An eight-year series that will pit eight Big East schools against eight Big Ten schools at the beginning of each season was announced today in a release from the Big East conference.
Dubbed the Dave Gavitt Tipoff Games to honor the late Big East founder and visionary, Dave Gavitt, the eight-game annual series will feature four home games for each conference (no neutral courts) with the hosts deciding which TV network (Big East: Fox Sports 1, Big Ten: Big Ten Network / ESPN) that the game will air on. Intended to drum up early hype and provide marquee high-major matchups, the series will span four days, Tuesday-Friday, during the first full week of the college basketball season, starting in 2015.
"We are excited to honor Dave Gavitt and his contributions to the sport of basketball through the establishment of the Gavitt Tipoff Games," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany in the Big East's release. "Dave was a friend and a mentor to me and often mentioned that college basketball should do a better job of tipping off the season, similar to opening day in baseball. I think he would approve of our effort to start a new tipoff tradition, grow the game and serve the best interests of the student-athletes and coaches in these two great conferences."
"We look forward to partnering with the Big Ten to stage a new series of basketball games among our schools and to pay homage to Dave Gavitt, the Big East's founder, who was an inspiration to many of us and one of the most impactful contributors in the sport of basketball," said Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman. "We have natural connections with the Big Ten through our shared geographic regions, and these competitions promise some exciting new rivalries for our players, coaches and alumni. With March Madness, college basketball always ends with a flourish, and the Gavitt Tipoff Games will allow us to open the season with a bang as well."
Tasty regional rivalry games like Butler - Indiana, Ohio State - Xavier, Marquette - Wisconsin, Georgetown - Maryland, Creighton - Nebraska, and Illinois - DePaul could be in store. Seton Hall - Rutgers would have been another likely matchup if it weren't for the two Jersey schools' new eight-year series that began last year and is set to run until 2020. With that in mind, I would imagine the scheduling committee will avoid pairing up the Jersey rivals. Penn State and Maryland would be the next closest regional opponents for Seton Hall.
UPDATE (5/5, 7PM): It looks like pre-existing series between Seton Hall - Rutgers, Marquette - Wisconsin, and Nebraska - Creighton could be counted toward the series if the games are rescheduled to the first week of the season. If not, the respective school will be assigned another opponent. Not everything is set in stone for the Tipoff as of now.
Each Big East school will see at least six Tipoff games over the eight-year series span while Big Ten schools are guaranteed at least four appearances in the inter-conference event. Matchups will be announced during the spring of each respective year.
The Tipoff Games should provide much needed credibility to the Big East's collective non-conference strength of schedule. The Big East averaged a non-conference SOS of 191 last season (KenPom) with no school finishing higher than 81 (Georgetown) and five schools, including Seton Hall, posting sub-200 SOS numbers. The Big Ten has been rated the top conference in the final KenPom ratings each time over the last four seasons.
Outside of statistical strength, the Games will undoubtedly add some excitement during the first week of the college basketball season, which has usually been reserved for low-profile, high-win probability home games.
Which Big Ten schools would you like to see Seton Hall clash with when the first matchups are announced next spring?