We begin our basketball (BASKETBALL!) coverage with 50 Big East non-con games that you might want to mark on your calendar. Sure 50 seems like overkill, but I started this by making a list of all the games that caught my eye and had every intention of whittling it down to 25 or 30, but when the initial list landed squarely on a nice round number I figured it was fate. Plus, we're Louisvillians, we all watch way too much college basketball anyway, right?
The only games eligible for this list were ones that are definitely going to be played, which means no Louisville/North Carolina, no Marquette/Duke, etc.
If you watch all 50 games in their entirety, you win $20 and a dinner date with me at Thai Cafe in Holiday Manor.
50. St. John's at Miami (Dec. 2)
Norm Roberts needs to keep showing improvement in order to keep his job, which means winning toss-up road games like this is a must.
49. Belmont at Cincinnati (Nov. 9)
The two-time defending Atlantic Sun champions should give the Bearcats all they can handle in the opener for both teams.
48. Seton Hall at Princeton (Nov. 28)
Sydney Johnson takes over at Princeton after the Tigers went an abysmal 2-12 in the Ivy League a season ago. Scoring a home win over an in-state rival who just happens to play in the Big East would be a good first step towards getting the program back to where it's used to being.
47. Rutgers at Nebraska (Dec. 9)
The Scarlet Knights' front court will have their hands full with Nebraska big man Aleks Maric.
46. South Florida at UAB (Dec. 8)
Mike Davis looks like he might have his first NCAA Tournament team at UAB, but they can't slip up against a South Florida squad that has enough talent to pull the road upset.
45. West Virginia at Auburn (Dec. 5)
The guard matchup of WVU's Darris Nichols and Alex Ruoff vs. Auburn's Quantez Robertson and Rasheem Barrett makes this one worth watching.
44. St. Louis at Pittsburgh (Nov. 11)
Rick Majerus is back and he inherits a team that should be able to compete in the A-10.
43. Michigan at Georgetown (Nov. 15)
The Wolverines appear to be sorely lacking in the talent department, but I'm convinved John Beilein can do anything.
42. Cornell at Syracuse (Dec. 22)
No one other than Penn or Princeton has won the Ivy League in 19 years, but the Big Red have the players to break the streak and could ruin Syracuse's Christmas if the Orange don't come out focused.
41. Bucknell at Villanova (Nov. 18)
The Patriot League powerhouse will look to shock 'Nova in the Field House.
40. Depaul at Clemson (Dec. 21)
The Blue Demons will have a hard time matching up with Clemson's James Mays now that Wilson Chandler is gone.
39. Louisville at UNLV (Nov. 21)
UNLV lost four starters from last year's Sweet 16 team, but a loaded recruiting class makes the Rebels a dangerous early season foe.
38. Seton Hall at Penn State (Dec. 8)
Eugene Harvey and company will have to bring their A game to knock off a Penn State team that has enough talent to be a factor in the Big Ten.
37. Cincinnati at NC State (Dec. 23)
UC may have picked the wrong season to take on such a loaded schedule.
36. Florida State at Providence (Dec. 22)
Both squads look like bubble teams, which means whatever happens here could matter significantly more ten weeks later.
35. South Florida at Wake Forest (Dec. 19)
The real way to determine conference superiority: A clash between each league's worst team.
34. Georgetown at Old Dominion (Nov. 28)
The top three scorers are gone from the ODU squad that shocked Georgetown in DC last year, but that won't stop the Hoyas from playing for revenge on the road.
33. Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh (Dec. 15)
The Oklahoma State basketball team has become the evil twin of the Michigan State football team, and the Panthers have the misfortune of playing them in the first half of the season.
32. Cincinnati at UAB (Dec. 1)
The Bearcats consistently got the better of the Blazers during the years both played in C-USA, and don't think the folks in Birmingham have forgotten about it.
31. North Carolina at Rutgers (Dec. 16)
UNC smoked the Scarlet Knights 87-48 in Chapel Hill last December, but RU will look to keep the deficit even further below 40 this year in the RAC.
30. Louisville vs. Purdue (Dec. 15)
Louisville will look to break its winless run in the John Wooden Tradition by knocking off Purdue and scary freshman E'Twaun Moore.
29. Vanderbilt at Depaul (Dec. 12)
Jerry Wainwright has his work cut out for him this season, but knocking off Shan Foster and Vanderbilt would turn a few heads...of people who turn their heads pretty easily.
28. Rhode Island at Syracuse (Dec. 8)
The Rams return everyone from the team that was the most pleasant surprise in the Atlantic 10 last year.
27. Rutgers at Florida (Nov. 17)
The Gators are down, but it would still be a shocker if the two-time defending national champs spit the bit at home against Rutgers.
26. New Mexico State at Louisville (Dec. 22)
Herb Pope and the WAC favorites won't be intimidated when they take the floor inside Freedom Hall.
25. Boston College at Providence (Dec. 1)
The meeting of former and current Big East stalwarts should be an interesting battle of back court vs. front court.
24. South Florida at Florida State (Nov. 18)
Kentrell Gransberry and the Bulls should be able to at least hang in there with their in-state rivals.
23. Georgia Tech at Connecticut (Feb. 9)
The rematch of the 2004 national championship game pits two talented, but youthful teams against one another.
22. Providence at Rhode Island (Dec. 4)
Providence's Geoff McDermott vs. Rhode Island's Will Daniels has the potential to be one of the best individual matchups you'll see all season.
21. N.C. State at Seton Hall (Dec. 27)
Knocking off the Pack at home would be a huge momentum boost for Bobby Gonzalez's club as they head into conference play.
20. Memphis at Cincinnati (Dec. 19)
The Bearcats were heavily overmatched in this one even before Mike Williams ruptured his Achilles tendon.
19. St. John's at Duke (Feb. 23)
This used to be a fun late winter respite from conference play...used to be.
18. LSU at Villanova (Dec. 6)
Both teams figure to run somewhere in the middle of the pack of their respective conferences, so a win would be a nice resume builder for either.
17. Oklahoma at West Virginia (Dec. 29)
WVU could have a major problem handling freshman Blake Griffin inside.
16. South Carolina at Providence (Dec. 6)
Dave Odom will likely look to run more now that former Cincinnati point guard Devan Downey is eligible, which could provide a challenge for a Providence team that would much rather play a half-court game.
15. Pittsburgh at Washington (Dec. 8)
Spencer Hawes is gone, but the other four starters return from a Washington team that nearly knocked off Pitt in front of the Zoo last season.
14. Cincinnati at Xavier (Dec. 12)
For the second straight season the tables will be turned as Xavier will undoubtedly be the heavy favorite in the Crosstown Shootout.
13. Depaul at Kansas (Dec. 8)
The Blue Demons pulled off an absolute shocker last year at home. Now they have to go to Lawrence and pay the price.
12. Louisville vs. BYU (Nov. 23)
The Cardinals must be wary of looking past the Mountain West favorites in the precursor to what could be a monster game against North Carolina in the Las Vegas Invitational.
11. Villanova at St. Joseph's (Feb. 4)
The last Big Five game for both teams should be for all the marbles. SJU's Ahmad Nivins is absolutely the real deal.
10. Georgetown at Alabama (Dec. 5)
The loss of Ronald Steele for another year is devastating, but the Crimson Tide still have the tendency to get up for big games...or at least every other big game.
9. Syracuse at Virginia (Dec. 5)
The Orange leave New York in December for the first time since the Van Buren administration, and do so to take on Sean Singletary and a Virginia team that was 8-0 in the ACC and 16-1 overall at home last year.
8. West Virginia vs. Tennessee (Nov. 23)
Bob Huggins will have his hands fall in the semifinals of the Legends Classic in Newark against a Tennessee squad that was a level-headed minute away from the Elite 8 last season.
7. Gonzaga at Connecticut (Dec. 1)
You think this is the year people stop writing or producing those "Gonzaga is not a mid-major anymore" stories? Me neither.
6. Notre Dame vs. Kansas State (Dec. 4)
Two of the most contrasting basketball programs I can think of will meet in New York for the first game of the Jimmy V Classic. Michael Beasley and Bill Walker are obviously the main attractions here, but Tory Jackson has made a habit of stealing the show in Madison Square Garden.
5. Marquette at Wisconsin (Dec. 8)
The Badgers have to replace Alando Tucker and Kamron Taylor, but records and stats are irrelevant when these two meet.
4. Connecticut at Indiana (Jan. 26)
With Uconn's growing pains out of the way, and Eric Gordon donning an IU uniform, I'm going to go ahead and predict a much more aesthetically pleasing game than the 77-73 turnover-fest in Storrs a year ago.
3. Louisville at Kentucky (Jan. 5)
You won't want to miss Billy Gillispie's debut performance in the nation's most hate-filled rivalry.
2. Duke at Pittsburgh (Dec. 20)
If Duke can knock off Wisconsin and Pitt can get by Oklahoma State, then this figures to be a battle of two top-15 teams.
1. Georgetown at Memphis (Dec. 22)
This could very easily be a Final Four or national championship game preview. Extreme skill and contrasting styles will be on full display in this absolutely must-see battle.