NCAA Basketball

Big East Basketball Schedule Released: Most Intriguing Games on ESPN

College basketball season is swiftly approaching, and with the Big East basketball schedule finally released, we’re one step closer to opening tipoff. Coinciding with the schedule’s release, ESPN announced which Big East matchups will appear on its network.

Here are the most intriguing games ESPN will offer:

Cincinnati at DePaul, Jan. 15, ESPN3 — DePaul won’t make the NCAA tournament, but this game features two of the conference’s best scorers in Cincy’s Sean Kilpatrick and DePaul’s Cleveland Melvin. Don’t be surprised if you see these two go back and forth at points in this game, and if the Blue Demons are lucky enough, they could upset the Bearcats at home. Definitely one of the schedule’s more underrated games.

St. John’s at Rutgers, Jan. 23, ESPN3 — ESPN doesn’t think this game is worthy of appearing on one of its major stations, but the Worldwide Leader still chose to televise it on ESPN3. Perhaps they’re thinking the same thing you are: why is a game between two — at best — middle of the pack teams intriguing? Well, those from New York’s metropolitan area know this game is significant. Mike Rice and Steve Lavin were each hired two years ago to rebuild their respective programs, and while Lavin succeeded in his first year, Rice is coming on strong. This battle’s outcome will definitely award bragging rights to the winner.

Notre Dame at Syracuse, Feb. 4, ESPN — Just over a year since Notre Dame dealt Syracuse its first loss of 2011-12, the two teams will meet again. They’ll both be near the top of the conference come March, so this game will mean more than just a revenge shot for the Orange. But even so, beating the Fighting Irish would be that much sweeter for Syracuse. Will Notre Dame let it happen?

Louisville at Notre Dame, Feb. 9 ESPN or ESPN2 — The Cardinals will likely be the consensus favorite to win the Big East when coaches cast their preseason poll votes, but Notre Dame won’t be far behind. In other words, this could be a preview of the conference championship. It won’t be the prettiest game, given each team’s style. But if you’re a fan of watching two well-run teams compete, regardless of total points scored, you have to tune in to this one.

Syracuse at UConn, Feb. 13, ESPN or ESPN2 — Come 2013-14, UConn will still be in the Big East. But Syracuse will be in the ACC, leaving one of the northeast’s greatest rivalries susceptible to atrophy. Because UConn is banned from the conference tournament, this will be the last time these two programs meet as members of the Big East. Could it be the last time they meet for years to come, too?

Cincinnati at Louisville, Mar. 4, ESPN — The 2012 Big East title game wasn’t exactly thrilling, but it was still a close tilt that was decided in the final minute. In that contest, the Bearcats stormed back from a 46-32 deficit to trail 48-44 with 2:35 remaining. Louisville iced the game, though, with less than 30 seconds left, winning the conference championship. This is the one and only rematch of that game, and with a decent roster turnover for both teams, expect an intense battle — all the more so if the late-season matchup has seeding implications.

Syracuse at Georgetown, Mar. 9, ESPN — Like UConn, Georgetown has a huge rivalry with Syracuse. But with conference realignment, that rivalry could die. This is the last time the Orange will enter the Verizon Center as members of the Big East, but unlike UConn, Georgetown is a potential conference tournament opponent. Here’s to hoping the rivalry doesn’t dissipate after this.

Follow Ari Kramer on Twitter to talk Big East and college basketball.