Today’s the big day! 10 VU Hoops staff members shared their thoughts, offered a few predictions, and answered some questions. Here are their answers.
Before we get to the tournament, we have a couple housekeeping things to attend to in regards to some individual awards coming out later today. Who is your Big East Player of the Year?
Ryan Bowman: Markus Howard - I mean come on, averaged 25 ppg in Big East play and averaged almost 35 points per game in Marquette’s 5 matchups against ranked opponents.
Jack Brooks: I think most people are going to answer Markus Howard, so I’m going to shout out Jessie Govan from Georgetown. He’s been the senior leader of a resurgent Georgetown team and is the premiere big in the conference. His physical play and his high level on conditioning allows Georgetown to play at a breakneck pace while not sacrificing the boards or defense, and his shooting makes him practically unguardable when he’s on.
David Cassilo: Myles Powell, Seton Hall
Jake Gofman: Has to be Marcus Howard, even with the way the season ended.
Jesse Hoopes: Markus Howard, Marquette
Mike Keeley: Markus Howard, Marquette
Chris Lane: Markus Howard, Marquette
Eugene Rapay: Sure, Marquette took a bit of a dive at the end, but Markus Howard has been the catalyst for the Golden Eagles’ success this year. He’s the leading scorer in the Big East, and top-10 in the country.
Brendan Reilly: Markus Howard, Marquette. As much as I love Booth and Paschall, Howard has had an exceptional year. Even with the recent struggles Marquette’s had, Howard has been by far the biggest factor in his or any other team’s success.
Billy Vinci: Markus Howard- I think this one goes without saying. Despite the rough patch Marquette hit to end the year Howard has been the best player. 53 against Creighton? Tough to beat.
(For the record, that’s eight votes for Howard, and one apiece for Govan and Powell.)
How about Big East Coach of the Year?
Ryan Bowman: Kevin Willard. Losing Rodriguez, Sanogo, Carrington, and Delgado was a huge loss for the Pirates but their youngsters were able to step up and lead the Pirates to a solid year that will (likely) end in a tournament bid.
Jack Brooks: Almost every coach this year in the conference has done a great job, but I think Kevin Willard has been a hair ahead of the pack. Seton Hall lost their most accomplished class ever to graduation and have wins over Villanova, Marquette, Kentucky, and Maryland. Absolutely incredible job by him, and I’d also like to shout out Travis Steele in his first year as head coach for Xavier, being a bubble team despite losing their coach and almost their entire core is phenomenal.
David Cassilo: Patrick Ewing, Georgetown
Jake Gofman: In a year where no one was particularly impressive, Greg McDermott did a good job with a Creighton team expected to finish ninth.
Jesse Hoopes: Chris Mullin, St. John’s
Mike Keeley: Jay Wright, Villanova
Chris Lane: Patrick Ewing, Georgetown
Eugene Rapay: I would say Wojo—up until Marquette let the regular season title slip out of its hands gradually. There’s a strong case for Jay Wright, but I’m feeling Kevin Willard. He’s taking a team that was supposed to go nowhere in the Big East this season to not only being a No. 3-seed, but most likely to the NCAA Tournament. The Pirates have some really impressive non-con wins, there were a couple losing stretches in conference play, but the Pirates have been surprisingly better than expected and he deserves some credit.
Brendan Reilly: Jay Wright, Villanova. I don’t like the idea of handing this award out to anyone who couldn’t do better than .500 in Big East play, so it’s Jay or Wojo. They both were expected to end among the top of the league despite having young teams. But at the end of the day Wright is the one with the Championship.
Billy Vinci: Greg McDermott - You could go about 6 different ways with this one and I’d be fine with all of them. The rough way Villanova and Marquette ended the season makes Jay Wright and Wojo tougher to pick, it’s not like those rosters are devoid of talent. So, I’ll go with McDermott, who had to deal with some tough turnover after losing Foster and Khryi Thomas, plus Jacob Epperson to injury this season. The strong end to Big East play is enough for me.
(For the record: Three say Willard, two votes apiece for Wright, McDermott, and Ewing, and one for Mullin.)
Who do you have for Big East Freshman of the Year?
Ryan Bowman: Kills me to say it but Mac McClung. He came through when the Hoyas needed him in upset wins over ‘Nova and Marquette and performed pretty consistently all season.
Jack Brooks: Marcus Zegarowski has been a godsend for Creighton, and has played a rock solid role off the bench after the team lost Khyri Thomas and Marcus Foster. He’d be my pick, with either member of the Georgetown backcourt or Saddiq Bey finishing in a close second.
David Cassilo: James Akinjo, Georgetown
Jake Gofman: I could see this going many ways and none of them are particularly satisfying. Bey, Leblanc and Zegarowski all produced more efficiently than Akinjo and McClung, but the Hoya duo had significantly more responsibility. Saw the trophy in half and give the pieces to the G’town backcourt, no one deserves a full one anyway.
Jesse Hoopes: Saddiq Bey, Villanova
Mike Keeley: James Akinjo, Georgetown
Chris Lane: James Akinjo, Georgetown
Eugene Rapay: I dislike “co-player of the year” recipients, because I feel that’s a cop-out, but I really think—and wouldn’t be surprised—if the vote resulted in a tie with Georgetown frosh James Akinjo and Mac McClung splitting the honors. However, if I had to pick one, probably Akinjo. Once he started adjusting to the college game, he minimized mistakes and turnovers and became a big play freshman.
Brendan Reilly: James Akinjo, Georgetown. Akinjo has been better than advertised for the Hoyas. He shot over 40% from three in Big East play, leads the conference in assists, and can get to the line and execute at a high level. He more than anyone else is the reason Georgetown has a bright future.
Billy Vinci: James Akinjo- He’s just been really, really solid. He’s had freshman moments and struggled with turnovers but he’s not someone Villanova will look forward to facing the next 3 years.
(Seven say Akinjo, two halves means one whole vote for McClung, one full vote each for Zegarowski and Bey.)
Now, let’s get to the Big East Tournament. The conference has a lot of parity this year, although ‘Nova and Marquette have separated themselves from the pack. Is this the year where we finally see No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the final?
Chris Lane and Brendan Reilly both believe that this is the year!
Brendan added this: ‘Nova and Marquette have been playing sub-par down the stretch while others like Seton Hall and Xavier are surging. The tournament format favors the team that’s playing the best more than IS the best, so the top two seeds will need to have a serious turn around if they want to meet in the finals. That said, I think it’s going to happen.
The rest of the pack said we will not see No. 1 vs. No. 2. Here are some of their thoughts.
Ryan Bowman: No. The Big East could not figure itself out this year at all so seeds are meaningless this tournament.
Jack Brooks: I’d say it’s much more likely to see a final without either of them than seeing both of them. If I had to pick one to lose (bias aside), Marquette has a much tougher slate ahead of them than Villanova, and have already lost twice to their likely second round opponent St. John’s, with Seton Hall or Georgetown lurking in the next round, both of whom beat them within the last week.
Jake Gofman: Lol nope.
Billy Vinci: I’ll say no, mostly because of the way both teams finished the season.
It’s been a wild regular season, which team do you see unexpectedly make some noise. Who’s a dark horse that can steal the show?
Ryan Bowman: St. John’s. They’re out for revenge on the Big East after starting the season so well and already beat Marquette twice in the regular season. Third time is the charm?
Jack Brooks: The winner of Georgetown/Seton Hall is going to make the final. Both teams are extremely well coached, with an established star (Govan/Powell) surrounded by a young, electric supporting cast (Akinjo and McClung, Cale and Mamukelashvili). That game is going to be tight, but the winner has a very good chance of clinching an autobid.
David Cassilo: St. John’s
Jake Gofman: Max Strus and the Depaul gang make a run! (to the semis)
Jesse Hoopes: Georgetown
Mike Keeley: Georgetown
Chris Lane: DePaul
Eugene Rapay: Creighton and/or St. John’s. Bluejays are hot, and they have the firepower to keep up or overtake anyone. St. John’s is a complete wildcard, but when things are going well, the Red Storm is amazing.
Brendan Reilly: There are certainly a few candidates. Georgetown has the talent, but they may still be a year away. Seton Hall is the hottest team in the conference right now, and have the league’s leading scorer. But if we’re talking true dark horse, it’s gotta be a team that’s playing on Wednesday. If that’s the case, give me St. John’s to finally play like they have a home court advantage.
Billy Vinci: Creighton
Which Big East bubble team NEEDS a solid tournament run to hopefully keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive? Or is it already a done deal?
Ryan Bowman: Georgetown. I don’t know if a win over Seton Hall is enough to have them solidly in the tournament, especially with so many mid-majors vying for a spot. They’d need to beat Seton Hall and their next opponent to be comfortably in. If Creighton beats Xavier I think they will sneak in on Selection Sunday.
Jack Brooks: Villanova and Marquette are locks, as is Seton Hall barring a large number of bid thieves. St John’s is likely in if they beat DePaul, Creighton is likely in if they can make the final, and Georgetown and Xavier would be potential First Four teams if they make the final. Pretty much everything is still up in the air.
David Cassilo: Georgetown
Jake Gofman: I’m fairly certain every Big East team is on the bubble this year, so this is tough. Georgetown is probably on the outside looking in, but if they beat Seton Hall and Marquette to advance to the BE Championship they’d likely make the field.
Jesse Hoopes: Georgetown
Mike Keeley: Georgetown
Chris Lane: Creighton
Eugene Rapay: Georgetown, definitely. St. John’s can use a win for good measure.
Brendan Reilly: Creighton and Georgetown seem to be the only teams that could play their way into the tournament without a BET Title. They would likely both need to make the championship game, and they’d have to defeat Villanova or Marquette along the way to build their resume enough to be safely in the field. The rest of the hopefuls will need to win out to make the big dance.
Billy Vinci: Any team besides Villanova or Marquette is the answer. Seton Hall is probably in with a loss Thursday but all of Creighton, St. John’s, Georgetown, Xavier and Butler need to make noise. And yes, that’s half of the conference and why the Big East will only get 3 or 4 in this year.
Which teams will make it to the semifinals on Friday Night, and who’s winning it all?
Ryan Bowman: Villanova, Creighton, SJU, Georgetown. I have Villanova over Georgetown in the finals.
Jack Brooks: Villanova beats Creighton, and Georgetown beats St. John’s in the semis. Then, Georgetown steals a bid to win the Big East tourney. Literally anyone could win this tournament and it wouldn’t surprise me except maybe DePaul, and even they have Strus and Cain who could catch fire for a weekend.
David Cassilo: Villanova, Creighton, St. John’s, Seton Hall. Nova over Hall.
Jake Gofman: Villanova and Creighton in top half and Depaul and Georgetown in the bottom. Depaul and Georgetown isn’t the matchup we want. but it’s the one we deserve.
Villanova wins it all.
Jesse Hoopes: Nova vs. Georgetown final, Nova wins
Mike Keeley: Villanova vs Creighton + St John’s vs Georgetown -> Villanova wins it all
Chris Lane: Villanova, Creighton, Marquette, Georgetown
Eugene Rapay: Semis—Villanova over Creighton, and Seton Hall over Marquette. Pirates stun the ‘Cats.
Brendan Reilly: Villanova will defeat Creighton and Marquette will defeat Georgetown. In the final, Villanova will win their 3rd consecutive Big East Tournament.
Billy Vinci: I’ll go with Villanova vs. Creighton and Marquette vs. Georgetown Friday night, with Villanova and Georgetown for the title and the Hoyas winning it all and returning to the tournament.