Since forming the new conference three years ago, the Big East has done a great job of creating “marathon” days of college hoops action. Typically on New Years Day, the marathon has seen some incredible action and down-to-the-wire battles that prove to the rest of the country that the Big East, is in fact, a power conference. This year, that marathon has moved over to Martin Luther King Jr Day and is essentially given a stage of its own as very few games are being played.
Marquette @ Butler 12/11c Fox Sports 1
The Bulldogs play host to a Marquette team that has won their last two and has catapulted themselves into 5th place. Butler will have the decided advantage overall as Marquette has just 8 scholarship players that are healthy and active. They do, however, have an emerging star in 17-year-old Frosh Markus Howard. Howard has shown a keen ability to find space for himself and his teammates and a natural sense of where they will be. His passing and court vision are impressive for a young player. He will be the “x-factor” for the Golden Eagles as he will have his hands full defensively with another emerging star Kamar Baldwin. Baldwin is averaging 12.4 points over his last 5 games (Butler is 4-1 in that stretch) and has been their leading scorer 3 times in those games.
Prediction: Butler 72 Marquette 63
Creighton @ Xavier 1/12c Fox Sports 1
What a match-up. These two teams are, in my opinion, some of the best in the country, but are currently trending in opposite directions. Creighton has won its last four after a tough loss to Villanova, while Xavier has dropped its last two. It is a crucial game for Xavier, losing would drop them to 3-3 in conference play and 5th place, undoubtedly knocking them out of the Big East title race. Defense will win this game. Xavier needs to find a way to slow down this high-powered Creighton attack led by Mo Watson Jr and Marcus Foster. X will also have their hands full with the most underrated big man in the country, Justin Patton. On the flip side, Creighton is not known for their defensive prowess and has been incredibly vulnerable on that end of the floor. The Jays also struggle mightily on the glass, if Xavier can control the tempo and the boards, they have a very good chance to win this game.
Prediction: Xavier 82 Creighton 80
DePaul @ St. John’s 3:30/2:30c Fox Sports 1
This is the game we have all been waiting for! Not really. But there will be some interest here as St. John’s has already beaten Butler this year. DePaul’s lone conference win was against Providence in spectacular fashion. The story of this game for St. John’s is getting their young guards, specifically Marcus Lovett and Shamorie Ponds going offensively. Consistency will be key for the young Red Storm team if they want to see some results this season. For DePaul, you have got to find more viable scoring options. Eli Cain and Billy Garrett Jr are the only players averaging over 10 points per contest, not ideal. If you want to compete in this conference you need to have more than two legit scoring threats.
Prediction: St. John’s 77 DePaul 62
Seton Hall @ Villanova 5:30/4:30c Fox Sports 1
This is the featured event of the day as these two teams meet for the first time since their epic match-up at Madison Square Garden in the Big East Title game last March. Villanova, in my head, is the best team in the country. They can beat you in so many different ways and have a POY candidate in Josh Hart. Throw in complimentary players like Mikal Bridges, Dante DiVincenzo, Kris Jenkins, and Darryl Reynolds — not to mention the emergence of Jalen Brunson as a top guard — it is very tough to find weaknesses on this team. Seton Hall is coming into this as losers of their last two in pathetic fashion and will be playing this game in a building that they have not win in since 1994. Before you ask, they did win their first Big East title since 1993 last March against this same Nova team, but that was last year. That was a team that was anchored by their defense, which was led by current Brooklyn Net Isaiah Whitehead and shutdown defender Derrick Gordon. The Hall will need a massive game from Angel Delgado, who just set a school record with 10 consecutive double-doubles, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez.
Prediction: Villanova 84 Seton Hall 77
Providence @ Georgetown 8/7c Fox Sports 1
The nightcap features perennial disappointment Georgetown, who currently sits tied for last with DePaul, and a Providence team that should be confident after a nice win over Seton Hall. The Friars will look to their two-headed beast of Kyron Cartwright and Rodney Bullock to carry them to victory. As those two go, so does Providence. Georgetown has a ton of talent, even after the departure of Isaac Copeland. Their biggest issues are confidence and consistency. The Hoyas have won their last two and should be confident coming into this home game. They will need a good night from Rodney Pryor and LJ Peak offensively. The key to the game is the play of Georgetown’s big men, specifically Jessie Govan. Providence cannot match-up with Govan and this is a game JT3 needs him to control down-low.
Prediction: Georgetown 71 Providence 65