Conference challenges are all the rage these days, but really only one, the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, has gained any real traction. The idea of an A-10 v Big East pairing my not move the needle for as many folks as it does us, but that’s certainly not going to stop me from pairing the teams I’d most like to see matched up in a fantasy A-10 v Big East challenge this season (some of which will take place as already schedule non-conference games).
1. DAYTON v XAVIER
The Most obvious of A-10 v Big East pairings, these two have hated each other all the way back to 1920 when the Flyers won in a 24-18 shootout, and were bitter conference rivals up until Xavier’s departure this past season. They took the past season off but split the regular season series during the 2012-13 season, both winning at home. The Flyers are coming off a Sweet 16 season while Xavier saw an early tournament exit (coincidentally in UD Arena). Archie Miller and Co. have a solid core returning while Xavier loses Semaj Christon but brings in a strong recruiting class that should help the Musketeers stay toward the top of their new Big East conference home. Throw these two on a neutral court and enjoy the fireworks.
2. SAINT LOUIS v CREIGHTON
Both midwestern teams begin major rebuilds next season, SLU having to replace 75% of their scoring while the Jays are looking to replace 65% of their’s including National Player of the Year, Doug McDermott. The two teams have camped out toward the top of their conferences for the past few seasons but may find themselves in unfamiliar territory during the 2014-15 college hoops season.
3. GEORGE WASHINGTON v GEORGETOWN
True story: In 2005 GW students, Victor Danau, Ariel Goldring and Will Mason sold shirts on campus that read, “Fuck Georgetown”. “We just took the sentiment from around campus and put it on a shirt”, Goldring told the GW Hatchet that year. The two schools met on the hardwood regularly from 1918 to 1982, but it’s been a rivalry put on ice for some time, which is ridiculous considering the schools have both had recent hoops success and are literally walking distance from each other. With head coach Mike Lonergan having revived the Colonials hoops program, getting them back to the NCAA tournament this past season for the first time since 2007, this could be a nice non-conference matchup that would certainly pack DC’s Verizon Center.
4. RHODE ISLAND v PROVIDENCE
Credit to the Friars, this is a yearly matchup that will be scheduled regardless of any “challenge” name attached to the event. The Big East squad has dominated the series as of late as Rhodie has been in rebuild mode and haven’t won this battle since the 2009-10 season. This past season’s matchup however ended in a 1-point home L for the Rams, but after two seasons of rebuilding, Dan Hurley appears to have URI basketball back on the rise. Both programs appear headed in the right direction, and with this game scheduled yearly anyway, just slap a “Challenge” name on it and you don’t lose an OOC game for this event but add an official A-10 v Big East score count just for fun.
5. VCU v VILLANOVA
Breaking with my theme of location, location, location, a VCU v VILLANOVA matchup pits what would appear to be next season’s conference favorites against one another, including a matchup against two hot coaching minds in Shaka Smart and Jay Wright. The two may potentially meet in next season’s Legends Classic at the Barclays Center, making this fantasy matchup a reality in what would be the first meeting between the programs in their histories.
6. SAINT JOSEPH’S v SAINT JOHN’S
A Philly v New York battle featuring last season’s Atlantic 10 champ and a storied Red Storm program that actually has just one NCAA tournament appearance over the past 12 seasons. The Red Storm seem to consistently underachieve with solid recruits, most recently falling to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT while the Hawks will look to rebuild a team that reached the NCAA tournament this past season for the first time since 2008. DeAndre Bembry v D’Angelo Harrison would be a lot of fun.
7. UMASS v MARQUETTE
Derrek Kellogg loses star point guard, Chaz Williams, but replaces him with WVU transfer Jabarie Hinds and returns a solid core to a team hoping to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season. Marquette is looking to make it back to the Big Dance after missing it this past season after eight consecutive tournament appearances. They lost head coach Buzz Williams to Virginia Tech, as well as some promising young talent that will be making the trip to Blacksburg with him, but remain one of the Big Eat’s marquee programs. Kellog, a former Calipari assistant versus Wojciechowski, a Coach K disciple, adds a nice little subplot.