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Andy Katz | Correspondent | December 27, 2017

Marquette-Xavier, DePaul-Villanova open Big East play

  Xavier opens Big East play on the road at Marquette. Villanova and Butler also play on the road on Wednesday.

Here's what you need to know for Wednesday, Dec. 27:

1. Let us introduce you to Marquette. OK, Golden Eagles, you’re up. Your turn to try and take down the mighty Xavier Musketeers, who enter the Big East as much a threat to win the conference as Villanova. Yes, it’s true. Xavier can take the Wildcats. The only loss for X was against one of the three remaining unbeaten teams — Arizona State — in Las Vegas. Xavier and Marquette have something in common — they both won at Wisconsin. The Golden Eagles are hardly out of NCAA contention. There’s no reason why Marquette can’t make a run for a bid.

This is a fresh start where anything is possible, considering the potential Marquette has shown. Marquette has three of its first five games in Big East play at home and a sweep (Xavier, Georgetown and Seton Hall) would do wonders for its profile.

Marquette has received little national attention. So here it goes: The Golden Eagles have two legit scorers in Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey. How many teams have two 20-point scorers? And don’t you dare foul Howard. He is 36 of 36 at the line and has made 45 straight over the last two seasons. Marquette has been proving to be a tough team to score on of late, forcing an average of 15 turnovers a game. All of that sounds wonderful — but the Golden Eagles haven’t played a team as talented and tough as Xavier this season. It’s on in Milwaukee tonight.

2. Can DePaul pull a Boston College? No. 1 Villanova heads to DePaul for the Big East opener in what appears to be a lopsided affair. This is akin to when Duke opened the ACC at perceived bottom dweller BC earlier this month. The problem is the Blue Demons don’t come close to BC's backcourt of Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson. So, DePaul will have to give a herculean effort to pull this off and will need Nova to still be thinking about the holiday. DePaul’s new arena better be rocking for this one. Unfortunately, students won’t be in session, but the Chicago hoop fans should come out to see the top team in the nation during vacation week. A Nova loss here would be out of character since the Wildcats are too seasoned, efficient and such an unfazed lot that losing a game like this is not in their DNA.

3. Georgetown's second chance starts now. The Hoyas had a soft, soft, soft non-conference schedule outside of their home game against Syracuse. But it did build confidence. The Hoyas chose to do that with new head coach Patrick Ewing. Let’s see if it worked. Georgetown is hosting Butler to open Big East play. Jessie Govan has been a double-double player with averages of 19 points and 12 rebounds. He should be tough to deal with for the Bulldogs at 6-10 and 270 pounds. A win here by the Hoyas is a bit of a must if they are to be taken more seriously with four of the next six on the road and the last home game in the stretch against Villanova.

4. Is San Diego State here to stay? The Aztecs edged out Gonzaga at home for their most significant win of the year. Add the Gonzaga win with beating Georgia in Fullerton at the Wooden Legacy and suddenly San Diego State has two wins that will be important for its resume. But San Diego State could do quite a lot for its profile with a road win at Wyoming tonight in its Mountain West opener. These teams both score in the high 70s, but the Aztecs' D is the difference with San Diego State holding teams to 64 points a game. Will that translate at altitude? This is traditionally a tough trip.

5. Will the real UCF stand up? The Golden Knights open AAC play at one of the toughest spots in the conference — SMU. UCF has been injury riddled all season, but managed to win at Alabama. Lead guard BJ Taylor posted on Twitter on Dec. 21 that he's recovering from his foot injury, showing him on an elliptical machine. The Knights need to survive the early stretch of games until he can come back from the injury, which occurred in the first game of the season against Mercer. Tacko Fall will be tough to contain but the Mustangs have the ability to make life uncomfortable for teams at Moody Coliseum. SMU’s 23-point win over Boise State was impressive. SMU has to be considered a contender for a top-four finish in the American. It starts tonight.

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