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Updating The Big East Regular Season Championship Race

With the window for rescheduling games closing, how will canceled games effect this year’s Big East Championship race?

Butler v Villanova Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Happy Tuesday Nova Nation! After dropping their first game of Big East play, the Villanova Wildcats have rattled off six consecutive wins to put them back atop the conference standings. Nova is one of just two teams left in the conference with just one loss, the other being the Providence Friars. Providence is coming off a COVID pause that postponed three games against some of the leagues toughest competition. So for now, league standings are best determined by Win %, as you can see here.

Big East Standings Through Jan. 17th, 2022

Team BE Record Win %
Team BE Record Win %
Villanova 6-1 0.857
Providence 4-1 0.800
Xavier 3-2 0.600
Marquette 4-3 0.571
Uconn 2-2 0.500
Creighton 2-2 0.500
St. John's 2-2 0.500
Butler 2-3 0.400
Seton Hall 2-4 0.333
DePaul 1-5 0.167
Georgetown 0-3 0.000

The Rescheduling Rules

Early in the Big East season, the conference decided to do away with forfeits due to the sheer number of games being effected. Instead, the league said they would do their best to reschedule games that needed to be postponed. They also put some rules around when games would be postponed, and when they could be rescheduled:

  • Games will only be postponed if fewer than 7 scholarship players and 1 coach are available
  • A team can’t have more than three games scheduled in a week
  • A team can’t play three games in a week in back to back weeks
  • No team will play three games in the final week of the regular season (2/28 - 3/6)
  • Any game that cannot be rescheduled will be counted as “no contest”, and won’t be counted towards a team’s regular season record.

As of writing this on Monday evening, all Big East teams are out of COVID pauses. So far the Big East has postponed 13 games, and 8 of them have already been rescheduled. However, the rules laid out above are already making rescheduling in the second half of the regular season difficult. In fact, one of the five unscheduled games (Xavier at Georgetown) will not be able to be rescheduled without breaking or changing these rules.

The below chart shows the remaining regular season schedule as it stands today. Green represents weeks when a team can have a game added to their schedule, red means the team is already at their max, and yellow indicates a team is maxed by the “back to back 3 game weeks” rule. I’ve also noted how many remaining postponed games a team has to be rescheduled, the max number of games that could be rescheduled, and if that’s resulted in any canceled games.

Here are a few of my initial takeaways from this breakdown:

  • The Big East didn’t do itself any favors here. They scheduled some of these games almost to the end of the season and didn’t allow themselves the maximum opportunities for makeup games to be added to the schedule.
  • As you can see, Georgetown has no room left in the schedule to make up games. So if the Hoyas hit another COVID pause, or any of their opponents do, those games likely won’t be played.
  • Creighton and St. John’s each have one game to reschedule, and only one available spot to reschedule. That means they’re both in danger of losing any future postponed games as well.

Cancelations Will Be More Common

Regardless of all these rules, it’s the one that I haven’t seen written down officially that may end up causing the most canceled games. We have yet to see the Big East reschedule a team with games on back to back nights. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting they should. Early season and conference tournament play is really the only time that happens, and there isn’t travel involved between games in either of those scenarios. Also, it’s likely only one of the teams would be playing a back to back, making this even more of an unfair scenario. That said, it also drastically cuts down the number of available dates for a team looking to reschedule.

Take Providence for example. Per our chart above they can still reschedule all three of their postponed games and have one more to spare. However, when you eliminate all dates that would either break the conferences reschedule rules or cause one of the teams involved to play on back to back dates, then none of those three postponed games can be rescheduled.

What we’re looking at is that in all likelihood we already have four games that will end up as cancelations this season:

  • Providence at Creighton
  • UConn at Providence
  • Providence at Seton Hall
  • Xavier at Georgetown

The only remaining postponed game that does have a chance of being rescheduled is Marquette at St. John’s. Feb. 14th is the only date that meets all the rescheduling rules and doesn’t have either team play on back to back nights. So if there is just one date that works, why hasn’t this been rescheduled yet? The game was postponed on December 29th, nearly three weeks ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if that isn’t a sign that this game won’t be rescheduled, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Right now the best thing the conference can hope for is that no other teams go on pause. But given the state of the world today, I think that’s wishful thinking. For now though, let’s just assume that every game left on the schedule gets played to figure out how all of this is going to effect the Big East race.

Uneven Schedules Will Decide The Conference

We’re almost certainly headed for a repeat of the 2020-2021 season where the conference champion was determined by Win % because of uneven schedules. That year, Villanova won the tile despite have three fewer wins and playing five fewer games than second place Creighton. It wasn’t a huge controversy as most Big East fans saw Villanova as the better team, but don’t tell that to the Bluejays.

Now Villanova may be facing a similar situation that Creighton did. While the Wildcats currently lead in Win %, the only other team with just one loss is Providence. That’s a Providence team that just may have gotten to skip over three of their toughest games of the season due to their latest COVID pause (at Creighton, vs UConn, at Seton Hall). Playing fewer games, especially against an easier slate, could be advantageous for the Friars.

So if Providence ends up playing just 17 games to Villanova’s 20, and both teams finish with the same number of losses, the Wildcats would still get the edge. But let’s say they finish with one fewer loss than Villanova. For simplicity sake, let’s say the teams split their home and home series, and Villanova loses at UConn (they’re most likely loss per KenPom). That would put Villanova at 17-3 (.850) and Providence at 15-2 (.882), giving the Friars the Big East Regular Season Title.

And Providence isn’t the only team that will likely end up with fewer games than Villanova. Xavier, UConn, and Creighton (all sitting at just two losses on the season) will each play at least one fewer game than the Wildcats the way things are trending. Even Marquette or Seton Hall (three and four losses respectively) could be in play if Nova goes through a rough stretch.

The good news for Wildcat fans is that Villanova is very much in control of its own destiny. With the exception of Xavier, who Nova already swept, every team I mentioned is still on the schedule. Per KenPom.com, Villanova should be favored in every game they have left in the regular season, and the predictive analytics even have Villanova finishing with the best Win % in the league at 17-3 (.850). Of course, the way this season has gone, who knows what’ll happen next.