Around The Big East In 30 Games

The 30 games to watch in one of the best basketball conferences in the country

Sept. 20, 2007

By Jeff Lippman


Jeff Lippman

Jeff is's lead women's basketball writer.
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For those who think the Big East will be a two-team race this year, spot on, good show, you really know your stuff.


Let's not kid ourselves, the ladies hoisting the regular season and conference championship trophy will get their schoolin' in either Storrs, Conn. or Piscataway, N.J.


And of course, the two most glaring dates on the Big East schedule are Feb. 5 and March 3, because those will determine which school that returned everyone from deep NCAA Tournament runs - UConn the Elite Eight, Rutgers the national runners-up - will more than likely be this year's Big East champions.




February the 5th sees Rutgers seek revenge against Connecticut for last year's 70-44 beat down in Piscataway, while March 3 the Huskies can get a little solace for the whooping the Scarlet Knights reigned down upon them in the Big East Tournament in Hartford.


But while the Big East remains a two-team race, there are plenty of big matchups along the way, many including the Huskies and Knights, and many that are meaningful for other reasons. Some see powers from conferences far and wide invading Big East towns, some games the Big East will travel.


The way I see it, including the two mentioned above, there are 30 games to watch that involve the Big East. Thirty matchups that will have major impacts, repercussions and ramifications, and more importantly, 30 games that fans of women's college basketball will want to see.


And it all starts with Stanford. Yes, Stanford.


The Cardinal opens its season on the East Coast against Yale, so I guess they figured, "hey, we're here, let's play the best the Big East has to offer." Sorry UConn fans, that was a cheap shot, because Stanford gets Rutgers at the RAC Sunday, Nov. 11. The season barely opened its eyes and already a showdown between two guaranteed Top 10 teams.


Five days later brings us to our next not-to-be-missed contest, and I'm throwing a curve here because neither team is Connecticut or Rutgers. DePaul, a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament last year, hosts the DePaul Invitational Friday, Nov. 16, and who did they invite? I'll give you a hint: It's an ACC team that made it to the Sweet 16 last year. If you guessed Duke...Nope! It's Florida State. The Seminoles and Blue Demons both return largely the same team and are primed to have Tourney-type seasons again.


Sunday, Nov. 18 has Rutgers getting its first true road test of the season when they hit the nation's capital for a game against George Washington. The Colonials will be a very solid team next year out of the A-10 and won't just lay down for the Scarlet Knights.


West Virginia finished fourth in the Big East last season and came within six points of defeating eventual Final Four entry LSU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, so when Tennessee comes to town on Wednesday, Nov. 21, the Mountaineers felt the game was too big to be played in Morgantown. And so the Charleston Civic Center gets to host a true test for Tennessee on the road.


Nov. 22-23, the Big East gets tropical when UConn travels to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam. The Huskies will have two very tough games against Stanford and Old Dominion - another tournament team from a season ago.


On Nov. 24 the ACC comes calling again when Boston College plays at Notre Dame. And the next day, Sunday, marks the first multi-big-game afternoon. The SEC's Tigers of LSU are more than a little peeved by the way Rutgers man-handled them in the Final Four last year, and they will try to settle the score when they visit Piscataway. And in the final game of the Paradise Jam, UConn will either get Purdue, Duke or Temple, all three excellent teams that made the tournament last year.


With Shavonte Zellous, a 19-point-per-game scorer of a season ago, coming back for her junior year, Pitt will also be a team to reckon with. And on Nov. 27, Maryland reckons to reckon with the Panthers when they welcome Pitt into the Comcast Center.


And if the Panthers weren't a big enough dose of the Big East for the Terps, they travel to Jersey Dec. 3 for the Jimmy V Classic and a game against Rutgers that will pit two guaranteed Top 5 teams - and two teams who will both have legitimate claims at the national title.


The beginning of December has a span of six games in six days that are all gems. Starting Dec. 5, the ACC Freshman of the Year Monica Wright and Virginia play UConn in Hartford and Notre Dame gets a tough road test at Bowling Green.


The next day Rutgers heads down to Durham, N.C. for a meeting with Duke. The Blue Devils can't wait to pay the Scarlet Knights back for ending their tournament run last year, but without Lindsey Harding and Alison Bales, the result might be the same.


Notre Dame heads to Indiana for a game against Purdue. An Irish win would certainly show the country they are serious in South Bend.


Just two days after Rutgers, Duke picks on the Big East again, this time in the Mecca of Madison Square Garden for the Maggie Dixon Classic against Pitt. And finally, on Dec. 10, the Pac-10 comes calling when Cal's Golden Bears play Rutgers at the RAC.


Fans must wait 18 days for the next big game and that one features DePaul in San Diego for the Maggie Dixon Surf N Slam Classic. The Blue Demons will play Texas, giving the Big East their first look at Gail Goestenkors wearing horns.


The last big game of 2007 has Temple taking the short trip up the Jersey Turnpike for a game at Rutgers.


But the fun doesn't stop there, oh no, it's just beginning, because after Jan. 2's game that pits Tennessee at DePaul, Connecticut goes to Villanova to get the conference party started.


The Lady Vols must like the Big East, because three days after DePaul, they make the trip from Chicago to South Bend for a very tough game at Notre Dame. This is the game Notre Dame point guard Melissa Lechlitner has circled on her calendar.


Outside of out-of-conference monster games like North Carolina-UConn in Storrs Jan. 21, a national title-game rematch between the Scarlet Knights and Tennessee in Knoxville Feb. 11, and UConn heading to LSU Feb. 25, the rest of the year's big games come within conference play.


And one major storyline will be the fight for third place in the standings.


That fight should come down to two teams, Angel McCoughtry and Louisville and Lechlitner and Notre Dame, making the Jan. 8 showdown in Louisville - the only meeting between the two teams - a must-win for both programs. And both have home games against Connecticut in which to attempt to take down the mighty Huskies, with the Cardinals hosting them Jan. 12 and the Irish on the 27th.


So there you have it, 30 big games for your viewing pleasure. And you thought the Big East was just Rutgers and UConn.