By: Nick McGill
Xavier men’s basketball is set to begin the 2013-14 season with a fresh start in a new conference.
After last season’s less-than-satisfying finish, the Musketeers will begin play as a new affiliate in the Big East conference.
As this is Xavier’s inaugural season with the conference, the expectations for a strong season are elevated.
The season starts with a slate of non-conference opponents. The first challenge facing the Musketeers will be a home game against the Tennessee Volunteers, who are predicted to finish third in the SEC.
Xavier will then face off against the Miami Redhawks who will make the short trip to Cintas Center before the Musketeers head to Paradise Island for the Battle 4 Atlantis, a one-of-a-kind tournament in the Bahamas.
Prominent teams such as Kansas, Tennessee and the University of Southern California will also feature in the tournament.
This recently established tournament is the richest NCAA preseason tournament, awarding $2 million to schools in exchange for their participation in the event. Xavier’s first opponent will be the Iowa Hawkeyes from the Big Ten. Doing well in this tournament will establish the Musketeers as a team that means business.
Before opening conference play, Xavier will face off against the University of Cincinnati in the annual Crosstown Classic.
This matchup continues the rivalry as Xavier is now in UC’s old conference and the Bearcats have moved to the American Athletic Conference (AAC).
UC holds the all-time series lead with 49 wins to Xavier’s 31, but the Musketeers have been successful in recent years against Mick Cronin’s Bearcats, having won seven of the last 11 match ups.
It is not until New Year’s Eve that the Musketeers will butt heads with St. John’s in the first conference game of the year for both teams.
Some home games to attend include a game on Jan. 9 against Marquette that is ranked 17th in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll.
On March 1, the Creighton Blue Jays will be traveling to Cincinnati and are sure to be a competitor in the battle for the Big East crown. Another opponent to keep an eye on is Georgetown that comes to Cintas Center on Jan. 15.
The Hoyas have always been prominent in the Big East, and a big win could have big implications for the Musketeers in an early conference test.
With an almost entirely new group of opponents for Xavier to face, it will be exciting for fans to see these schools come to Cintas for the first time, or the first time in a long time.
While ESPN predicts Xavier to finish eighth in this year’s Big East standings, there is always room to be competitive and exceed expectations, particularly in conference tests.
As the Musketeers move through their schedule, each game and each conference win is important on the road to the NCAA Tournament.