by John Fanta, @John_Fanta
With a six-game buffet ahead on Thanksgiving Day around the BIG EAST, here’s a schedule and an outlook for each non-conference invitational showdown.
#5 Villanova vs. Tennessee (Battle 4 Atlantis Semifinals) – 12:30 PM ET, ESPN
The Volunteers outrebounded a tough Purdue team, 50-41, in an upset overtime win over the 18th-ranked Boilermakers on Tuesday. The key for Villanova? Guard play. The Wildcats have that advantage, with Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo. If they’re on, expect Nova to advance to the title game.
St. John’s vs. Oregon State (Advocare Invitational First Round) – 2 PM ET, ESPNU
The Red Storm could not ask for a better set-up to make a Thanksgiving tournament run. While Oregon State is not a pushover, the Johnnies’ wealth of guard play gives them an edge in this match-up. Michigan State transfer Marvin Clark II will be assigned on the Beavers’ Tres Tinkle, who’s scored at least 20 points in each of his first three games. It’s on Clark, who brings defense to SJU, to lock in on him.
#15 Xavier vs. George Washington (Las Vegas Invitational) – 5 PM ET, FS1
The heavily-favored Musketeers should roll to the Las Vegas Invitational Final. The Colonials are coming off a 67-65 home loss to Rider. Xavier thwarted the Broncs, 101-75, on Nov. 13. The Muskies have a +8.8 rebounding margin, so GW won’t be able to get an edge on the glass. Add that in with a Colonials team that is shooting just 21/80 (26%) from three-point range. It’s an uphill battle for George Washington.
#20 Seton Hall vs. Rhode Island (NIT Season Tip-Off) – 6 PM ET, ESPNU
As Seton Hall alum and Pirate 1,000-point scorer Dan Hurley coaches against his alma mater, Kevin Willard will look to keep SHU unbeaten. Two things stand out about the match-up. URI has nobody averaging over four rebounds per game. Angel Delgado is on the other side. The plus for the Rams? They’ve forced 19 turnovers per game in three match-ups. This week will be a true gauge of Khadeen Carrington at the point for the Pirates.
Butler vs. Texas (Phil Knight Invitational) – 7 PM ET, ESPN2
The question is clear – can the Dawgs handle the Longhorns’ length? Five-star freshman sensation Mohamed Bamba and junior Dylan Osetkowski have combined to put up 25 points and 18 rebounds per game for 3-0 Texas. While Butler’s gotten backcourt versatility from Kamar Baldwin, Aaron Thompson, and Paul Jorgensen, this match-up will come down to the defensive ability of Tyler Wideman and company to contain Texas in the post. Baldwin and Thompson have shared point guard duties, and the Horns bring a young point guard to the table as well in freshman Matt Coleman. Butler may be looked at as an underdog, but do not sleep on them. This could be the game of the day. It comes down to the Dawgs’ defense as LaVall Jordan eyes his first statement win of his tenure.
DePaul vs. #4 Michigan State (Phil Knight Invitational) – 11:30 PM ET, ESPN
Containing projected NBA lottery pick Miles Bridges is the question that every Sparty opponent will have on their minds, but DePaul must do what it can control in this match-up. The Blue Demons turned the ball over 17 times in a loss at Illinois last week. Going up against Tom Izzo’s defense will double DePaul’s challenge in being efficient. One interesting note is that Michigan State is shooting 33 percent from three-point land, and only hitting 5.7 per game. DePaul, which boasts a sharpshooter addition in Max Strus, is shooting just 27 percent while knocking down 5.3 per game. The Blue Demons may not have the bodies to contain MSU inside, but they have some shooting that hasn’t lived up to its billing. Still, this is a massive test for Dave Leitao’s team against a national title contender.