BIG EAST League Play Starts Dec. 31

Marquette's Davante Gardner, Butler's Kameron Woods

Marquette's Davante Gardner, Butler's Kameron Woods

Dec. 26, 2013

By Sean Brennan Didn't get what you wanted for Christmas this year? Can't fathom how that collection of Chia Pets found its way under your tree?

Well the BIG EAST has the perfect remedy to make you forget about all those forgettable presents. It's called wall-to-wall basketball and you only have to wait until New Year's Eve to unwrap this most perfect of gifts.

The BIG EAST is not exactly dipping its toes into the start of the 2013-14 conference season. Instead it's doing its own version of the Polar Bear Plunge as it tips off the new campaign with a five-game marathon on FOX Sports 1.

St. John's and Xavier will tip off the day at noon Eastern time from the Cintas Center in Cincinnati followed by Seton Hall at Providence at 2:30 p.m. The marathon will continue at 5 p.m. when DePaul travels to Georgetown before Villanova invades Hinkle Fieldhouse to take on the Butler Bulldogs. This little slice of basketball heaven will then conclude with Marquette meeting Creighton in what is expected to be a sold-out and rocking CenturyLink Center in Omaha at 10 p.m.

Can you think of a better way to ring out 2013?

"You realize that that day is very special for BIG EAST basketball," Butler head coach Brandon Miller said. "It's a new league and on New Year's Eve you can watch BIG EAST basketball from the start of the day to the end of the day on Fox Sports 1. I think it's a terrific day to get national exposure, a great day for BIG EAST basketball from start to finish."

The BIG EAST marathon will also mark the conference debuts of Butler, Creighton and Xavier but perhaps none of the new additions faces a more daunting task than the Bulldogs, who will not only be playing their first BIG EAST game, but will be doing so with a first-year coach in Miller while facing the eighth-ranked Villanova Wildcats, all inside the friendly confines of historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

"I think it's going to be a hard ticket to get," said Miller, who was named Butler coach last July when Brad Stevens left for the Boston Celtics head coaching gig. "It definitely will be hard to get into Hinkle that night."



And for those who get shut out of witnessing the Butler-Villanova tilt? "The BIG EAST did it right by having everyone start and play on that day because everyone is off work and they can watch BIG EAST basketball from the start to the end," Miller said.

The BIG EAST found another big fan in Creighton head coach Greg McDermott, who thought the idea of an all-day basketball marathon was genius.

"I think it's an incredible idea," McDermott said. "To have New Year's Eve be about BIG EAST basketball all day is terrific and to be the anchor game of that day, it will be incredible."

Creighton, which has been among the nation's leaders in home attendance, is expecting another sellout for its matchup with Marquette. And while the eyes of much of the country might be on Times Square on New Year's Eve night, the eyes of Omaha will be squarely on its beloved Bluejays.

"I think we sold out 12 of 17 home games in a day and a half when single-game tickets going went on sale," McDermott said. "And our season ticket sales are well over 15,000. It's been incredible and I think the ticket to our New Year's Eve game will be one of the toughest to get in the history of our program. Downtown will be buzzing that night and I think the atmosphere inside the CenturyLink Center will be second to none."

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard is confident his banged-up Pirates will be shipshape for their New Year's Eve encounter with Providence.

"2013 has been a bad year for injuries for us," Willard said. "I'm just trying to get out of 2013 as quick as possible but we should be pretty healthy in time for Providence."

One of the benefits of the Hall's early tip-off time? A chance for Willard and his crew to catch most of the rest of the marathon slate once their work is done. "I think the marathon idea is great," Willard said. "FOX has been terrific. I think the fact that they're doing something like this is exciting. The kids are excited about it and so are the fans. You get to watch every team and see who's going to be coming into your building and where you're going. The concept is a great idea and I hope we do it every year. And I think by the time we get home from Providence we'll still be able to see the last two games."

If work didn't force St. John's head coach Steve Lavin to be in Cincinnati battling Xavier in the noon tip-off to the BIG EAST marathon, he'd have been perfectly content to spend 12 hours or so watching hoops and forming a groove in his couch.

"All 10 teams playing the same day? There's no better way to ring in the New Year and celebrate the launch of the new BIG EAST than with a full day of compelling matchups," Lavin said. "It's a great way to spend New Year's Eve. Whether you go to the game with family and friends or choose to stay home with the remote control in hand, you're able to take in the entire day of great matchups."