No, this isn't your father's Big East tournament. There's no Syracuse, Pittsburgh or Connecticut. The regular-season conference champion was a familiar face, Villanova, but the conference's second-best team was Creighton.
The times, they have a-changed.
But one thing remains the same—the Big East tournament should be plenty of fun to watch as always, as quite a few teams are playing for their tournament lives. Let's break down the squads with the most to gain this week.
Obviously, Villanova long ago locked up their place in the NCAA tournament. They're the No. 3 team in the country, after all. But for the Wildcats, a No. 1 seed in the East Region is within their grasp. In fact, they'll virtually be guaranteed a No. 1 seed if they win the Big East tournament.
And you have to think they'll earn a No. 1 seed even if they make the final, though finally beating Creighton this year would certainly look good for the resume.
Of course, if you ask Jay Wright, the Wildcats don't care where they end up. "We don't care if we're a first seed or a second seed," he said, via Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com. "There's good things about being in the East and there's good things about going away. We really don't care."
He may not care, but that No. 1 seed in the East Region would go a long way for this team. Expect the Wildcats to take the Big East tournament very, very seriously.
The Bubble Teams
The Big East might as well be renamed the Bubble East this year, as only Villanova and Creighton are stone-cold locks to reach the NCAA tournament. Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com breaks down what's at stake for a number of teams on the bubble:
Xavier could remove all doubts about its postseason destination with a win over Marquette in Thursday’s quarterfinals. There wouldn’t be any concerns about Chris Mack’s Musketeers if they topped Creighton for the second time this season in the semifinals Friday.
Xavier isn't the only nervous team in this mix, though.
St. John’s, Providence and Georgetown are on the bubble, too. All three are ranked in the 50s of the RPI. St. John’s is 1-7 against the RPI’s top 50 teams. Georgetown is 5-6 and Providence is 2-6. Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup between St. John’s and Providence could be a win-or-go-to-the-NIT game.
Xavier is just a win away from reaching the dance. Providence or St. John's would rightly feel confident should they come away with two wins, though one win could be enough for either. Georgetown probably needs to reach the final to sneak their way in. Remember, they played the nation's ninth most-difficult schedule this year.
To do so, they'll have to get past DePaul and Creighton in the quarterfinals. Do that, and they'd likely be facing Xavier in the semifinals. If they added wins over Creighton and Xavier to their resume—and reached 20 wins for the season in the process—it would be really, really hard to keep Georgetown out of the tournament given the competition they faced.
Wins over Kansas State, VCU and Michigan State and two wins over Xavier and Creighton this season would be impossible to ignore. So the Hoyas better get hot.
And Marquette likely has to win the entire thing to get in, though reaching the final would certainly put them firmly in the bubble mix. It's a disappointing place for a team with high expectations coming into the season, but they could certainly make things interesting this week.