Each weekday, our college hoops experts discuss the biggest issues, trends and themes in college basketball.
1. The Big East is coming out with two heavy-duty matchups (Xavier-Villanova; Providence-Butler) to open its conference play. What do you think of the scheduling choice, to start on the afternoon of New Year's Eve when so many eyes will be on football?
Andy Katz: You can't concern yourself with football. The Big East isn't a football conference. The league is providing necessary content for its television partner FS1. Why not start the league off with marquee matchups? The Big East, like the Big 12, will have quality games throughout the season because of a true round robin.
Jeff Goodman: You are going to go against something these days -- whether it's football, NBA or other college hoops leagues. Personally, I might have waited a couple of more days -- but I'm not complaining because it's a nice lead-in to the college football games that matter.
Dana O'Neil: I appreciate the ingenuity, the idea of a true conference kickoff, and in fairness to the Big East, it started this before the College Football Playoff was moved to New Year's Eve. That said, the league's big four -- Xavier, Butler, Providence and Villanova -- will go head-to-head on a day that it has to compete for eyeballs with not just football, but holiday festivities. I wish it could have a bigger all-eyes-on-me kind of day.
2. Biggest key in Xavier-Villanova? Who wins?
Katz: Guard play. Villanova squeaks out a win on a late possession.
Goodman: I'll take Villanova. Too many people jumping on the Xavier bandwagon -- and it's warranted because of what the Musketeers have done thus far. Villanova will make some shots on its home court -- and a guy like Xavier's Edmond Sumner has played well, but he will have his hands full against Jay Wright's guards.
O'Neil: I'll go with 3-point shooting. Villanova is going to take 3s; the question is, will they go in? If they do, the Wildcats might be tough to beat. But I think the Musketeers defend the arc and get their first win against Villanova since joining the Big East.
3. How about Providence-Butler?
Katz: Rebounding. Butler has never had great size but has terrific passion for each play and a nose to find the ball. Butler wins close.
Goodman: I will take the home team again: Butler. Remember, while Providence has a tremendous 1-2 punch in Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, the Bulldogs have two really good players of their own in Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham, and more depth than a thin Friars squad. The key is bodies -- and Butler has more quality ones.
O'Neil: Kris Dunn. He's the difference in every game that Providence plays. If the Bulldogs don't contain Dunn, they could be in trouble. But because I think Butler can and will contain the star, I'm going with the Bulldogs in this one.