwestern and Oregon State, neither of whom are expected to be tournament bound in March. 

    The Hoyas had a disappointing nonconference slate with losses to Oregon, Northeastern and Kansas, but they did pull off a win over VCU. 

    The guard play of Georgetown should overwhelm the defense of the Blue Demons in what is expected to be a blowout.

    Key Player to Watch: Joshua Smith, C, Georgetown

    The Georgetown guards will take center stage against DePaul, but Joshua Smith should put in a solid performance against the Blue Demons as well.

    The UCLA transfer has been coming into his own of late and his totals are up to 12.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. 

Villanova at Butler

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

    Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse; Indianapolis, Ind.

    The penultimate matchup on Tuesday sees one of the most storied programs in Big East history venturing into one of the most legendary venues in all of basketball. 

    Villanova (11-1) suffered their first loss to Syracuse on Saturday and there is no doubt that head coach Jay Wright will not let his team fall victim to a letdown as they head into Hinkle Fieldhouse. 

    The guard duo of James Bell and Darrun Hilliard have been deadly from the field all season long, and they are coupled with some other nice pieces that make the Wildcats a complete squad. 

    Butler (10-2) flew under the radar during Brandon Miller's first run through nonconference play as head coach, but they did play a very easy schedule for the most part. 

    The Bulldogs failed their first two big tests of the season, at the Old Spice Classic against Oklahoma State and LSU, but a home game presents the added boost of the Hinkle Fieldhouse environment.

    Player to Watch: James Bell, G, Villanova

    The main story coming out of the Main Line this season has been the development of senior guard Bell. 

    Bell is the team's leading scorer with 16.2 points per game, and he also brings a strong defensive game to the court. 

Marquette at Creighton

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    Time: 10 p.m. ET

    Where: CenturyLink Center; Omaha, Neb.

    At the beginning of the season, the nightcap of the Big East quintuple-header between Marquette (8-5) and Creighton (10-2) was a juicy one. 

    Two months into the 2013-14 campaign, both teams are looking to recover from some unexpected losses. 

    Marquette has fallen to Ohio State, New Mexico and Wisconsin among others already, and a road win to open their conference slate would be the perfect medicine for their bad start. 

    For the Golden Eagles to have a chance of winning in Omaha, they must play well in the paint as Davante Gardner and Chris Otule will be tasked with limiting the Creighton big men in the scoring department.

    The host Bluejays possess a National Player of the Year candidate in Doug McDermott, and Tuesday night could be his reintroduction to the nation. 

    McDermott may get all of the press, and rightfully so, but don't be shocked if Ethan Wragge, Devin Brooks or Austin Chatman step up to take down Marquette as well.

    Key Player to Watch: Doug McDermott, F, Creighton

    All eyes will be on McDermott as he battles with Gardner and Otule in the paint. 

    The other aspect of the senior's game that will be on display will be his excellent perimeter shooting. McDermott is a 49 percent shooter from the field and a 42.3 percent three-point shooter. 

    For more Big East insight throughout the season, follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.