National Championship Rematch Between Villanova and Michigan Headlines Gavitt Tipoff Games

This year marks the fourth iteration of the Gavitt Tipoff Games between the Big East and Big Ten, which will be headlined by a national championship game rematch between No. 8 Villanova and No. 18 Michigan.

The two conferences have split the eight matchups in every year of the Gavitt Tipoff Games with the Big Ten winning the final Friday night game each of the last two seasons to even the series at four wins apiece.

Here’s a look at this year’s matchups that will be held on four consecutive nights this week, beginning Tuesday.


Wisconsin at Xavier, 6:30 p.m. ET, Tuesday, FS1

It’d be a stretch to call this matchup a rivalry since these two schools have played just five times and there’s a two-state buffer between them, but there have been fireworks the last two times Wisconsin and Xavier have shared the court.

As a No. 7 seed in the 2016 NCAA tournament, the Badgers upset the No. 2-seeded Musketeers in the second round on Bronson Koenig’s game-winning three-pointer as time expired.

Xavier got revenge, albeit in a lower-stakes game, in Madison in last year’s Gavitt Tipoff Games with an 80-70 win behind 45 points and 17 rebounds from seniors Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura. Macura had some fun with Wisconsin’s student section and did Florida’s “Gator chomp” to the home fans, referencing the Gators knocking the Badgers out of the 2017 NCAA tournament.

Koenig has since graduated. So have Bluiett and Macura, and no current Xavier players played in the Musketeers’ second-round exit against the Badgers two years ago. Even Xavier’s long-time coach Chris Mack has since departed for Louisville, setting up his former assistant Travis Steele to be named as his replacement.

But there’s surely some distaste between the two fan bases because of how the last two Wisconsin-Xavier games ended and there are some compelling positional matchups on tap this year, especially in the post.

Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ had a triple-double in just 27 minutes of action in the Badgers’ season-opening win over Coppin State, while his Xavier counterpart, junior Tyrique Jones, is coming off of a 19-point, 20-rebound, four-block performance against Evansville.


Georgetown at Illinois, 8:30 p.m. ET, Tuesday, FS1

The opening night of the Gavitt Games Tipoff features a pair of once-proud programs looking to regain their standing within their respective conferences and nationally under second-year head coaches.

Georgetown hired former Hoyas legend Patrick Ewing, who went 15-15 in his first season — the school’s best record in the last three years. Senior center Jessie Govan, a career 41 percent three-point shooter who’s averaging a team-high 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, should finish on one of the All-Big East teams.

Illinois went 14-18 in coach Brad Underwood’s first season in Champaign. He previously spent one season at Oklahoma State and three years at Stephen F. Austin, and his teams have been elite at forcing turnovers, while frequently ranking in the top 50 nationally in effective field goal percentage and offensive rebounding percentage.

Guards Aaron Jordan and Ayo Dosunmu could continue that trend for the Fighting Illini.


Michigan at Villanova, 6:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, FS1

This is the most-anticipated game of the series after Villanova’s 79-62 win over Michigan in last season’s national championship game. The No. 8-ranked Wildcats and No. 18-ranked Wolverines also represent the highest-ranked team in each conference that’s playing in this year’s Gavitt Tipoff Games (No. 11 Michigan State is not involved this season) and a pair of contenders for their respective conference’s regular season title.

Villanova lost its top four scorers from its title team but still returned starters Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, and early returns indicate the pair should be able to shoulder a heavier load offensively. Booth is averaging a team-high 20 points per game, followed by Paschall at 18.5, and that’s without either player shooting well from three-point range in the first two games.

Coach Jay Wright has a trio of sophomores — Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree — plus Albany transfer Joe Cremo who should develop into a strong supporting cast as Big East play approaches.

Michigan also suffered its fair share of personnel losses since April’s championship game but point guard Zavier Simpson, wing Charles Matthews and a host of former rotation players (Jon Teske, Isaiah Livers, Eli Brooks, Jordan Poole) are back for the Wolverines, who might be led in scoring by freshman Ignas Brazdeikis.

Villanova’s top-five offense should test Michigan’s top-five defense, especially since it’s a home game for the Wildcats, but you can expect both of these teams to be better in February than they are now given the youth and expanding roles among key players for both schools.


Seton Hall at Nebraska, 7:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, BTN

Nebraska might have a one-year window for a special season with seniors Glynn Watson Jr., James Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland Jr. in their final year of eligibility. The Huskers won 22 games last season but didn’t make the NCAA tournament and they’ve only made the Big Dance once in coach Tim Miles’ first six seasons. It’s fair to wonder if Miles would get an eighth season in Lincoln if Nebraska doesn’t make the tournament this season.

The Huskers played their first game last Tuesday but the road to building a resume worthy of inclusion in the tournament really starts this Wednesday against Seton Hall. It’s part of a non-conference schedule that also includes a trip to Clemson, a neutral-site game against Oklahoma State and a home game with Creighton.

The Pirates lost their top two scorers and four of their top five from last season, leaving junior guard Myles Powell as the focal point of this year’s team. He was up for the challenge in Seton Hall’s opener against Wagner, when he scored 30 points on 13 shots.


Marquette at Indiana, 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, FS1

This might be the second-best game in the series in regards to individual talent and team rankings when No. 24 Marquette, which cracked the latest AP Top 25 poll on Monday, visits Indiana, which was second among others receiving votes.

Don’t be surprised if Marquette guard Markus Howard ends up on All-American lists at the end of the season. He’s averaging 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists per game after exploding for 37 points on 10-of-16 shooting against Bethune-Cookman.

Junior forward Sam Hauser can also stretch the floor and 6-9, 240-pound forward Theo John provides size and physicality inside to complement Marquette’s outside shooting.

It’s early but Indiana currently ranks in the top 30 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, which would be a welcome change for the Hoosiers given that they haven’t finished a season ranked that high on defense since 2013. They’re led by a balanced scoring attack featuring former five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford (15.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 apg), sophomore forward Justin Smith (13.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and senior forward Juwan Morgan (11.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.5 apg).


Ohio State at Creighton, 7 p.m. ET, Thursday, FS1

The most notable recent development involving Ohio State and Creighton is that Ohio State reportedly offered Creighton coach Greg McDermott its head coaching position in June 2017 before it hired former Butler coach Chris Holtmann. The school’s ultimate decision seems to have paid off.

Holtmann led the Buckeyes to a 25-9 record, second-place finish in the Big Ten standings and a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. The first-year Ohio State coach took home Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, while Buckeyes forward Keita Bates-Diop was named the conference’s player of the year.

Meanwhile, Creighton is coming off of its third season in a row with at least 20 wins. The Bluejays tied for third in the Big East in the spring, earning a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament, but they lost in the first round and were unable to capitalize on UMBC’s upset of No. 1 overall seed Virginia.

They must replace leading scorer Marcus Foster, their best perimeter defender in Khyri Thomas and third-leading scorer Toby Hegner. In its first two games, Creighton didn’t necessarily put away Western Illinois and East Tennessee State, which it beat by 11 and six points, respectively.


Penn State at DePaul, 9 p.m. ET, Thursday, FS1

The Nittany Lions won the NIT last season and finished the season ranked No. 19 on Now Penn State looks to carry over its postseason momentum and work towards an NCAA tournament berth, something it hasn’t earned since 2011.

Losing do-it-all point guard Tony Carr, who averaged 20, five and five last season before jumping to the professional ranks, hurts but junior forward Lamar Stevens should be able to handle the role of the team’s primary scorer and the Nittany Lions’ best perimeter defender, Josh Reaves, is back. Penn State jumped from tied for 12th in the Big Ten in 2017 to tied for sixth last season and it might take another jump in the standings to guarantee an NCAA tournament appearance.

DePaul coach Dave Leitao’s second stint at the school has lasted longer than his first as he enters his fourth season with the Blue Demons after returning to the school in 2015. However, DePaul has struggled to produce a .500 team, much less maintain relevancy, since Leitao left for Virginia in 2005. Since then, the school has won 20 games in a season only once and it has averaged just 11 wins per season.

Senior guard Max Strus, who scored 25 points in DePaul’s season-opening win over Bethune-Cookman, could be one of the better scorers the school has had in recent memory. Illinois transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands is eligible this season and could be a useful player if he can replicate his freshman year statistics of 10.3 points per game and 42 percent three-point shooting.

A win over Penn State could be DePaul’s biggest non-conference win since the Blue Demons beat No. 20 George Washington in 2015.


St. John’s at Rutgers, 7 p.m. ET, Friday, BTN

The Gavitt Tipoff Games conclude with a regional matchup between St. John’s and Rutgers, and recent history tells us there’s a good chance that the result of this game could determine which conference wins (or ties) the overall series.

St. John’s has the talent to win its most games since Chris Mullin returned to his alma mater to become the school’s head coach in 2015. The program has slowly improved with 8-24, 14-19 and 16-17 records in the last three seasons.

All-Big East guard Shamorie Ponds is back and he’s surrounded a trio of transfers from high-major programs — Mustapha Heron (Auburn), Marvin Clark II (Michigan State) and Justin Simon (Arizona), the latter two of whom already have a year of playing experience at St. John’s under their belt.

Heron, a 6-5 guard, received a waiver to play immediately this season and he has already made an impact, most recently with a 26-point, six-rebound performance in the Johnnies’ 84-80 win over Bowling Green on Friday.

Rutgers is in a similar position as St. John’s, albeit with less-proven individual talent, as it also tries to finish with a record above .500 and climb the Big Ten standings. Junior forward Eugene Omoruyi has been the Scarlet Knights’ top performer through two games with a pair of double-doubles, including a 24-point, 10-rebound game against Drexel.