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Big East Basketball Preview: 50 non-conference games of note

Only games guaranteed to be played are eligible for the list.

Anyone who watches all 50 games in their entirety wins a night of dinner, drinks and dancing with me and This Guy at the White Castle on Westport Rd.

50. Connecticut vs. Hartford (Nov. 17)

Coming off their best season in two decades, the Hawks will provide the only semi-test for Connecticut before the Huskies head to Spokane on Dec. 20. Big man Warren McClendon is gone, but U of H returns its other four starters, including sharp-shooter Joe Zeglinski.

49. Notre Dame vs. Indiana (Nov. 24)

The two schools from the Hoosier state meet in the opening round of the Maui Invitational with preseason expectations significantly higher for the less storied program.

48. Pittsburgh vs. Vermont (Dec. 6)

Pitt's non-conference schedule doesn't feature a big-name opponent - although participation in the Legends Classic could bring about one - but it does feature several formidable mid-major foes, including the preseason favorites in the America East. The Panthers will be tested by the inside-out duo of Mike Trimboli and reigning league POY Marqus Blakely.

47. Rutgers at Rider (Dec. 31)

Jason Thompson is gone, but Rider still returns four starters and should provide a solid road test for a young Scarlet Knight squad looking to prove it's ready to compete in the Big East.

46. West Virginia vs. Miami (OH) (Dec. 20)

The Redhawks figure to finish near the top of the standings in the always tough Mid-American Conference, but this is the type of game Bob Huggins' team can't afford to have lost if they find themselves planted squarely on the bubble come early March.

45. Pittsburgh vs. Belmont (Nov. 25)

Belmont knocked off Cincinnati in the season-opener for both a year ago, and the Bruins are picked to win the Atlantic Sun yet again this season.

44. Georgetown vs. American (Dec. 6)

American appears to be the class of the Patriot League, and the Eagles have the experience and maturity to deal with Georgetown's methodical style of play.

43. Louisville vs. UAB (Dec. 27)

The Cardinals will have to avoid a holiday hangover because they'll get the best shot of a Blazer team needing a marquee win to bolster its NCAA Tournament hopes.

42. St. John's vs. Cornell (Nov. 17)

The Johnnies open the preseason NIT with a dangerous draw in the defending Ivy League champs.

41. Pittsburgh at Texas Tech (Nov. 28)

Pat Knight's Red Raiders don't appear to be destined for anything approaching greatness this season, but there's enough there to test Pitt in the Panthers' Legends Classic opener.

40. South Florida at Wright State (Dec. 21)

A trip to the Nutter Center to take on one of the better mid-major teams in the land should be a good challenge for Stan Heath's guard-heavy squad.

39. Depaul at St. Louis (Dec. 22)

The Billikens made great strides in Rick Majerus' first season, and should serve as a formidable first-round opponent in the Las Vegas Classic for the Blue Demons.

38. Marquette at North Carolina State (Dec. 22)

The Pack is down, but Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley will test Marquette's emaciated frontcourt early in the season.

37. Cincinnati vs. UAB (Dec. 6)

The former C-USA rivals meet in an early December game that could have a great impact on the NCAA Tournament resume of each.

36. Pittsburgh vs. Miami (OH) (Nov. 17)

Pitt begins the season on Nov. 14 with Fairleigh Dickinson and gets its first real test three days later when Charlie Coles and the Redhawks come to the Peterson Events Center.

35. Depaul at California (Dec. 3)

Dar Tucker and Mac Koshwal can make the rest of the league take notice by going out West and knocking off a beatable Cal squad.

34. West Virginia vs. Cleveland State (Dec. 6)

The 'Eers return from Vegas and begin a tough four-game stretch at home with the favorites to take the Horizon League.

33. Connecticut vs. Michigan (Feb. 7)

The Huskies take a break from Big East play to host the Wolverines and sophomore stud Manny Harris.

32. Louisville at Minnesota (Dec. 20)

Tubby Smith had a solid amount of success against Rick Pitino when he was at Kentucky, but the odds are a bit more stacked against him in this game which will be played in Phoenix.

31. South Florida at Vanderbilt (Dec. 16)

How the Kentrell Gransberry-less Bulls handle A.J. Ogilvy should serve as a barometer of how they'll fare in the post talent-heavy Big East.

30. West Virginia at Mississippi (Dec. 3)

Serving as the X factor against a talented Ole Miss backcourt, this could be Devin Ebanks' first opportunity to really sparkle.

29. Providence at Boston College (Dec. 20)

If Keno Davis wants to prove he can get the talented Friars to play to their potential then he needs to go on the road and take care of a BC team that has little outside of Tyrese Rice.

28.  Villanova vs. St. Joseph's (Dec. 11)

The Wildcats are the clear favorites on paper, but All-American candidate Ahmad Nivins presents a real matchup problem.

27. Syracuse vs. Cleveland State (Dec. 15)

Seniors J'Nathan Bullock and Cedric Jackson might be the two best players in the Horizon League, and could easily lead the Vikings to an early season upset. The fact that Syracuse has just a day to prepare after a home tilt with Long Beach State certainly doesn't help.

26. St. John's vs. Miami (Fla.) (Dec. 27)

Norm Roberts could make a lot of folks in Brooklyn more comfortable about his contract extension if he could lead the Johnnies to an early upset of a nationally ranked foe.

25. Marquette vs. Dayton (Nov. 29)

The Flyers have been tough to beat in pre-Atlantic 10 action in recent years, which makes this tussle in Chicago a dangerous one for the Golden Eagles. Chris Wright can jump super high.

24. Louisville vs. Mississippi (Dec. 18)

The guard trio of Huertas, Polynice and Warren should provide a tough early test for the occasionally eccentric Cardinal backcourt.

23. St. John's vs. Duke (Feb. 19)

This one stopped being cute when Ron Artest rode out of town.

22. Depaul at UCLA (Dec. 13)

The Blue Demons might be just a bit outclassed in this John Wooden Classic game being played in Anaheim.

21. Rutgers at North Carolina (Dec. 28)

If RU keeps it closer than 22 (UNC won 93-71 a year ago), I say they win. Which means a lot.

20. Pittsburgh vs. Siena (Dec. 17)

The Saints return all five starters from the squad that routed Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

19. Villanova vs. Temple (Dec. 29)

'Nova will have to find an answer for Dionte Christmas if they want to prevail in what could end up being the de facto Big Five title game.

18. Louisville vs. UNLV (Dec. 31)

The Runnin' Rebs hung with the Cards for 35 minutes a year ago before falling apart and losing by 20. They return their top two scorers and add highly-touted freshman Beas Hamga.

17. Cincinnati vs. Xavier (Dec. 13)

If Cincinnati can take as large a stride in Mick Cronin's second season as they did in his first, then this could be the most even Crosstown Shootout in quite some time.

16. Seton Hall vs. USC (Nov. 20)

The Pirates have next-to-no non-con challenges outside of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, so a strong performance on the island is paramount for the squad's postseason aspirations. It all starts with a date with the 18th ranked Trojans.

15. West Virginia at Ohio State (Dec. 27)

Seven-foot freshman sensation B.J. Mullens is a matchup nightmare for the undersized Mountaineers.

14. Cincinnati at Memphis (Dec. 29)

Things started to turn around for the Bearcats a season ago when they hung with the top-ranked Tigers for 40 minutes. Expecations are a bit higher at UC 12 months later.

13. Providence at Baylor (Nov. 27)

A huge opening round matchup in the Anaheim Classic for a pair of programs looking to take giant leaps forward in 2008-2009.

12. Syracuse vs. Florida (Nov. 24)

A win over the Gators could be the difference between NCAA and NIT if the Big East threatens to swallow SU's postseason dreams for a third straight year.

11. Notre Dame vs. Ohio State (Dec. 6)

Lots of talent + contrasting styles = December fun for the whole family.

10. Marquette vs. Wisconsin (Dec. 6)

The most underrated rivalry in college basketball will almost assuredly again involve a pair of top 25 teams.

9. West Virginia vs. Davidson (Dec. 9)

I hear these guys are kind of dangerous. Apparently have a decent little guard.

8. Syracuse at Memphis (Dec. 20)

The Tigers' mini-tour of the Big East hits its second stop when the Orange roll into the FedExForum. Chances are 100% that Eric Devendorf and Tyreke Evans have words.

7. Louisville vs. Kentucky (Jan. 4)

The most hate-filled rivalry in the sport could turn into must-see-TV if the Cats show early improvement in their second season under Billy Gillispie.

6. Georgetown vs. Memphis (Dec. 13)

Memphis exposed the Hoyas with their athleticism a year ago, but the two main culprits - Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose - are now being paid to play the game.

5. Marquette at Tennessee (Dec. 13)

Sensational veteran guards vs. athletic veteran wings. Also, two programs who have or have had a head coach with the first name Buzz.

4. Villanova vs. Texas (Dec. 9)

This Jimmy V. Classic tilt will feature a pair of nationally ranked teams and a couple of shot-happy guards who have the potential to go for 30 every time they step on the floor.

3. Georgetown at Duke (Jan. 17)

The Hoyas get a quick reprieve from Big East play, unfortunately it involves a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

2. Connecticut at Gonzaga (Dec. 20)

The sixth-annual Battle in Seattle will be a rematch of last year's classic which the 'Zags won 85-82.

1. Notre Dame at UCLA (Feb. 7)

A February clash in Pauley featuring two presaeason top ten squads that will affect the seeding of multiple teams in both the Pac-10 and Big East.