Big East Tournament 2020: Conference's Top Threats to Outlast Villanova

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 8, 2020

Seton Hall's Myles Powell (13) shoots against Creighton's Ty-Shon Alexander (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Saturday, March 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Nati Harnik/Associated Press

The Big East has produced some of the most exciting games in men's college basketball all season.

That is expected to carry on at Madison Square Garden during the Big East tournament, where the Villanova Wildcats, Seton Hall Pirates and Creighton Bluejays enter as favorites.

The three teams split the regular-season title, with Creighton earning the No. 1 seed off tiebreakers.

Villanova and Seton Hall reside on the same side of the bracket, but Creighton is not out of the clear since it has to play either the Butler Bulldogs or Providence Friars if it advances to the semifinals.

The drama should start on the opening day of the competition, as the Xavier Musketeers attempt to make one more push for an NCAA men's basketball tournament bid as the No. 7 seed. While Xavier could possibly ride a wave of momentum through four rounds, the likeliest winner is one of the top three seeds.

Villanova is the established power with three straight Big East tournament titles, but Seton Hall carries a National Player of the Year candidate in Myles Powell, and Creighton is playing some of the best basketball of any team at the moment.


Big East Tournament Bracket

Rob Anderson @_robanderson

The 2020 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament bracket. All times Eastern. https://t.co/sxxTg8nJvE


Top Threats to Villanova


Nati Harnik/Associated Press

Over the past month, Creighton has emerged not only as one of Villanova's contenders for the Big East crown but also a national contender generating plenty of buzz.

Greg McDermott's team reeled off seven wins in eight contests, including a pair of triumphs over Seton Hall and one each against the Marquette Golden Eagles and Butler Bulldogs. Creighton also split meetings with Villanova and beat a few potential NCAA tournament teams in nonconference action.

Marcus Zegarowski is the the driver of the offense, as he averages 16.1 points, five assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.

If opposing defenses are unable to stop Zegarowski, the Bluejays are likely on the way to a high-scoring performance. Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock complement Zegarowski with their accuracy from beyond the arc for a team that has always been known for its three-point shooting going back to the days of Doug McDermott and Kyle Korver.

The Bluejays split their season series with both Butler and Providence, so getting to the final in New York City will not be easy. But Creighton does have the easier draw since Seton Hall and Villanova would have to play each other in the semifinal.

If Bluejays continue to shoot well from three-point range, they will be a dangerous team in the Big East tournament. Do not be surprised if Zegarowski rises to the level of Powell or Villanova's Collin Gillespie in a potential final showdown.


Seton Hall

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 29: Quincy McKnight #0 of the attempts a layup in the second half against the Marquette Golden Eagles at the Fiserv Forum on February 29, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

A good amount of Seton Hall's success can be linked to Powell, who has 15 20-point performances in his senior campaign.

Powell is the top candidate to take over games by himself at Madison Square Garden, which makes him must-watch television. The Pirates guard will likely be motivated by his 29 combined points against Villanova and Creighton to close out the regular season.

They were not typical performances from Powell, and with the lights shining even brighter, he could marvel with a few standout showings.

But if Powell struggles, Seton Hall can turn to a few other players to make shots to keep the game in its favor. Quincy McKnight averages 11.9 points per game and shoots 41.4 percent from three-point range, while Sandro Mamukelashvili can be a matchup problem in the paint.

Mamukelashvili erupted for 20 points and 10 rebounds in Wednesday's defeat to Villanova and followed that with seven points and 12 boards versus Creighton. If they all play well together, Seton Hall could be the most dangerous team in the competition, and it has a point to prove in New York.

Kevin Willard's team went 1-3 in its past four games versus Top 25 opposition and fell twice to Creighton.

A third matchup with the Bluejays would require beating Villanova, which is something the Pirates are more than capable of doing.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.