The Big East Tournament kicks off tomorrow night in what appears to be the most wide open tournament in recent memory. With 63 teams tied at the top, it’s anyone’s game.
In advance of Villanova's Thursday night tip-off, we thought we would take this opportunity to give you all a run-down on the state of the Big East heading into Wednesday’s action. While 2019-2020 has been an incredibly strong season for the conference, a number of teams are looking to improve their resume for the 2020 NCAA Tournament heading into Selection Sunday. Some teams have work to do, some want to get back on track after stumbling to the finish line, and others are DePaul.
TL;DR: Villanova can potentially improve its seeding, Marquette is in dangerous waters, and Xavier needs a win.
1. Creighton Bluejays
Record: 24-7 (13-5)
Projected NCAA Seed: 2 or 3
KenPom: 12 (AdjO: 3 AdjD: 78)
The Creighton Bluejays, your 2019-2020 co-co-Champions of the Big East of Anaheim, look to be the team to beat in the conference and are hitting their stride with perfect timing. They have the best offense in the league, leading the Big East in Pts/G, Assists, 3P%, FG%, and Offending Kevin Williard. They have three starters shooting over 39% from deep and, to borrow a phrase from their student section, they “let it fly.”
However, Creighton isn’t without its warts. In November, the Bluejays lost by 30 to San Diego State after shooting just 17% from deep. As for conference play, the Bluejays got absolutely boat-raced by St. John’s after shooting just 14% from deep and got crushed by Providence after hitting just 22% from outside. When Creighton isn’t hitting threes, it can get very ugly, very quickly.
As of now, Creighton is likely a 2 or a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Based on recent projections, it appears that the winner of the Big East Tournament (assuming it’s one of Creighton, Villanova, or Seton Hall) could secure a 2-seed.
Player to Watch: Ty-Shon Alexander
2020 Big East Tournament: The Bluejays will kick off their Big East Tournament campaign Thursday at noon against the winner of St. John’s/Georgetown. Creighton lost in the Quarterfinals to Xavier in last year’s tournament.
2. Villanova Wildcats
Record: 24-7 (13-5)
Projected NCAA Seed: 2 or 3
KenPom: 18 (AdjO: 15 AdjD: 36)
While we will have much more on the ‘Cats heading into Thursday’s tilt, we can start by saying that Villanova enters the Big East Tournament with a chance to potentially jump a seed-line.
As of last week, conventional wisdom had the ‘Cats as a solid 3-seed, most likely in the East, which would set them up for a potential regional final at Madison Square Garden. However, Villanova now appears to be in play for a 2-seed (BracketMatrix has us at an average seed of 2.22). As noted above, should the ‘Cats win out, they could potentially secure a 2-seed with Creighton and Seton Hall both nabbing 3-seeds.
The ‘Cats may also have an outside chance at a 1-seed should (1) they win the tournament and (2) a couple other teams lose before Sunday. That’s pretty unbelievable. Someone else can write that panicky article.
Player to Watch: Saddiq Bey
2020 Big East Tournament: The Wildcats will tip-off Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. against the winner of DePaul/Xavier. As we all know, Villanova won the Big East Tournament last year.
3. Seton Hall Pirates
Record: 24-7 (13-5)
Projected NCAA Seed: 3
KenPom: 19 (AdjO: 29 AdjD: 26)
Death, taxes, a late season Seton Hall choke job. The Pirates, still reeling from frittering away two chances to win the Big East regular season title outright, will need to regroup before heading to the Garden this week.
The Pirates are still very, very good. They are a legitimate threat to win the whole thing and, as we know, Myles Powell loves playing at Madison Square Garden. He put up 29 points against St. John’s earlier this year and, in last year’s Big East Tournament championship game against Villanova, dropped 25 points in the loss.
Player to Watch: Myles Powell
2020 Big East Tournament: The Pirates will face Marquette in the late game (9:30 p.m.) on Thursday night. That game may be a long one as it features two teams that can’t close. Ba dum cha. I’m here all week.
4. Providence Friars
Record: 19-12 (12-6)
Projected NCAA Seed: Like, a 7-10. Classic Providence.
KenPom: 41 (AdjO: 76 AdjD: 27)
The Friars, coming off a six-game winning streak that included dubs over Villanova and Seton Hall, have resurrected their season and, as of now, appear headed back to the NCAA tournament. Ed Cooley’s squad missed the dance last year, settling for a first round exit in the NIT, and last won an NCAA Tournament game in in 2016-2017 when they defeated USC in a First Four match-up.
As Villanova knows, the Friars are a strong defensive team that can muck up a game and make it ugly. They are long, athletic, and incredibly strong on the boards. Additionally, their fans are absolutely insane and show up in droves to the BET every year.
The 2018 Big East Tournament game against Providence was one of the craziest Villanova games (and loudest crowds) that I have ever experienced. Providence occasionally “gets up” for Big East Tournament games and, as we have seen, they can bog down a game and beat teams under the rim. Woof.
In the interim, let’s reminisce.
Player to Watch: Alpha Diallo is the obvious choice but I am going to go with Luwane Pipkins
2020 Big East Tournament: The Friars will face the Butler Bulldogs on Thursday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Providence bowed out of last year’s Big East Tournament to Villanova in the quarterfinals.
5. Butler Bulldogs
Record: 16-17 (10-8)
Projected NCAA Seed: 5
KenPom: 25 (AdjO: 25 AdjD: 40)
So, Butler has a little juice. The Bulldogs have won three straight including a thriller against Xavier this past weekend. The Bulldogs are a solid team looking to find some consistent success under LaVall Jordan. They are securely in the fold for an NCAA tournament bid but a good showing in New York could potentially elevate them out of that dreaded 5 vs. 12 match-up. No one wants to be in that.
Also, Kamar Baldwin is a bad man.
Kamar Baldwin just did that. pic.twitter.com/XOZQr1wD5d— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) March 8, 2020
Player to Watch: Kamar Baldwin
2020 Big East Tournament: Butler tips-off against the Providence Friars in Thursday’s 2:30 game. Butler lost to Providence last year in the 8 vs. 9 game.
6. Marquette Golden Eagles
Record: 17-9 (7-7)
Projected NCAA Seed: 10
KenPom: 31 (AdjO: 14 AdjD: 74)
Apologies for the smell but we’ve now gotten to Marquette. At this point, I am not sure if anyone is surprised by Marquette’s late season collapse. Last year, Wojo’s squad lost its final four games of the season before ultimately getting torched by Ja Morant in the NCAA Tournament (we won’t blame them too much for that). This year, the Golden Eagles have lost six of their last seven games and are heading into the Big East Tournament in dangerous “play-in territory.”
As for Wojo, the fans’ patience appears to have completely dissipated. The former Duke assistant has tallied a 151-87 (.581) record in his six years in Milwaukee but has yet to make it to the second weekend. The departure of the Hauser brothers this summer called into question Wojo’s locker room/master plan and, with the likely departure of superstar guard Markus Howard this year, it’s do-or-die time for the Golden Eagles. A decent showing in New York this week could maybe elevate Marquette a seed-line but, as of now, they appear to be heading for a 7/10 match-up against [insert Big 10 school here]. Not ideal.
Player to Watch: Markus Howard
2020 Big East Tournament: Markus Howard and the Golden Eagles will face Myles Powell and the Pirates in appointment television Thursday night. Marquette was bounced by the Pirates last year in a wild semi-final game.
3 ejections on one play— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) March 16, 2019
Things are getting HEATED between Seton Hall and Marquette at the Big East Tournament. pic.twitter.com/kShqDzfa3r
7. Xavier Musketeers
Record: 19-12 (8-10)
Projected NCAA Seed: Bubble, 10-11 if they get in
KenPom: 43 (AdjO: 102 AdjD: 16)
Villanova fans have become somewhat accustomed to battling a strong Xavier team for supremacy in the new Big East. However, the current Musketeers are still trying to find their footing under second year coach Travis Steele. This year, the Muskies are on the bubble heading into the Big East Tournament and, more than anything, need to not-lose-to-DePaul.
Xavier has a NET ranking of 41, which is strong, but is only 3-10 against Quad-1 teams. A win against Butler on Saturday could have potentially secured a bid but, as Kamar Baldwin saw to that, the Muskies will need a strong showing in New York to lock it up. An opening win over DePaul is an absolute must and would set up a Xavier vs. Villanova match-up in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Overall, I think Xavier sneaks in but, should the Wildcats see Xavier this week, Travis Steele’s squad will be desperately playing for some certainty.
Player to Watch: Naji Marshall
2020 Big East Tournament: The Xavier Musketeers will tip-off against DePaul in the late game Wednesday night. The Muskies absolutely need a win to keep their tourney hopes alive. Xavier lost to Villanova in the semis of last year’s tournament.
8. Georgetown Hoyas
Record: 15-16 (5-13)
Projected NCAA Seed: N/A (maybe NIT)
KenPom: 64 (AdjO: 33 AdjD: 127)
The Georgetown Hoyas, sitting 8th in the conference, are nevertheless a team very few want to see in New York this week. The Hoyas erased a 17-point Villanova lead this Saturday and have already picked off Butler and Creighton this season. Despite losing James Akinjo and Josh LeBlanc to transfer and Mac McClung and Omer Yurtseven to injury, Patrick Ewing has led his team to a respectable 15-16 record with inspired performances against the Big East leaders. As Villanova learned on Saturday, the Hoyas do not quit.
There is an outside chance that McClung could suit up for the Big East Tournament but, regardless, the Hoyas will be a tough out as they try to end their season on a high note and grab a postseason bid.
Player to Watch: Jamorko Pickett
2020 Big East Tournament: Georgetown will open against St. John’s on Wednesday night in the tournament’s first game. Georgetown lost in the quarterfinals to Seton Hall last year.
9. St. John’s Red Storm
Record: 16-15 (5-13)
Projected NCAA Seed: N/A (maybe NIT)
KenPom: 71 (AdjO: 99 AdjD: 63)
While the Johnnies are headed in the right direction under first year coach Mike Anderson, 2019-2020 will likely wind down as another forgettable year for St. John’s. The Johnnies missed the NCAA Tournament 3 out of the 4 years under Chris Mullin, with the fourth ending in a First Four loss to Arizona State last year.
This year, St. John’s had some highs, including a win over then-#16 Arizona and a beat down of #10 Creighton. The Johnnies also knocked off West Virginia, a team now ranked #22. In fact, I think it’s fair to say St. John’s played pretty much in line with expectations this year and has had a few nice upsets. The Johnnies never lost to a lower-ranked KenPom team and gave Seton Hall, Butler, and even Villanova a bit of a scare. The Johnnies could prove to be a pesky out on their home floor.
Player to Watch: L.J. Figueroa
2020 Big East Tournament: The Johnnies will face Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas in the tournament’s first game Wednesday night. St. John’s was bounced by Marquette in last year’s quarterfinals.
10. DePaul Blue Demons
Record: 15-16 (3-15)
Projected NCAA Seed: N/A
KenPom: 97 (AdjO: 176 AdjD: 55)
Remember when #RankDePaul was trending? Damn. The Blue Demons started the season 12-1 with wins over Minnesota, Texas Tech, and Iowa...then conference play began. Since then, DePaul has won three basketball games.
There is not much to say about yet another horrific DePaul season. In four years under Dave Leitao, DePaul is 106-116 and finished outside the basement of the Big East just once (shout out to 1-17 St. John’s). DePaul lost in the title game of the CBI last year to South Florida. I bet you didn’t even know that. Classic old Big East match-up. Attendance: 1,876.
DePaul could play spoiler to Xavier, a team needing a win to keep its bubble hopes alive. Xavier has already defeated DePaul twice this season.
Player to Watch: Charlie Moore
2020 Big East Tournament: DePaul will try to ruin Xavier’s season on Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. DePaul was bounced from the same slot last year by the Johnnies.