Writer’s Note: In re-reviewing the tie breakers, it would actually be Providence in the #5 seed, Seton Hall in the #6 seed, and Marquette in the #7 seed. See the comments section for full details. Basically, switch my comments for Providence and Marquette and it all works out :)
As of Saturday, the Big East Tournament seeding is starting to come together... kind of. With just over a week to go until the 35th BET at Madison Square Garden, two seeds were clinched on Saturday. Villanova defeated Creighton to clinch the regular season title and the top seed that goes with it, while DePaul was cemented into the bottom seed with their loss at home to Seton Hall. That’s what we know. We’re also pretty sure that barring some late season craziness, Butler will get the #2 seed and Georgetown will end up as the #9 seed. After that though, it’s all up for grabs.
As of Saturday night, Creighton, Xavier, Providence, Seton Hall, and Marquette are all within one game of each other, and St. John’s is just one game behind those last three. If Butler wins at Xavier today, then four Big East teams will be 8-8 with two games remaining in the final week of the regular season. In other words, that ish cray.
For Villanova, the path is pretty clear: A game vs. the winner of the 8v9 game, then likely the winner of the 4v5 game, followed likely by the winner of the 2v3 game for the Championship. So since I had some free time on my hands and crazy enough I actually like all this minutia, I dove into the tie breakers, schedules, and predictive statistics to try to map Villanova’s path to the 3rd Big East Tournament Championship in school history.
If The Season Ended Today
Let’s say for fun that the season ended on Saturday night. This would be Nova’s path through the tournament:
Game 1: Winner of #8 St. John’s vs #9 Georgetown
Georgetown just lost this game on Saturday at the Garden 80-86. I didn’t watch this one, but based on the game log it looks like the Johnnies dominated the second half and Georgetown was never really in it despite losing by just two possessions. If that result repeated itself, Nova would face St. John’s in what amounts to a true road game.
While the Cats did beat St. John’s on their home court by 13 earlier this season, both of the games against the Red Storm this year have been closer than they should have. They play Villanova tough, and while their freshman stars can be inconsistent, they can also get very hot. It’s not an ideal match-up, but it’s also not one that will give Nova too much trouble.
Game 2: Winner of #4 Xavier vs #5 Marquette
Marquette would currently win the tie breaker for the five seed thanks in part to their victory over Villanova. Xavier just lost at Marquette by 22 as the Golden Eagles went on fire from beyond the arc. Xavier is in a bit of a tail spin, dropping their last 4 games by an average of 14 points, and a tough contest with a hot Butler team on Sunday. Marquette has also stumbled down the stretch, losing 5 of their last 8. While Xavier is probably a lock for the tournament, Marquette may need a victory in the BET to secure their spot.
For that reason, I’m going to give a nod to Marquette in this one to pull the upset and face Villanova in the Semis. While the Golden Eagles did pull out a two point upset at home, they were blown out by Villanova at the Wells Fargo center. I think that Nova will be looking to avenge their only loss to a team not named Butler this year, and could win by double digits. But if Marquette gets hot, this one could come down to the wire... again.
Game #3: Winner of #2 Butler vs #3 Creighton
Creighton has owned Butler this season, winning both home and away vs the bulldogs. But one of the hardest things to do in college basketball is beat a team 3 times in the same season. Creighton hasn’t been the same without Watson Jr., and Butler is playing to well right now to drop another one to the Bluejays, so it’ll be Dogs vs. Cats in the Final.
And for the same reason I said Butler beats Creighton, I can’t see Villanova losing three games to Butler this season. On a court that should seem more like a home game thanks to the Villanova faithful and with Darryl Reynolds back in the lineup, Villanova will be the favorites to add some more hardware to their trophy case this season.
If the final week of the Big East regular season plays out the way KenPom.com predicts, these will be the final standings:
- Villanova (15-3)
- Butler (13-5)
- Creighton (10-8)
- Xavier (10-8)
- Providence (9-9)
- Seton Hall (9-9)
- Marquette (9-9)
- St. John’s (8-10)
- Georgetown (5-13)
- DePaul (2-16)
In this scenario, Creighton gets the tie breaker over Xavier, Providence wins the tie breaker over Seton Hall and Marquette, and then Seton Hall wins their tie breaker with Seton Hall. In other words, nothing changes from the previous scenario as far as seeding.
KenPom also predicts the same upsets of St. John’s over Georgetown (thanks to home court advantage) and Marquette over Xavier. In all the other match-ups the predictive stats have the higher seed winning, including Villanova coming away with the championship.
The Dark Horse Contender
The hottest team in the Big East right now is the Providence Friars, owners of a 4 game winning streak that includes wins vs Butler, vs Xavier, @ Creighton, and vs Marquette. In case you hadn’t noticed, those are the projected 2-5 seeds in the BET. Ed Cooley, the second best coach in the Big East in my opinion (although Chris Holtmann and is right there this year), has his team playing their best basketball down the stretch as they try to snag a spot in the NCAA tournament.
While they might not have to run the table to make the dance, they’ll probably have to win a game or two, and that could get them to the finals to face Nova. In their last meeting, the Friars had cut Nova’s lead to 2 in the final minutes before the Cats were able to battle back for the victory. I’m not saying that I think Villanova would lose to Providence, but I am saying that they’re not a team I’d choose to face in the finals the way they’re playing right now.
What are your predictions for the Big East Tournament?