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Andy Wittry | | November 12, 2017

7 reasons you need to watch the Gavitt Tipoff Games

  Northwestern made its first-ever NCAA tournament last season.

One of college basketball's newest early season events enters its third year with another enticing slate of games. Following the opening weekend of action, the Gavitt Tipoff Games provides eight matchups between the Big East and Big Ten that take place over the course of five days during the first full week of the season.

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Here's the schedule for the 2017 Gavitt Tipoff Games.

Date Matchup Time/TV Channel
Monday, Nov. 13 No. 15 Minnesota at Providence 6:30 p.m. ET/FS1
Tuesday, Nov. 14 No. 20 Purdue at Marquette 8:30 p.m. ET/FS1
Wednesday, Nov. 15 Indiana at No. 23 Seton Hall 6:30 p.m. ET/FS1
Wednesday, Nov. 15 Butler at Maryland 8:30 p.m. ET/FS1
Wednesday, Nov. 15 Creighton at No. 19 Northwestern 9 p.m. ET/BTN
Thursday, Nov. 16 No. 17 Xavier at Wisconsin 8:30 p.m. ET/FS1
Thursday, Nov. 16 Nebraska at St. John's 6:30 p.m. ET/FS1
Friday, Nov. 17 DePaul at Illinois 8:30 p.m. ET/BTN

Here are seven reasons you need to watch the Gavitt Tipoff Games.

The series opener


No. 15 Minnesota at Providence: Monday, Nov. 13

The first college basketball games of the season tipped off on Friday night and there was a full slate every day of the weekend. What better way to cure a case of the Monday blues than the start of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Minnesota travels to Providence in a game that could prove to be the best matchup of the entire series.

Minnesota made a 16-win improvement last season, earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, returns All-Big Ten First Team point guard Nate Mason and Defensive Player of the Year Reggie Lynch, and entered this year ranked No. 15 in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll.

Providence tied for third in the Big East, made the NCAA tournament and returns a pair of preseason All-Big East selections in guard Kyron Cartwright and forward Rodney Bullock.

College basketball advanced stats guru Ken Pomeroy projected both teams to be ranked in the top 30 nationally in defensive efficiency, so this game should provide high-level basketball at both ends of the floor. Michigan State and Villanova are the consensus favorites in the Big Ten and Big East, respectively, but if you're looking for a team in either league that could be in the hunt for second place, look no further than the teams playing in the Gavitt Tipoff Games series opener.

Three-pointers galore


No. 20 Purdue at Marquette: Tuesday, Nov. 14

Marquette led the country in three-point percentage last season at 42.9 percent. Purdue wasn't far behind at 40.3 percent from behind the arc, which was tied for seventh nationally. When the Golden Eagles and Boilermakers meet in Milwaukee, Wisc., on Tuesday, expect threes to fly in bunches and if the statistics hold true, a lot of them should go in the basket.

Marquette is led by sophomore guard Markus Howard, who made a ridiculous 54.7 percent of his threes on 4.8 attempts per game last season. The Golden Eagles also have 6-8 guard/forward Sam Hauser (45.3% 3-point) and guard Andrew Rowsey (44.7% 3-point), who both averaged at least two made threes per game in 2016-17.

Purdue will counter with guard Dakota Mathias (45.3% 3-point), forward Vince Edwards (42.3%), guard Ryan Cline (41.3%) and guard P.J. Thompson (40.2%).

If you enjoy good shooting (What basketball fan doesn't?), this is a sneaky good early season matchup between two teams that made the tournament last season.

High-level guard play


Creighton at No. 19 Northwestern: Wednesday, Nov. 15

When Creighton travels to Northwestern, there will be four preseason all-conference guards on the floor. The Bluejays' backcourt consists of Marcus Foster (preseason All-Big East First Team) and Khyri Thomas (All-Big East Honorable Mention), while the Wildcats will counter with preseason All-Big Ten guards Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey.

Foster finished third in the conference in scoring last season at 18.2 points per game, while Thomas, a versatile, two-way player, scored 12.3 points per night. McIntosh (14.8 ppg) and Lindsey (14.1 ppg) were 10th and 13th in the Big Ten in scoring, respectively.

Both teams started the 2016-17 campaign at a blistering pace. Creighton began the season with an 18-1 record, while Northwestern was 18-4 through January, which led to the Wilcats' first-ever NCAA tournament berth. This game represents a chance for each team to get off to another strong start this year with an impressive non-conference win. This game will also help "break in" Allstate Arena, Northwestern's temporary home in Rosemont, Ill., this winter as Welsh-Ryan Arena undergoes renovations.

Super sophomores


Butler at Maryland: Wednesday, Nov. 15

Freshmen so often get the bulk of attention and praise in college basketball, and for good reason. But what about the sophomores who showed flashes of promise, if not consistent production, in their first year of college and returned to school primed for a breakout season? It's often said that players typically make their biggest strides of improvement between their freshman and sophomore years, and the game between Butler and Maryland will provide a handful of examples.

Butler 6-1 guard Kamar Baldwin was a unanimous All-Big East Freshman Team selection after averaging 10.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.5 assists per game. He shot 49.5 percent from the field, 37.2 percent from three and 75.6 percent from the free throw line, a promising sign that he'll be able to shoulder a heavier scoring load this season.

Maryland has a trio of exciting sophomores โ€“ forward Justin Jackson, guard Anthony Cowan and guard Kevin Huerter. They were the Terrapins' second-, third- and fourth-leading scorers last season, combining for roughly 30 points per game. They averaged 15 rebounds per night between them and also showed the ability to stretch the floor. Jackson shot 43.8 percent from three, while Huerter shot 37.1 percent from behind the arc.

If you're looking for a breakout player this season, look no further than one of the many options on the floor during Butler-Maryland.

The known vs. the unknown


Indiana at No. 23 Seton Hall: Wednesday, Nov. 15

Seton Hall is coming off of its most successful two-year stretch since the early 1990s. The Pirates won a combined 46 games over the last two seasons, including the 2016 Big East tournament, and they advanced to back-to-back NCAA tournaments. They enter the 2017-18 campaign ranked No. 23 in the preseason AP poll after returning their top four scorers and only losing one rotation player of consequence.

For the most part, you know what you're getting with Seton Hall. Senior center Angel Delgado will average a double-double โ€“ he had 27 in 33 games last season โ€“ while classmates Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez will be high-usage, high-ceiling scorers who will undoubtedly be streaky shooters at times during the season. The Pirates will likely win somewhere between 20 and 25 games, compete for a top-four standing in the Big East and earn a respectable NCAA tournament seed.

Seton Hall's opponent in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, Indiana, is as unknown as the Pirates are a known commodity in college basketball. The Hoosiers have a new head coach in Archie Miller, they have to replace three of their top four scorers who made the jump to the professional ranks in the offseason, and their starter at the "5," sophomore De'Ron Davis, averaged just 13.9 minutes per game last season. In their season opener, the Hoosiers lost to Indiana State 90-69.

Maybe Miller and leading returning scorer Robert Johnson will take Indiana back to the NCAA tournament, where Miller led Dayton in each of the past four seasons. Maybe this will prove to be a rebuilding season for the Hoosiers. Maybe Indiana is somewhere in between and will enter Selection Sunday squarely on the bubble.

Regardless, for fans of either school or for college basketball fans with no rooting interest for either side, this is an intriguing matchup โ€“ one of the best teams in the country versus a blue blood that enters the season with many questions to answer as it starts a new era.

A chance at revenge


No. 17 Xavier at Wisconsin: Thursday, Nov. 16

Let's take a stroll down memory lane to the 2016 NCAA Tournament, when No. 2 seed Xavier met No. 7 seed Wisconsin in the Round of 32. It was the Musketeers' best tournament seed in program history but their tournament run didn't make it past the first weekend as former Badgers guard Bronson Koenig hit a game-winning three as time expired to upset Xavier.

Of course, Koenig has since graduated, as have three other Wisconsin starters from that game, but don't doubt for a second that Xavier forward Trevon Bluiett, guard J.P. Macura and the rest of the Musketeers' upperclassmen who played in that game would love nothing more than a win over Ethan Happ and the Badgers in the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard took the Badgers to the Sweet 16 that season, just weeks after having the interim tag removed from his job title, while Xavier coach Chris Mack had a buzzer beater end the season of perhaps the best Musketeers team that he has coached in his nine years at the school.

Can Xavier pick up where it left off during its Elite Eight run last season? How will Wisconsin replace the production of four starters who graduated after last season? This game should give us answers to those questions.

An in-state battle


DePaul at Illinois: Friday, Nov. 15

DePaul and Illinois have a combined 14 players from the state of Illinois who undoubtedly have years of familiarity playing with and against one another dating back to the high school and AAU ranks. Former Illinois starter Jalen Coleman-Lands transferred to DePaul in the offseason. These schools compete for the same recruits and both desparately want to return to the national prominence they enjoyed previously in the history of their programs.

Will either team be particularly great this season? Maybe not. But for 40 minutes in Champaign, Ill., competitive juices will be flowing and emotions will be high as the Blue Demons and Fighting Illini battle for state supremacy.

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