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2023 Big East Tournament opening round preview, analysis, odds

Here’s a look at the three opening round games to tip-off Big East Tournament week.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Villanova Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since realignment, Villanova will have to play its way to the quarterfinals, starting out in the opening round as the No. 6 seed on Wednesday. Here’s a look at the Wildcats’ game and the other two on deck.

No. 8 St. John’s (17-14) vs. No. 9 Butler (14-17)

When: 3 p.m. ET
Key players for St. John’s: #0 Posh Alexander (6-0, 200) Jr., G; #5 Dylan Addae-Wusu (6-4, 230) Jr., G; #11 Joel Soriano (6-11, 260) Sr., C; #23 David Jones (6-6, 210) Jr., F
Key players for Butler: #3 Chuck Harris (6-2, 200) Jr., G; #13 Jayden Taylor (6-4, 195) So., G; #15 Manny Bates (6-11, 240) Sr., C; #41 Simas Lukosius (6-7, 225) So., G
2022-23 season series: 1-1 series split

  • St. John’s defeated Butler at home, 77-61, on Jan. 10
  • Butler defeated St. John’s at home, 68-66, on Feb. 7

There are plenty of different matchups and things to watch in this Big East Tournament opener — the slow style of Butler versus the in-your-face uptempo Red Storm, the frontcourt battle between Joel Soriano and Manny Bates, and which team is able to put their ups and downs aside and come out victorious.

Both teams are definitely stronger on the defensive end, and it’ll be interesting to see who steps up on the scoring end. The Red Storm and Bulldogs have had inconsistencies offensively, but then there are the days where they are finally able to score or they get in their own way and falter down the stretch.

St. John’s does have the advantage of playing on one of its home courts, while Butler unfortunately hasn’t found a way to bottle up Hinkle Magic to bring with them on the road. The Bulldogs are 4-11 in away or neutral-site games.

Last season, Simos Lukosius introduced himself to the Big East when a then career-high 27-point performance where he caught fire to lead the Bulldogs to an opening round overtime win over Xavier. He won’t be sneaking up on people this time around, but will he get a repeat performance, does someone else step up to the hero, or does St. John’s give its hometown fans something to cheer about?

KenPom predicts: St. John’s wins, 74-68, and is a 72% favorite
Vegas says: St. John’s is a 5.5-point favorite, per DraftKings Sportsbook
My prediction: St. John’s over Butler

No. 7 Seton Hall (17-14) vs. No. 10 DePaul (9-22)

When: 5:30 p.m. ET
Key players for Seton Hall: #2 Al-Amir Dawes (6-2, 180) Sr., G; #4 Tyrese Samuel (6-10, 235) Sr., F; #13 KC Ndefo (6-7, 206) Sr., F; #14 Dre Davis (6-6, 212) Jr., G
Key players for DePaul: #1 Javan Johnson (6-6, 198) Sr., F; #2 Umoja Gibson (6-1, 173) Sr., G; #11 Eral Penn (6-6, 201) Sr., F; #21 Da’Sean Nelson (6-8, 205) Jr., F
2022-23 season series: Seton Hall swept DePaul

  • Seton Hall beat DePaul on the road, 71-67, on Jan. 14
  • Seton Hall beat DePaul at home, 69-64, on Feb. 5

Kadary Richmond’s status (back) might be the biggest question for Seton Hall entering Wednesday night’s matchup, but there’s no doubt which team will be heading into Madison Square Garden with more momentum. The Pirates are coming in after a massive rout of Providence, at the AMP, to end the regular season and break a three-game losing streak.

Richmond hasn’t played since Feb. 18, but he hasn’t been much of an an x-factor against DePaul, shooting a combined 3-of-19 (15.7%) on the floor. However, if Richmond doesn’t play, that’ll be one less player for the Blue Demons to worry about.

Dre Davis has stepped up in Richmond’s absence. After dealing with his own setbacks, he recently had a career-high 24 points in the win over Providence.

DePaul is limping into the postseason with a 12-game losing streak, and plenty of those losses were self-inflicted, while other were lopsided defeats. The Blue Demons have had their moments though, beating the likes of Xavier and Villanova, but they haven’t won since then.

DePaul will hope the third time is the charm against Seton Hall, and while both of their regular season games came down to a two-possession margin, it’s unlikely the Pirates slip up on a bigger stage.

KenPom predicts: Seton Hall wins, 73-66, and is a 75% favorite
Vegas says: Seton Hall is a 5.5-point favorite, per DraftKings Sportsbook
My prediction: Seton Hall over DePaul

No. 6 Villanova (16-15) vs. No. 11 Georgetown (7-24)

When: 8 p.m. ET
Key players for Villanova: #5 Justin Moore (6-4, 210) Sr., G; #14 Caleb Daniels (6-4, 210) Sr., G; #22 Cam Whitmore (6-7, 232) Fr., F; #34 Brandon Slater (6-8, 220) Sr., F; #43 Eric Dixon (6-8, 255) Jr., F
Key players for Georgetown: #0 Brandon Murray (6-5, 225) So., G; #1 Primo Spears (6-3, 185) So., G; #5 Jay Heath (6-3, 200) Jr., G; #34 Qudus Wahab (6-11, 245) Sr., F
2022-23 season series: Villanova swept Georgetown

  • Villanova beat Georgetown on the road, 73-57, on Jan. 4
  • Villanova beat Georgetown at home, 77-73, on Jan. 16

If Villanova had to start in the opening round instead of the quarterfinals, it got an ideal matchup to settle in at Madison Square Garden — a rivalry showdown, and the opportunity to potentially put the nail in the coffin of the Patrick Ewing era at Georgetown.

Despite Georgetown’s struggles this season, it had actually played Villanova tough in the two regular season meetings. In the first matchup in D.C., the Hoyas and ‘Cats played a tightly-contested opening half with both teams tied at the break, before Villanova went on a big run after the half to pull away. Then, in the rematch, the ‘Cats held them off and won by four at home.

It was a bit too close for comfort for the ‘Cats, but Justin Moore wasn’t playing back then.

While Villanova’s regular season finale against UConn was disappointing, there’s no doubt that the ‘Cats have improved, winning six of their last eight games and showing overall growth as a team in this late-season stretch.

If there was a time to lose, it was definitely against the Huskies, before it was do-or-die time. The ‘Cats should bounce back from that recent loss and begin their uphill climb.

KenPom predicts: Villanova wins, 77-66, and is an 83% favorite
Vegas says: Villanova is a 12-point favorite, per DraftKings Sportsbook
My prediction: Villanova over Georgetown