NEW YORK (AP) The Big East got an early start on its conference season with eight of the 10 teams opening on Wednesday.
It's the second time in four seasons that the conference got a jump on play. The early start was caused by a new schedule that has the league playing its conference games on Friday and Sunday. The way the calendar falls with holidays and such it wouldn't have been possible to start the final weekend in December which the conference did last year.
The men will begin their conference play in a New Year's Eve marathon.
The games Wednesday were competitive for the most part. Villanova and Providence got the day started with the Friars winning on Tori Rule's running layup with two seconds left. No. 25 DePaul trailed Butler by six at the half before rallying for the 92-76 win. Seton Hall beat Creighton 79-74.
St. John's was only up three at the half over Xavier before turning the game into a rout in the second half.
''This is the third game in five days for us,'' St. John's coach Joe Tartamella said. ''They were excited and energized. I think it gave us a focus knowing it was a conference game.''
Tartamella was an assistant at the school in 2011 when the conference also had an early opening date.
''I can see it being weird for those who haven't gone through it before,'' he said. ''However, as far as scheduling is concerned we control what we can.''
The Red Storm (6-0) have been together since the summer after spending time overseas in Spain and Italy on a foreign trip. So the team has had more time than some others to get ready for the upcoming season.
''We've been working for a long time now,'' said Danaejah Grant, who had 23 points in the 65-42 win over Xavier. ''It's a good test for us to see where we're at in our conference.''
Marquette and Georgetown were the only two teams not to play conference openers. The Golden Eagles lost 79-53 to Auburn on Tuesday night.
The Big East wasn't the only conference to open early. The Big South began play on Monday with Charleston Southern facing UNC Asheville. The Metro Atlantic Athletic conference also opened Wednesday with one game on the schedule.
The earliest a conference has opened its women's schedule since 2000 as when the Colonial Athletic Conference had a game between Towson and Old Dominion on Nov. 16, 2001 according to STATS.
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