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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Wednesday / January 16.
  • Big Week for Gavitt, Big East

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    Guest Blogger Dan Gavitt is the Associate Commissioner for men’s basketball in the Big East and graciously agreed to contribute this week to ZAGSBLOG.

    I’m very fortunate to have a great position as the Associate Commissioner for Men’s Basketball at the BIG EAST Conference.  I love my job and one of the best things about it is a week like this one.  If you’re a fan of great college basketball, who wouldn’t look forward to the journey that will take me to four different cities to watch six BIG EAST teams play big games?  My road trip started in the nation’s capitol last night to see #3 Villanova beat Maryland, 95-86, in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center.  Tonight, I’ll be in the Prudential Center in Newark to watch Seton Hall vs. UMass.  On Tuesday the stop will be Madison Square Garden for the Jimmy V Classic pitting #16 Georgetown vs. #23 Butler and Pitt vs. Indiana.  I’ll finish the week on Thursday night in Tampa at the St. Pete Times Forum for the SEC/BIG EAST Invitational with DePaul vs. Mississippi State and #8 Syracuse vs. #13 Florida.  What a week!  Three planes, two trains, a rental car, and a couple cab trips, and I’ll make it home on Friday.

    It’s a big week for the BIG EAST with a lot of great opportunities against strong opponents on national television.  Except for the Thanksgiving week when many of our teams were in tournaments, no other week this season will have as many BIG EAST teams playing on ESPN and ESPN2 as this one.  Nine different BIG EAST teams gain national exposure on our television partner’s two main networks Tuesday through Saturday.  Three doubleheaders highlight this week’s schedule with the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday and the DIRECTV SEC/BIG EAST Invitational on Wednesday and Thursday nights.  Wednesday should be special at the home of the BIG EAST tournament, Madison Square Garden, as St. John’s plays Georgia followed by #14 Connecticut vs. #5 Kentucky.

    With only 3 weeks left before the BIG EAST season starts on the day after Christmas – West Virginia at Seton Hall – teams are preparing for the tough 18-game conference schedule.  Preseason BIG EAST favorite Villanova saw the BB&T Classic as a challenging opportunity against a Maryland team coming off an NCAA tournament appearance.  Villanova head coach Jay Wright agreed to the “neutral site” game to get a quality non-conference opponent in a familiar arena at the Verizon Center where later this season the Wildcats will face Georgetown on their home court.  The deal includes a return game for Villanova next season when Maryland will play at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.  Intersectional matchups like Villanova – Maryland are critical to BIG EAST teams for NCAA selection purposes, as well as preparation for league play.

    Villanova is similar this season to many BIG EAST teams that are young and developing.  Five of the Wildcats who play significant minutes are first-year players.  After losing 38 of the 80 starters from last year’s rosters to graduation and early entry in the NBA draft, many BIG EAST teams are generally inexperienced.  Despite the youth, conference teams have had a remarkable start to the 2009-10 season with a nation’s best non-conference record to date of 98-17 (.852).  With 7 different BIG EAST teams ranked in the latest top 25 polls, the BIG EAST is proving early-on to be far from the rebuilding status that was widely predicted coming off a historically successful 2008-09 season.  As the 16 returning head coaches continue to develop their young and talented teams, BIG EAST fans are hopeful that the best is yet to come later this season.

    ·       Villanova has 3 players who grew up in the Washington area – Scottie Reynolds from Herndon, VA, Maurice Sutton from Upper Marlboro, MD, and Isaiah Armwood from Baltimore, MD.

    ·        Started in 1995, the BB&T Classic in Washington has always included two local teams – the Terps and George Washington.  In the first game last night, George Washington beat Navy, 81-69, in a battle of former BIG EAST assistant coaches – Karl Hobbs from UConn and Billy Lange from Villanova.

    ·        Noted author and Washington Post columnist John Feinstein was instrumental in starting the BB&T Classic and still plays an active role in the success of the event; John served as the color analyst in last night’s television broadcast on MASN.

    ·        John Adams, NCAA National Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officiating, was in attendance at the BB&T Classic.  John is in his second year in that key role for college basketball.  He attends games to evaluate officials for selection to work the NCAA men’s basketball championship, as well as help provide clear and consistent interpretations of rules and officiating mechanics nationally.

    (    (Photo courtesy Big East)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.