Big East Basketball: How Each of the League's 5 Bubble Teams Can Go Dancing
The NCAA tournament selection show takes place in less than a month, falling on Sunday, March 16, this year. Just three years ago, the Big East Conference sent a record 11 teams out of its then 16 to the Big Dance.
After conference realignments, the new Big East is a basketball-only 10-team league. Based on current projections, there are two locks for the NCAA tournament in Creighton and Villanova, and three teams with no tournament hope in Seton Hall, Butler and DePaul. The remaining five teams that occupy the middle of the league are in consideration for the field of 68.
Based on Joe Lunardi's current projections, Creighton and Villanova are both slotted as No. 3 seeds, Xavier as a 10th seed, Providence as an 11th and finally St. John's as a 12th, all taking part in the opening-round battle in Dayton, Ohio. This leaves only Georgetown and Marquette, both on the outside of the bubble looking in, with work left to do.
For the purposes of this article, each team is projected to win its remaining home games and win on the road against the league's bottom feeders. This scenario would give each team a realistic chance to make the tournament field on Selection Sunday, though it's projected that five, not seven, Big East squads will hear their names called that afternoon.
Current Record: 17-8 (7-5)
Feb. 19 vs. DePaul W
Feb. 22 @ Georgetown L
Feb. 25 @ St. John's L
March 1 vs. Creighton W
March 3 @ Seton Hall W
March 6 vs. Villanova W
Final Record: 21-10 (11-7)
The Musketeers have as sure of a win as you can get next against the Cleveland Melvin-less DePaul Blue Demons. Xavier then plays a pair of desperate bubble teams on the road, before hosting the league's top teams, with a visit to Seton Hall sandwiched in between.
Xavier has actually lost to Seton Hall already, at home, though the Pirates have surprisingly played better on the road. Plenty of scenarios could play out given this schedule, and at the moment, Xavier is safely in the field. A win at Marquette on Saturday could have solidified the Musketeers' resume once and for all. All three of Xavier's nonconference losses took place at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Marquette Golden Eagles
Current Record: 15-10 (7-5)
Feb. 19 vs. Creighton W
Feb. 22 @ DePaul W
Feb. 27 vs. Georgetown W
March 2 @ Villanova L
March 4 @ Providence L
March 8 vs. St. John's W
Final Record: 19-12 (11-7)
Buzz Williams' squad matches up with its polar opposite this Wednesday in Milwaukee. Creighton is a high-scoring, three-point shooting team, while the Golden Eagles win by snagging loose balls, playing a deep bench and pounding the ball inside.
After a short trip to DePaul, Marquette faces a Hoyas team that it beat 80-72 in Washington, D.C., last month in overtime. After trips to Villanova and Providence, Marquette will honor their seniors in a must-win game against a St. John's team that rolled them 74-59 on Feb. 1 at Madison Square Garden.
Marquette played an extremely tough nonconference slate and, although it remained competitive in each contest, did not pick up a signature win against the likes of Ohio State, Wisconsin, New Mexico or San Diego State.
St. John's Red Storm
Current Record: 17-9 (7-6)
Feb. 18 vs. Butler W
Feb. 22 @ Villanova L
Feb. 25 vs. Xavier W
March 2 vs. DePaul W
March 8 @ Marquette L
Final Record: 20-11 (10-8)
The Red Storm next host the struggling Butler Bulldogs, with a huge advantage in the athleticism category. Steve Lavin's bunch then travels to Philadelphia to play 'Nova, where the Wildcats have lost only once this season, a 96-68 blowout loss in which Creighton shot the lights out.
The Johnnies then most notch a pair of home victories before closing their season against Marquette for the second straight season. Last year, Vander Blue's game-winning layup at St. John's gave Marquette a share of the Big East crown. This young ballclub would love to spoil a senior day for a veteran Golden Eagles team, though I don't foresee MU's Jamil Wilson or Davante Gardner allowing that to happen.
Current Record: 15-10 (6-7)
Feb. 20 @ Seton Hall W
Feb. 22 vs. Xavier W
Feb. 27 @ Marquette L
March 4 vs. Creighton W
March 8 @ Villanova L
Final Record: 18-12 (9-9)
The St. John's-Geogetown game on Sunday evening almost seemed like a play-in game. After falling behind big early on, the Hoyas made a late push only to give the game right back, losing 82-60. The absence of Joshua Smith has certainly been a blow, as the team now lacks a true inside scorer.
Georgetown will need to find a win on the road while holding home court against the likes of Xavier and Creighton. The Hoyas lost three nonconference games, one of which came at the hands of Northeastern, though they recently beat Michigan State 64-60 in a non-league matchup.
Current Record: 17-9 (7-6)
Feb. 18 vs. Villanova W
Feb. 23 @ Butler W
Feb. 28 @ Seton Hall W
March 4 vs. Marquette W
March 8 @ Creighton L
Final Record: 21-10 (11-7)
Providence has lost three of its last four games and will need to get back to its winning ways soon. While winning at both Butler and Seton Hall won't be easy tasks, an NCAA tournament hopeful cannot afford to drop a bad loss at this point in the season.
The Providence-Marquette game on March 4 should be a good one. The Golden Eagles defeated the Friars 61-50 last month in an ugly ballgame. Should Marquette, Providence and Xavier all tie in the league standings with splits against each other, one of many tiebreakers will determine how the Big East tournament bracket shakes out, which I've determined and provided on the final slide.
Big East Tournament
Tuesday, March 12: Seton Hall over Butler, Georgetown over DePaul
Wednesday, March 13: Villanova over Seton Hall, Marquette over Xavier, Providence over St. John's, Creighton over Georgetown
Friday, March 14: Villanova over Marquette, Creighton over Providence
Saturday, March 15: Villanova over Creighton
|6. St. John's||10-8||20-12|
|8. Seton Hall||5-13||15-18|
Given a Big East tournament where there are no upsets (very unlikely), above is the final standings post-Big East tourney. In this scenario, I believe the impressive conference records and semifinal appearances would be enough to get both Marquette and Providence into the tournament field. Xavier also gets into the Big Dance, while St. John's and Georgetown fall just short and must settle for the NIT.