Big East-SEC Challenge: Night One Preview And Predictions

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 26: John Calipari the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats gives instructions to his team during the game against the Portland Pilots at Rupp Arena on November 26, 2011 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The first 12-game edition of the Big East/SEC Challenge gets underway Thursday night. No. 1 Kentucky and No. 12 Alabama both look to carry the flag for the SEC.

After its first four years as a four-game series went largely unnoticed, the Big East/SEC Challenge made the wise choice to expand to 12 games this season. The only issue is that the Big East is a 16-team league, which means (runs elaborate lab tests) four teams don't get to partake in the fun. This year's unfourtunate quartet (did you catch that? did you see that? thought of it literally 15 seconds ago) includes Marquette, Villanova, Notre Dame and South Florida.

They should have just added four solid teams from the Midwest and evened the whole thing out. No one knows what conference anyone's in anymore anyway (lots of "any's" in that last sentence...not fixin' it...delete button's been broken for years).

Whomever did the pairings probably could have done a better job pitting the conference's elite against one another, but such is life. Still, the bulk of the action should be at least as competitive as what we saw earlier this week from the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Here's what to watch for on night one:

Providence (5-2) at South Carolina (2-4) (7 p.m./ESPNU)

Not exactly your classic example of leading with strength.

Providence started the season with four straight wins over relative nobodies before back-to-back double-digit losses to Iowa State and Northern Iowa. The Friars squeaked out a five-point win over Holy Cross earlier this week. The Gamecocks have been worse, dropping four of their last five, including an embarrassing pair of losses to Elon and Tennessee State.

Let's be hones with each other, neither one of us is going to watch with any sort of consistency after the first 30 minutes. I'm glad we have this type of relationship.

THE PICK: Providence by four

St. John's (4-3) at No. 1 Kentucky (6-0) (7:30 p.m./ESPN)

This is where the schedulers really screwed up. You've got the No. 1 team in the country in an event where they could be facing any of a host of highly-regarded opponents, and instead they're paired with a bottom-tier squad playing without its coach and three of its top would-be-freshmen. You also had the sexy potential storyline of Kentucky being out for revenge against the conference that has ended its season five of the past six years. The Wildcats smacking the Red Storm around for 40 minutes will not be viewed as proper vengeance by any member of Big Blue Nation. 

THE PICK: Kentucky by 25

Ole Miss (5-1) at DePaul (4-1) (9 p.m./ESPNU)

This looked liked the ultimate battle of also-rans when the schedule was first released, but the duo is off to a surprising combined start of 9-2. Still...yeah, I know.

Both teams have been very solid defensively, but a bit careless with the ball on the offensive end. Ole Miss appears to have a clear advantage on the glass, while the Blue Demons are a much better shooting group. This one is a toss-up...a hideous, disgusting, borderline unwatchable toss-up.

THE PICK: Ole Miss by 3

Georgetown at No. 12 Alabama (9:30 p.m./ESPNU)

Probably the most intriguing matchup of the entire series, and should be one of the best games. 'Bama's JayMychal Green and Tony Mitchell form one of the most lethal inside tandems in the game, but they'll receive their toughest challenge to date in the from a Georgetown frontcourt headlined by center Henry Sims.

Both teams are off to solid starts, but both are being looked at with a bit of a suspicious eye from the viewing public. Only one gets to take a big step towards proving they're for real.

THE PICK: Alabama by 6
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