2019 Big East Tournament Preview

Big East Conference

The Big East Tournament is as wide open as it has ever been. For the first time since the (now defunct) Metropolitan Collegiate Athletic Conference’s 1994-1995 season, every single team in a conference finished the regular season with an overall record above .500. This year’s Big East was the first Power Six conference to achieve this feat. It wasn’t the best conference this season, but it was the most competitive. Legitimately every team in the league has a chance to win the tournament title and automatic bid.

According to KenPom, Sam’s Creighton Bluejays and B-Frank’s Seton Hall Pirates have the third and fourth best odds to cut down the nets at MSG, respectively. Whatever happens, college basketball fans are in for a real treat.

On the final day of the regular season we saw Villanova, Marquette, and St. John’s all lose. There are a number of bubble teams that need some wins to get themselves into the tournament and some of these games could be called elimination games. The worst record in the league this year is 7-11, that’s how wide open it is this year.

2018 Champion: Villanova

Image result for big east tournament bracket

Contenders

1-seed Villanova Wildcats 22-9 (13-5)
The narrative that Jay Wright can’t coach in March is dead. They’ve done it before and can do it again. This team stumbled into the outright league title but will be dangerous at Madison Square Garden. The 3-point shot will always be the key for the Wildcats. The two questions that need answering are whether they can they hit their 3’s and if they can’t, can Phil Booth and Eric Paschall get going in the mid-range?

2-seed Marquette Golden Eagles 23-8 (12-6)
They’ve got Markus Howard, but they’re also losers of 4 straight. Turnovers have been their undoing during the current skid. Teams have figured out that forcing the ball to Markus Howard will only get the Golden Eagles so far, but if they hold on to the ball they can play like the top-10 team they were earlier this season. It’s up to the Hausers to shoulder the load that Howard cannot, as Theo John has proven that he cannot be relied upon. Only a sophomore, he struggles with foul trouble and Sacar Anim has really struggled of late. If one or both of the Hausers start hitting shots Marquette is a tough team to contain.

3-seed Seton Hall Pirates 18-12 (9-9)
Myles Powell. Really nothing more needs to be said. Powell is a consensus All-Big East first teamer and has been extraordinary in the Pirates’ biggest games. To win the entire tournament The Hall needs to play the defense they did last week against Marquette and Villanova. And some additional help from the supporting cast would be welcomed as well.

4-seed Xavier Musketeers 17-14 (9-9)
No Chris Mack, no sideways-chinned JP Macura, no Trevon Bliuett, but Xavier still finds themselves a top-4 seed heading to Madison Square Garden. Their win against St. John’s Saturday secured an NCAA best 37th consecutive .500+ conference record. The 4-5 game is the most intriguing of the tournament – it pits the two hottest Big East teams against one another. Xavier had a 5-game win streak of their own recently and have won 6 of 7. It’s essentially a knockout game for Xavier, the Muskies need this one to keep their bubble chances alive and it will take Naji Marshall and good guard play to do it.

5-seed Creighton Bluejays 18-13 (9-9)
Peaking at the right time, the Bluejays own the conference’s longest current win-streak at 5 games. They’ve actually embraced playing defense this season, but are still heavily reliant on the 3-point shot. All Big East Honorable Mention Martin Krampelj is a force to be reckoned with. Ty-Shon Alexander, another All Big East honorable mention, can fill it up as well. Marcus Zegarowski made the all-freshman team unanimously and plays wise beyond his years. Mitch Ballock broke the NCAA record for 3-point percentage in a game to finish the season at home against DePaul, going 11-for-12, scoring 39 points on just 14 (!!!) shots.

All this goes to say that the Jays have options if one of their leading scorers isn’t playing well. Creighton just has to finish the games that they couldn’t earlier in the year. One win would do wonders for their resume, while winning two games to put them in the Conference Championship game would solidify their spot in the NCAA Tournament.

6-seed Georgetown Hoyas 19-12 (9-9)
Jesse Govan is a monster. James Akinjo is the best freshman in the conference, proven by his unanimous all-freshman team selection. Mac McClung loves the spotlight and is going to shoot over 20 times. If enough of those go in the Hoyas will be sitting pretty. Consistency has been the killer this year for Georgetown. They pick up some big wins and play flat as can be against DePaul, then they go to Milwaukee and beat Marquette. Find their game, get Govan involved early and let Akinjo go to work.

7-seed St. John’s Red Storm 20-11 (8-10)
You can bet that Shamorie Ponds will put on a show under the bright lights at MSG. In theory, they should have home-court advantage as well. They’re far from a lock for the NCAA Tournament, so they’ll play with a sense of urgency they wouldn’t have had they won two or three more conference games. If St. John’s plays a complete game, they are Elite Eight+ good. We just haven’t seen them do that often this year. Staying out of foul trouble is another key, but I think LJ Figueroa is the difference-maker. He can score from anywhere on the floor and can get hot in an instant. When he gets going so does this team and it takes the defensive focus off Shamorie Ponds.

8-seed Providence Friars 17-14 (7-11)
They’ve underachieved nearly the entire season, but Ed Cooley knows how to coach come tournament time. The Friars have talent: AJ Reeves is back and healthy, Alpha Diallo is still making plays, David Duke has shown flashes of brilliance and Nate Watson has been huge this year. But they just can’t seem to put it all together. Providence is a very good defensive team but, surprisingly, they really struggle on offense. The ball just sticks too much. They need to get the ball moving and find the open man in transition.

9-seed Butler Bulldogs 16-15 (7-11)
Much like Seton Hall, the reason Butler can win the Big East is because of one man, Kamar Baldwin. He was huge in the game against Xavier despite being relatively quiet for most of the year. The Dawgs just don’t shoot the 3 well and they don’t rebound, a recipe for disaster. One of those things will have to change and someone will have to help Baldwin with the scoring load.

10-seed DePaul Blue Demons 15-14 (7-11)
They’ve got Max Strus. He followed 43 and 30 point performances against St. John’s and Georgetown with only 19 against Creighton to end the season. The Demons are great on the glass and have some very good forwards that don’t get talked about enough. DePaul is streaky team that can string wins together. If Eli Cain gets hot to give them a consistent second scoring option, they could surprise some people.

B-Frank’s Predictions
Providence over Butler
St. John’s over DePaul

Villanova over Providence
Creighton over Xavier
St. John’s over Marquette
Seton Hall over Georgetown

Villanova over Creighton
St. John’s over Seton Hall

St. John’s over Villanova

Sam’s Predictions
Providence over Butler
St. John’s over DePaul

Villanova over Providence
Creighton over Xavier
Marquette over St. John’s
Seton Hall over Georgetown

Villanova over Creighton
Seton Hall over Marquette

Villanova over Seton Hall

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B-Frank

People forget: Gordon Bombay only coached the Ducks because it was a court order.

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