By: Brett Johnson, KCOU Sports
Starting Wednesday, the Big East tournament kicks off in New York City at the Madison Square Garden. The ten team bracket features three top 25 teams, one of which appears to be a clear cut favorite to secure a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. The tournament begins with two play ins on Wednesday, where the 8th seeded Seton Hall Pirates square off against the 9th seeded Marquette Golden Eagles, followed by the 7th seeded DePaul Blue Demons taking on the 10th seeded Creighton Blue Jays. The first game of the two begins 7 p.m., the other at 9:30 p.m. All games are broadcasted on Fox Sports 1, and over the airwaves on Westwood One.
The winner of the 8th seed versus 9th seed matchup takes on the one seeded Villanova Wildcats, and the winner of the 7th seed versus 10th seed game takes on the Georgetown Hoyas. Both teams look like the odds on favorites to win the conference. Here are the contenders and surprisers of the Big East.
Villanova (29-2, 16-2 in Big East)
The Wildcats have had a season to remember, and are hoping to build off their successes, lead by two players on the All Big East first team in Darrun Hilliard II (14.2 PPG) and Ryan Arcidiacono (10.7 PPG), who are leading the team in scoring and playing fantastic team basketball under head coach Jay Wright. Watch out for Villanova going into the NCAA tournament, as they will be a handful, coming into the tournament with the best record in the Big East, and the best record the team has had in Wright’s coaching tenure.
Georgetown (20-9, 12-6)
The 23rd ranked Georgetown Hoyas enter the tournament as the number two seed in the Big East, lead by All Big East junior forward D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (16.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.3 APG). The Hoyas had an up and down season, with tough losses like an 81-70 loss to a slumping St. John’s program, but also had big wins, like handing top seeded Villanova their first loss of the year in a 78-58 contest on January 19th. This team is a fiercely competitive bunch under John Thompson III, and could shake up the tournament.
Butler (22-9, 12-6)
The Butler Bulldogs are accustomed to the bright lights of the tournament, making pushes through the NCAA tournament as a member of the Horizon League and the Atlantic 10, and are looking to make a buzz as the three seed in this year’s Big East tournament. This team is headed by two All Big East first team members, most notably of which is junior forward Roosevelt Jones (12.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.7 APG), but is accompanied by Kellen Durham, who leads the team in scoring (16.6 PPG) and is third in three point percentage (42%). Butler has risen to the challenge of their new conference home in their second season in the Big East, taking down then #15 St. John’s in New York, 73-69, on opening night of the conference schedule. They have a test ahead of them should they win their first round matchup with the Xavier Musketeers, who they split the season series with, as Georgetown would be their second round matchup, should they win as well. Chris Hollmann has his group together, and the team is playing good basketball. Do not be surprised to the Bulldogs make a run through this tournament.
SURPRISER: Xavier (19-12, 9-9)
The Xavier Musketeers are no easy group to get past, and their .500 record in conference shows they can stick around, and when this team wins, they win big. 6 of their 9 conference wins are by double digits, including a 17 point thumping of their first round opponent, the Butler Bulldogs, in late February. Xavier has many weapons at their disposal, the most potent of them is Matt Stainbrook, a senior center from Bay Village, Ohio (12.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.5 APG). The team also packs two other players averaging double figures: freshman forward Trevon Bluiett (12.2 PPG) and sophomore guard Myles Davis (11.0 PPG). Although this team enters the conference tournament as a six seed, they have weapons and willpower. Don’t be shocked if this team is in the NCAA tournament.
Semifinals: Villanova over Providence, Butler over Georgetown
Villanova gets the eighth seeded Seton Hall Pirates and gets a hard fought victory over a team that seems to cause conference opponent fits constantly. Providence makes quick work of the St. John’s Red Storm, but gets clobbered by the fast paced offense of the Wildcats.
Georgetown gets the Creighton Blue Jays, who sneak out a victory over the DePaul Blue Demons. Butler wins a grueling contest against the Xavier Musketeers, and goes on to exact revenge on the Hoyas for taking a barn burner in their home court on senior night.
Final: Villanova over Butler
Butler cannot survive the bombardment that Villanova brings forward each game. The Wildcats bring too much to the floor that Butler cannot run with. Expect a hard fought contest that will be back and forth for much of the first and second halves, but end with an eventual onslaught of scoring from Villanova, as the Wildcats prove why they deserve to be Big East champions and hold a number one seed in the NCAA tournament.