Big East Tournament 2021: TV Schedule and Early Bracket PredictionsMarch 2, 2021
Big East Tournament 2021: TV Schedule and Early Bracket Predictions
Traditionally, the men's Big East tournament is one of those events that gives us a few flavors of madness in early March before the NCAA tournament gets kicked off.
That should once again be the case as the 2021 iteration of the league has been marked by parity. There isn't a lot at the top. As is often the case, Villanova has made a strong case as the league's top team. According to Bracket Matrix, the Musketeers are projected to be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, while Creighton is currently on the fourth-seed line.
After that, there's a three-team grouping of UConn, Xavier and Seton Hall that figure to be in the mix for either 11- or 12-seeds. That leaves teams like St. John's, Georgetown and Butler looking to play the role of spoiler and earn invitations to some alternate tournaments to close out the season.
Given Butler and Georgetown's recent wins over Seton Hall, and St. John's boasting the top scorer in the conference, this is a tournament that should produce some high-quality games and surprises along the way.
Here's a look at all you need to know to take in the tournament and see who is ready to make a statement.
Big East Tournament TV Schedule and Bracket Prediction
First Round—March 10
Game 1: No. 8 vs. No. 9, 3 p.m. ET on FS1
Game 2: No. 7 vs. No. 10, 6 p.m. ET on FS1
Game 3: No. 6 vs. No. 11, 9 p.m. ET on FS1
Game 4: No. 1 vs. Game 1 winner, Noon ET on FS1
Game 5: No. 4 vs. No. 5, 3 p.m. ET on FS1
Game 6: No. 2 vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m. ET on FS1
Game 7: No. 3 vs. Game 3 winner, 9 p.m. ET on FS1
Game 8: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m. ET on FS1
Game 9: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 9 p.m. ET on FS1
Game 10: Game 8 winner vs. Game 9 winner; 6:30 p.m. ET on FS1
3. Seton Hall
6. St. John's
The Favorites: Villanova and Creighton
Last year, the race to the top of the conference was a little more competitive. Creighton, Villanova and Seton Hall all finished 13-5 in conference play heading into the tournament before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This season, Villanova has posted the best regular season, but it is far from a lock to win the tournament. It is 15-4 on the season but head into a game against Creighton coming off a loss at Butler.
That opens the road for the Bluejays to come in and steal a regular-season title over the final week of the season. If Greg McDermott's team can beat Villanova then follow it up with a win over Butler, they could wind up owning the No. 1 seed for the second consecutive season.
Villanova is far from infallible. Making the matchup even more interesting this week is that both sides are coming off upset losses. The Wildcats dropped a 73-61 contest at Butler, while the Jays lost 77-69 at Xavier.
Creighton won convincingly in the first meeting. The Jays did an excellent job of taking Jeremiah Robinson-Earl out of his element as he went 3-of-13 from the floor and managed a near-season-low eight points.
They also got a huge performance from Mitch Ballock. He put up 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 6-of-8 from the three-point line. While that's an impressive win and performance, it doesn't seem sustainable that they'll hold Robinson-Earl to that kind of line again while getting that shooting from their backcourt.
The two teams with the best chance to make a run in the NCAA tournament are going to have multiple opportunities to impress the selection committee and prep for a late run in March.
Sleeper to Watch: Butler
The Butler Bulldogs have made it through a tumultuous season, but they aren't necessarily the team you want to see show up on the schedule right now.
Head coach LaVall Jordan has had to navigate a season that has included multiple serious injuries and a slew of canceled games. But the Bulldogs appear to be putting things together at the right time.
Specifically, the team is playing strong defense right now. They are defending the three-point line exceptionally well. As David Woods of the Indianapolis Star noted, the Bulldogs have held opponents to 15-of-91 shooting from beyond the arc in their last four games.
Compounding issues for opponents is they have some firepower from three-point range of their own. Chuck Harris and Bryce Nze are both shooting around 40 percent from distance, and Bo Hodges' return from injury gives them another dangerous shooter.
The three-point line can be the great equalizer come tournament time. Butler's ability to limit opponents from range and get hot on the other end of the floor makes them interesting.
If the bracket shakes out the way it is right now, Butler would draw Georgetown in the Round 1 game and play No. 1 seed Villanova in the second round. That's not something the Wildcats should be looking forward to.
Player to Watch: Sandro Mamukelashvili, F, Seton Hall
Collin Gillespie is the best player on the best team in the Big East, but Sandro Mamukelashvili and Seton Hall will have a bright spotlight on them in this tournament.
The Pirates are backing into the tournament with back-to-back losses to Georgetown and Butler. The loss to Butler showed just how important Mamukelashvili is to the team, though. The 6'11" forward was held to just 4-of-13 shooting from the floor including 3-of-9 from three and 11 points.
They put up just 52 points as a result as the Bulldogs continued their winning ways.
Mamukelashvili is a unique offensive talent. He's capable of handling the ball in the pick-and-roll as well as scoring in the post and has good touch from three-point range. His size and skills make him an interesting NBA draft prospect and a potentially dangerous player in any tournament game.
While he was nearly silent against Butler, he was the lone bright spot in the loss to Georgetown. He put up 22 points and five rebounds with three assists on 9-of-18 shooting from the field.
Seton Hall is ripe for the picking as a team, which would hurt its NCAA tournament status. Mamukelashvili playing up to his potential is one of the things that can ensure that doesn't happen.