The 2014 Big East tournament will have a new look. Though the tournament remains at Madison Square Garden, there are now just 10 teams participating, with a blend of new and old faces after conference realignment.
Nevertheless, the stakes remain as high as in years past. The new Big East is not the same basketball powerhouse, as Joe Lunardi predicts the conference to receive just three berths in his latest bracketology projection.
However, there are multiple teams that could expand that number with a deep conference tourney run. For those who want to catch all the bubble drama, check out the bracket and full TV information below:
|Big East Tournament TV Schedule|
|Game No.||Teams||Date||Time (ET)||TV Info|
|1||No. 8 Seton Hall vs. No. 9 Butler||Wed., March 12||7 pm||Fox Sports 1|
|2||No. 7 Georgetown vs. No. 10 DePaul||Wed., March 12||9:30 pm||Fox Sports 1|
|3||No. 1 Villanova vs. G1 Winner||Thu., March 13||12 pm||Fox Sports 1|
|4||No. 4 Providence vs. No. 5 St. John's||Thu., March 13||2:30 pm||Fox Sports 1|
|5||No. 2 Creighton vs. G2 Winner||Thu., March 13||7 pm||Fox Sports 1|
|6||No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 6 Marquette||Thu., March 13||9:30 pm||Fox Sports 1|
|7||G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner||Fri., March 14||7 pm||Fox Sports 1|
|8||G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner||Fri., March 14||9:30 pm||Fox Sports 1|
|9||G7 Winner vs. G8 Winner||Sat., March 15||8:30 pm||Fox Sports 1|
So what's at stake for the teams involved, and which players should fans keep an eye on? Here are a few key storylines to keep in mind for the first rendition of the new Big East tournament.
A quartet of teams will be playing for their at-large lives next week: Xavier, Providence, Georgetown and St. John's.
Of those four, the Xavier Musketeers are undoubtedly in the best shape. They are not a lock, with bad losses to Seton Hall (twice) and USC, but they do possess a pair of signature wins over Cincinnati and Creighton. Coupled with a solid RPI and strength of schedule, that should push Xavier into the NCAA tournament, so long as it takes care of business against Marquette.
You'll notice above that Providence and St. John's are scheduled to play in the first round. Both teams are on the very fringes of the bubble, meaning that their contest is likely a de facto tournament-elimination game:
Georgetown is the most intriguing team. The Hoyas have played a tough schedule, and with wins over Creighton, Michigan State, VCU and Kansas State, they have a handful of excellent resume-boosting wins.
Yet Georgetown is just 17-13 overall, with an 8-10 conference record. It has bad losses to Seton Hall (twice), Marquette (twice) and Northeastern. A first-round win over DePaul will do nothing for the Hoyas, meaning that they will likely need to upset Creighton again to truly boost themselves into serious tournament consideration.
Doug McDermott became the eighth player in Division I history to breach the 3,000-point barrier, and the senior forward is arguably the favorite for the Wooden Award. The two-time All-American has averaged 26.5 points per game and has catalyzed the Bluejays to the country's most efficient offense, per KenPom.com.
While McDermott stands out as the clear star on the conference's second-seeded team, top-seeded Villanova has emerged as a championship contender through a more balanced approach.
Along with Florida and Louisville, the Wildcats are the only team to rank in the top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Moreover, four players average double-digit scoring for Villanova, and eight players play at least 15 minutes per game.
The trio of James Bell, Darrun Hilliard II and JayVaughn Pinkston should become household names if the Wildcats make a deep run as expected. As Terry Toohey of The Times Herald illustrates, their chemistry and quiet confidence have helped Villanova usurp modest preseason expectations:
It was a remarkable finish to a season that began with little fanfare. In October, Villanova was picked to finish fourth in the Big East in a preseason poll of the conference coaches. Five months later, Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm and all the other bracketology experts have the Wildcats as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Wright, Hilliard and Bell chalked it all up to chemistry.
“We just like each other,” Hilliard said. “We’re really like brothers. We go to each other’s houses in the summertime, and love being around one another. It’s nothing special. We just enjoy being with each other and that translates on the court.”
For now, Lunardi has Nova as the fourth No. 1 seed following Kansas' loss to West Virginia. The Wildcats do not have a player capable of influencing a game like McDermott, but their committee approach helped them edge Creighton in the regular-season conference standings.
Now, the question is if the Wildcats can use that same approach to take down McDermott and Creighton in the postseason.
The Wildcats and Bluejays stand out as the clear-cut top teams in the Big East, and anything besides a Villanova-Creighton final will be a significant upset. Creighton dominated both regular-season meetings, a 96-68 romp in Philadelphia in which the Bluejays shot an astounding 21-of-35 from three-point range and a 101-80 victory in Nebraska.
Both those games played to Creighton's style; in fact, the Wildcats have not won a game in which the opponent scored more than 75 points in regulation since Nov. 27 against lowly USC. According to KenPom.com, the Wildcats play at the 149th-fastest pace in the country, so imposing a halfcourt style is a must.
Villanova may be better equipped to inflict damage in the NCAA tournament, given their balance and veteran core. Still, it's hard to ignore that Creighton has handed Nova two of its three losses, and in utterly dominating fashion. Thus, look for the Bluejays to tame the Wildcats for the third time in the tournament final.