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Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Big East releases Big Monday schedule

By Eamonn Brennan

The end of August might be the worst time on the college basketball calendar. It's been five months since we last saw basketball -- an interminable time for any fan -- and yet the offseason still stretches on, now well into the late days of summer and early fall. It feels like forever, but we're still a month and a half away from Midnight Madness and more than two months away from the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon.

And with no NBA on the horizon, starved fans are stuck watching Kevin Durant and LeBron James dunk on each other in glorified pickup games. Which, I'll admit, was pretty awesome. But I'm ready for the real thing.

Unfortunately, the best I can offer today is but a hint of what's to come. In other words, more scheduling news, this time coming from the Big East. The entire schedule is out today; you can find it here. But for those of you primarily concerned with marquee primetime games, what follows is the Big East's slated appearances on its traditional ESPN weekday timeslot, Big Monday. To wit:

Big East Big Monday Schedule (all games on ESPN):

Jan. 16: Louisville at Marquette; Pittsburgh at Syracuse
Jan. 23: Syracuse at Cincinnati
Jan. 30: Pittsburgh at West Virginia
Feb. 6: Connecticut at Louisville
Feb. 13: Syracuse at Louisville
Feb. 20: Connecticut at Villanova
Feb. 27: Notre Dame at Georgetown

Analyzing the schedule from this detached perch -- i.e., not knowing what the nonconference season will entail -- the first date, Jan. 16, is the one that most intrigues me. All four of those teams consider themselves conference contenders and Final Four hopefuls. All four of those teams have a great deal to prove about their personnel before anything like a Big East title or a trip to New Orleans is in the offing -- and obviously Connecticut will have a lot to say about the Big East title race. But this is not a bad way to kick things off on Big Monday.

In the meantime, Jan. 16 feels ages away. It's borderline depressing. But look at it this way: If you ever needed a reason to look forward to the days between mid-January and late-February -- winter without any of the novelty or Christmas charm, and also the time of the year when Chicagoans ask themselves every day why on Earth they chose to live in this place -- welp, college basketball is it. The power of positive thinking, guys!