Big East Tournament 2014: Underrated Squads That Will Make Noise in NYC

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 1:  Markel Starks #5 and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera #4 of the Georgetown Hoyas cheer on the court during their win over the Michigan State Spartans during the game at Madison Square Garden on February 1, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Nate Shron/Getty Images)
Nate Shron/Getty Images

The madness is nearing as things are about to get hectic in New York on March 12 when the Big East tournament begins. While heavy favorites such as Creighton and Villanova seem locks to run the bracket, there are underrated squads that could unexpectedly shake things up.

With a trip to the tournament the ultimate prize at the end of the festivities in New York, all records go out the window as each team will look to bring its best brand of ball to the court in a do-or-die scenario.

While only 10 teams populate the Big East, some have managed to slip a bit under the radar with the conference so heavily dominated by Creighton and Villanova.


St. John's Red Storm

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

A three-point loss to Villanova on Feb. 22 should tell fans all they need to know about the Red Storm.

St. John's is back after a horrific stretch in early January that saw the team lose five straight, but beneath the surface, that highly cited run saw the Red Storm encounter Xavier, Georgetown and Villanova.

Since then, the Red Storm have a great resume-building win in the form of a 70-65 upset over Creighton on Feb. 9.

With D'Angelo Harrison averaging more than 17 points per game and the Red Storm having one win against the top 50 of the RPI, St. John's has a legitimate shot to make many forget about their 5-9 record against the top 100 with a run to the title game in New York.


Georgetown Hoyas

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Georgetown's precarious flirtation with the tournament bubble is the result of a wildly inconsistent season that has seen the Hoyas, favored to do well in the revamped Big East, struggle to find any semblance of momentum.

Coach John Thompson III recently told the media his team is still in a good position thanks to adjustments, via Joseph White of the Associated Press:

"Right in the middle of the season, you almost have to reinvent yourself," Thompson said Wednesday. "We've had to do it, and we're still in a position where we can play our way into the (NCAA) tournament. But we're doing things much differently now than we were at the start of the year."

Despite being a colossal disappointment, the Hoyas still have quality wins over the likes of Michigan State, VCU and Kansas State. However, as CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello notes, the Hoyas face a huge final test in their last two games of the season:

Moreover, their final two games are vs. Creighton and at Villanova. They need at least one of them to have a chance heading into the Big East tournament. Outside of the aforementioned victories, they have also beaten Xavier and the other Big East bubble teams -- but there are three sub-100 losses.

Regardless of the outcome—although it would be nice to hit the tournament with momentum—Thompson's team is not one to sleep on once things hit "win or go home" mode.


Providence Friars 

Stew Milne/Associated Press

Believe it or not, Providence continues to hang around as a team that could make the tournament outright. CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein concurs:

It is amazing what two straight wins at the end of February will do for any team, but perhaps most impressive is the Friars have continued to get better as the season has worn on—encapsulated by a three-point, double overtime loss to Villanova in mid-February. 

Led by Bryce Cotton, who averages more than 21 points per game, the Friars have the offense to play with any team in the land, not to mention any team in New York. 

While a 19-10 record seems to suggest the Friars are well-known, the conversation about the Big East tournament continues to be about Villanova, Creighton and Xavier. This is just fine for Providence, a team that has played all adversaries in the Big East well and is one of the nation's best when they hit a hot streak.


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