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11/13 Big Ten Preview: Gavitt Games! Gavitt Games! Gavitt Games!

Wisconsin-Xavier and Illinois-Georgetown get us started in the annual competition between the Big Ten and Big East

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Xavier vs Texas Southern Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Often forgotten and arguably intriguing, the 2018 Gavitt Tipoff Games, well, tipoff Tuesday night as two teams from the Big Ten clash with two programs from the Big East in an effort to claim conference supremacy.

Don’t get me wrong — individually I love the Big East and Big Ten; but there remains something off about this now annual event. Have you ever taken two different groups of friends and tried to force them to hang out together? And you know how awkward and weird that can be? That’s the Gavitt Games.

Fittingly, for an event most forget about until it actually happens, the Gavitt Games, now entering its fourth year, have never produced a superior conference with the Big East and Big Ten tying in the previous three competitions. Nothing spells excitement like an 0-0-3 all-time event standings!

So will 2018 be the year either the Big Ten or Big East claims the, eh, is it a trophy? Or some sort of medal? Who the hell knows!

**As always, spreads are gathered from the KenPom GamePredictor

Big Ten Game of the Day:

-Wisconsin Badgers at Xavier Musketeers

  • Time/TV: 6:30PM ET - FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Wisconsin (-2)

You honestly could have flipped a coin to decide which matchup deserved ‘Game of the Day’ honors, as all four programs find itself hovering around the midtable of its respective conference.

That said, I gave the nod to Wiscy-Xaiver if only because the Badgers appear to be the program most ready for national relevancy during the 2018-’19 season.

After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 19 years, Greg Gard and the Badgers look poised to begin a new run thanks to a talented starting five and deep rotation.

In its opening season win against Coppin State, sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice stole the show, shooting 5-for-9 from three on his way to a 21 point outing. His contribution is a welcome sight for fans in Madison after Trice failed to build on an impressive freshmen campaign last year thanks to an early season injury and eventual medical redshirt.

However, the Badgers performance from last Tuesday should be taken with a grain of salt.

Coppin State is one of the worst teams in the country, according to KenPom and Wisconsin couldn’t even cover the lofty spread (thanks for that guys). In fact, Xavier currently sits 284 spots higher in KenPom’s rankings, so tonight’s game in Cincinnati should give us a much clearer picture into what kind of team Wisconsin actually has this year.

Or will it?

A shell of last season’s 29-win Big East Championship team, Xavier looks to be in retool mode after losing it’s three leading scores in Kerem Kanter, J.P. Macura, and Trevon Bluiett, along with now-former head coach Chris Mack.

One of college basketball’s most highly regarded coaching factories, however, the Musketeers look to be in good hands with Travis Steele guiding Xavier to a 2-0 record to start the year.

Junior forward Tyrique Jones has grabbed the brass ring, stepping up to lead the Musketeers, averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds per game, both of which pace Xavier.

Additionally, former four-star top 100 recruits Paul Scruggs and Naji Marshall look poised to breakout, with the former scoring 24 points last Saturday against Evansville and the latter having been named preseason All-Big East Honorable Mention.

In the long run, I like Wisconsin to be the better team in 2018-’19. But the Cintas Center is a difficult place to play with Xavier only dropping 11 games at home over the past five seasons. And while the Musketeers may be in retool mode, the cupboard is far from dry for the black-and-white.

I’m grabbing the points and taking the home dogs for an outright win.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Xavier

The Rest:

-Georgetown Hoyas at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 8:30PM ET - FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois (-3)

Over in Champaign, two once proud programs square off in a year that probably sees either team still a season away from truly contending in its respective conference.

The Illini looked impressive in its opening game win over Evansville, especially from three where Illinois shot 12-for-28, but much like Wisconsin’s win over Coppin State, any result needs to be kept in perspective.

That said, guards Aaron Jordan and Ayo Dosunmu combined for 37 points, undoubtedly an encouraging sign for coach Brad Underwood as he looks to pass the torch from the entrenched senior to the talented four-star freshmen.

And where Illinois will look to its stable of guards (sophomore Trent Frazier and junior Andres Feliz were key contributors as well in the Illini win) to take over the game, Georgetown will look to get the ball down low to its preseason First Team All-Big East center Jessie Govan.

Through two games, the 6-foot-10 senior is nearly averaging a double-double putting up 19.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He’s also capable of stretching the floor, shooting 66 percent from three, albeit in a rather small sample size (4-for-6).

Overall, I like Patrick Ewing and his Hoyas just a tad more over the long haul this year, but am not ready to trust Georgetown playing away from home in a high profile game.

I’m picking Illinois, and just like that, we’re well on our way to a fourth straight Gavitt Games tie.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Illinois

***

Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 5-3