There is no conference basketball tournament quite like the Big East Tournament. Held at The Mecca of Madison Square Garden, it has given us competitive and thrilling games year in and year out. This year should be no different, with a resurgent Big East that has a few teams who are capable of winning the title. The regular-season conference title was split three ways between Creighton, Villanova and Seton Hall in a wild finish. There are six sure-fire tournament teams in Creighton, Villanova, Providence, Butler, and Marquette, with Xavier likely needing a win to stay on the right side of the bubble. Will defending champ Villanova continue their reign at the top or is this the year they finally fall? Let’s look at the matchups, and make some predictions.
Big East Tournament Bracket
Top-seeded Creighton will face either Georgetown or St Johns, neither of whom I have much faith in taking down the Bluejays. This is in spite of St. Johns recently beating Creighton by 20 last Sunday. Although, an important storyline to watch is the health of Creighton guard Marcus Zegarowski. It was recently announced that Zegarowski is out for the tournament and is a huge loss for the Bluejays. They still have Mitchell Ballock and Ty-Shon Alexander who are both excellent, but it is still a huge loss in Zegarowski. Regardless, I expect Creighton to be in the semi-finals come Friday.
As for the 4 vs 5 game, Providence comes in as one of the hottest teams in the country. They are riding a six game winning streak and have won eight of their last 10. Those wins including wins over five ranked teams, two of them on the road. Luwane Pipkins and Alpha Diallo have been leading the way and if the Friars can stay hot, they might win it all. As for the Bulldogs, after a strong start to the season, they have been only solid. They are riding a three-game win streak and Kamar Baldwin is a bad man. This should be a good one.
For the 3 v 7/10 game, Villanova will face either Xavier or DePaul, which I expect to be Villanova vs Xavier. If Xavier wins, they should be ok on Selection Sunday, but a loss might spell doom for them. I expect Villanova to make it to the Semi-finals
For the 3 v 6 game, we have Seton Hall and Marquette facing off, with two of the best players in the conference facing off. Seton Hall’s Myles Powell and Marquette’s Markus Howard are the conference’s best players and this should be a good matchup. That being said, considering how Marquette has collapsed late this season, I expect Hall to win this one.
A Creighton-Providence semi-final matchup would be exciting. The teams split the season series, with Providence falling in a hard-fought game at Creighton, but then got their revenge at home. These teams are both red hot, with the Friars winners of eight of their 10 and the Bluejays winners of 10 of their 12. With Zegarowski out, this will likely play into Providence’s hand, as Zegarowski caused problems for the Friars in the season series. Luwane Pipkins, Alpha Diallo, and Maliek White have been playing much better since the first Creighton-Providence game. If Creighton can hit from outside and slow down Providence’s offense, which is when the Friars have struggled most, then the Jays will win. If Providence is able to stay red-hot shooting wise and limit Creighton’s outside shooting, the Friars should advance. I think the Friars take this one and advance to the Championship game.
As for the Villanova-Seton Hall semi-final, this one is a real toss-up. The two teams split the season series and are both excellent teams filled with talent and experience. The Pirates are led by senior Myles Powell who has had a strong senior season, alongside strong play from Romaro Gill and Quincy McKnight. As for the Wildcats, Saddiq Bey has to lead the way, with Jerimiah Robinson-Earl and Ryan Archidiaco look-alike Collin Gillespie as the team’s leaders. If Nova can hit threes and get to the free-throw line, it will be hard for Seton Hall to win. If Seton Hall can limit Nova from deep and play to their ability, I expect Hall to win. My prediction is we see a 2018 Big East Tournament final rematch, with Villanova barely beating Seton Hall.
Big East Championship Game
Providence-Villanova would be a rematch for the ages. These two teams split the season series, both stealing a game on the road. But the key difference is that Providence has been playing a lot better than when they fell to Villanova 64-60 on January 25th. That being said, Villanova is Villanova, Jay Wright is a heck of a coach and the Wildcats are a strong team. This would also be a rematch of one of the best Big East Tournament championship games in 2018 when Providence nearly knocked off the defending champs in a heartbreaking overtime loss for the Friars. For Villanova, they have won three straight conference crowns and have been the best team over the past seven seasons. However, I think Providence continues its hot streak and takes its third Big East Tournament Championship and first since 2014.
Big East Tournament MVP
If Providence wins, I think I will have to go with either Alpha Diallo or Luwane Pipkins. Both have been playing excellent basketball as of late and their play has been a huge factor in Providence’s current run. Both struggled immensely with spotty shooting and turnovers early in the season, but since have been shooting well, playing excellent defense and have limited coughing up the ball. Either one would be a good pick for MVP.