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On The Menu: New Year's Eve 2015

This season's December 31st schedule is lighter than usual, thanks to the College Football Playoff semifinals on ESPN. Quality may trump quantity, however, as a pair of significant Big East openers highlight Thursday's action.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Game information courtesy Matt College Sports on TV Website, which has even more games listed.

All times listed are Eastern, adjust accordingly.

Big East Opening Day Part II

No. 6 Xavier Musketeers (12-0) at No. 16 Villanova Wildcats (9-2), 12 p.m. (FS1)
Creighton Bluejays (9-4) at St. John's Red Storm (7-6), 2 p.m. (FS1)
No. 12 Providence Friars (12-1) at No. 9 Butler Bulldogs (10-1), 2:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

Georgetown (over DePaul in Rosemont) and Seton Hall (in surprisingly resounding fashion over Marquette in Milwaukee) opened the league's schedule with wins last night. But with all due respect to those squads, things really get cranking this afternoon, as a pair of top 25 showdowns loom. Xavier, the most dominant team I've seen in person this season, might be able to stake a claim to the No. 1 spot with a win over preseason favorite Villanova in game one at the Pavilion—a rematch of last season's Big East Tourney final, won handily by Nova. If the Musketeer defense can clamp down on a Wildcat squad that has issues making shots at times, watch out.

You can probably track the score of the Creighton-St. John's matchup, given both will likely find themselves playing in the first round of the Big East Tournament in March, while focusing completely on Hinkle Fieldhouse, where Butler will host Providence in another matchup of teams aiming for a Big East crown and protected seed in the field of 68. The Friars will have to try to outscore the Bulldogs at home to open the league season with a win, and I'm not sure even a Superman-like performance from Kris Dunn would be enough to steal the road victory.

Missouri Valley Opening Day Part II

Drake Bulldogs (5-7) at Wichita State Shockers (6-5), 2 p.m. (ESPNU)

The Shockers' final scheduled non-conference game—Monday against New Mexico State—was postponed due to winter weather-related travel issues for the Aggies. That means Gregg Marshall's team enters Valley play after a nine-day layoff since their 29-point win over Nevada on December 22nd. If Wichita State is a bit rusty, Drake might have a chance, but don't count on the Bulldogs winning at Koch Arena.

Other Conference Action

The OVC Digital NetworkCAA.tv, and BigSouth.com will all have league action starting at 1 p.m. Eastern, while TheW.tv has a pair of WCC games starting at 8 p.m. Eastern, complementing a pair of games ESPN is distributing nationally.

Gonzaga Bulldogs (10-3, 2-0) at Santa Clara Broncos (4-10, 0-2), 5 p.m. (KHQ/ESPN3)
BYU Cougars (9-4, 0-0) at Saint Mary's Gaels (11-1, 2-0), 11 p.m. (ESPNU)

While the Bulldogs should move to 3-0, the Gaels will be hard pressed to join them as they host the Cougars in a late December bubble battle. BYU went 2-1 in the Diamond Head Classic while the rest of the league (other than travel partner San Diego) opened conference play. However, a loss to Harvard and wins over struggling New Mexico and inconsistent Northern Iowa didn't help BYU's case all that much, meaning they'll need to do big things in league play. Handing the Gaels—who also have an, um, interesting profile despite the gaudy record—their second loss of the season would be a fine start for Dave Rose's squad. However, they've won just once at McKeon Pavilion in four previous visits as a WCC member.

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