The game of the night on Wednesday may be the Big East opener for both Connecticut and Cincinnati, with the highly-touted Lance Stephenson (Cincinnati) and Ater Majok (UConn) getting their first taste of Big East play. Immensely talented players have made their marks in the conference since its inception but not everyone is 100% ready for that first taste of the Big East's physical nature. But maybe "Born Ready" and Majok are different; at the very least they'll have some talented teammates who have been through the ringer to lean on.
The question for Connecticut will be how well they fare on the glass against one of the conference's more physical front lines, which is led by sophomore Yancy Gates. If Majok, Alex Oriakhi and Gavin Edwards struggle in that area it could be a long night in the Queen City for the Huskies. But the perimeter play will be what grabs the attention thanks to UConn's trio of Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Kemba Walker and Cincinnati's Deonta Vaughn and Cashmere Wright to go along with Stephenson.
As for other games on the schedule Northwestern opens Big Ten play with a trip to in-state rival Illinois, who needs to become a more consistent defensive team on the perimeter if they're to return to the NCAA Tournament. They've got plenty of talent but Demetri McCamey and company seem to have a hard time retaining their focus on both ends of the floor. That could prove dangerous against a squad that's rapidly becoming one of college basketball's feel-good stories of the season. And Boston College hosts South Carolina in a game that's vital to both teams' at-large hopes given the scarcity of quality wins on their current resumes.
7p ESPN2 Connecticut at Cincinnati
7p ESPNU Albany at North Carolina
7p BTN UTA at Michigan St
7p BEN/SNY USF at Louisville
9p ESPN2 Baylor at Arkansas
9p ESPNU South Carolina at Boston College
9p BTN Northwestern at Illinois
9p BEN/SNY Providence at Notre Dame
7p George Washington at Harvard
7p UAB at Virginia
7p Massachusetts at Davidson
7p Duquesne at Old Dominion
7:30p William & Mary at Maryland
8p Northern Colorado at TCU
Illinois over Northwestern: Don't think that the transfer of Alex Legion is a big loss for the Fighting Illini, but defending an offensive system is the last thing their talented freshmen need when they're already having issues defensively. But the combo of Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale combined with the "Orange Krush" will prove to be too much for Northwestern on the road. Look for Illinois to win a close one at Assembly Hall.