By John Hand, OnMilwaukee intern   Published Sep 12, 2017 at 4:06 PM

The Big East released its 2018 men’s basketball schedule on Tuesday. Marquette will open conference play on Dec. 27 at home against Xavier, who is a favorite to be ranked in the top 25 to start the season.  Here is a list of five key dates to keep an eye on.

1. Saturday, Jan. 6 at Villanova

Who can forget the Golden Eagles' improbable victory over No. 1 Villanova last year? I know the Wildcats remember. The Wells Fargo Center will be rocking for the first rematch of these two teams since that upset. Villanova lost Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds, but those losses are offset with five-star recruit Omari Spellman eligible to play this season and the addition of four-star recruit Jermaine Samuels.

Oh yeah, they also still have a guy named Jalen Brunson, who will direct the floor with veterans Eric Paschall, Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo. To make matters worse for Marquette, it will be facing Villanova after coming off a tough Wednesday road game against Providence.

2. Wednesday, Jan. at Providence

That aforementioned Providence contest will be a crucial away test for Marquette. The Golden Eagles lost both of their contests to the Friars last season in heart-wrenching fashion, and seven top scorers from that Providence team will be back this year, including Kyron Cartwright, who had double-digit scoring efforts in both Marquette games.

Ed Cooley has brought Providence to five straight NCAA tournaments, and this year should be no different, but an early-season road victory against what could be a top-25 team would do a lot for Marquette, both in the Big East standings and when it comes to selection time in March.

3. Saturday, March 3 vs. Creighton

Sitting here in the middle of September, unless you have the gift of fortunetelling, it's hard to predict what the last game of the season will mean. Still, I think most genies would tell you this game will have significant meaning for Marquette. Last season the Big East sent seven teams to the NCAA tournament, and once again it promises to be one of the premier conferences in the country.

Marquette’s roster has a ton of talent, but it is a young team, so who knows how it will hold up throughout the season? It would be no surprise if March 3 has a lot of impact on who the Golden Eagles will play in the Big East tournament and also some influence over the committee on Selection Sunday.

4. Saturday, Feb. 3 vs. Providence

National Marquette Day. Enough said.

5. Wednesday, Dec. 27 vs. Xavier

What’s more important than first impressions? Marquette can’t miss the chance to beat a Xavier team that was in the Elite Eight in last year’s NCAA Tournament and is returning most of the talent from that roster. This early-season win would show that Wojo’s squad will not be overlooked during conference play.

Here is the complete schedule, if you just want to see who Marquette plays and don’t care about what I said:

Dec. 27 vs. Xavier (7:30 p.m. on FS1)
Dec. 30 vs. Georgetown (3:30 p.m. on FS1)
Jan. 3 at Providence (5:30 p.m. on CBSSN)
Jan. 6 at Villanova (7 p.m. on FS1)
Jan. 9 vs. Seton Hall (8 p.m. on CBSSN)
Jan. 12 at Butler (5:30 p.m. on FS1)
Jan. 15 vs. DePaul (8 p.m. on FS1)
Jan. 24 at Xavier (5:30 p.m. on FS1)
Jan. 28 vs. Villanova (12 p.m. on FOX)
Jan. 31 vs. Butler (8 on FS1)
Feb. 3 vs. Providence (1:30 on FS1; National Marquette Day)
Feb. 7 at Seton Hall (6 p.m. on FS1)
Feb. 10 at St. John’s (11 a.m. on FSN)
Feb. 17 at Creighton (9 p.m. on FSN)
Feb. 21 vs. St. John’s (7:30 p.m. on FSN)
Feb. 24 at DePaul (11 a.m. on FSN)
Feb. 26 at Georgetown (6 p.m. on FS1)
March 3 vs. Creighton (TBD on TBD)