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