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BIG EAST
CONFERENCE

Madison Square Garden, New York City
March 7-10

 

XAVIER
Record: 27-4, 15-3
The Musketeers finally won the Big East regular season, but that doesn’t mean Villanova can’t be favored in the tournament. Xavier won more close games than you can count on two hands and that’s why it’s not the favorite in this tourney. There’s also the fact that Villanova has completely dominated the matchup throughout the years. On the plus side, Xavier has seniors, talent and size and will be a tough out for anyone. But again, nothing will be easy. It’s not even a guarantee that Xavier gets past St. John’s or Georgetown in the quarterfinals. That said, the Musketeers will be favored in every game up to the Championship so it’ll be hard to go against them.

VILLANOVA
Record: 27-4, 14-4
The Wildcats have made the last three championship games in this tournament and that’s reason enough to back them here. They’re finally healthy and that’s not what anyone in the Big East wants to hear. There should be some tough matchups leading up to the title game, though. Marquette can score with anyone in the country, while Seton Hall and Butler both gave ‘Nova issues in previous matchups. But betting against Villanova takes guts and as it stands, it has the best player in the conference in Jalen Brunson.

SETON HALL
Record: 21-10, 10-8
The Pirates haven’t had Desi Rodriguez in the last three games and his status is important to know before betting on them. This team has the talent to compete with most in the nation with Angel Delgado down low and guys like Khadeen Carrington and Myles Powell on the perimeter. They’ve had Butler’s number this year, so that could help in the opener, but beating Villanova will be hard to count on, especially if Rodriguez isn’t playing.

CREIGHTON
Record: 21-10, 10-8
The Bluejays have that random home win against Villanova, but they haven’t done much outside of that without big man Martin Krampelj. Providence will be a good test and if they get past that one, it’s hard to see them beating Xavier. Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas are the only big scorers on the team and that lack of depth usually hurts come tournament time.

PROVIDENCE
Record: 19-12, 10-8
The Friars have some good wins this season, but they’re also all over the place, losing by 17 points at home to DePaul to beating Villanova the next night. That inconsistency leaves them hard to trust in the tournament. While they could upset Creighton in that first game, the combo of Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright will have a hard time overcoming Xavier’s all-around ability. As a positive, Providence split with Xavier this season, the only other team to beat the Musketeers outside of Nova.

BUTLER
Record: 19-12, 9-9
The Bulldogs are another team that beat Villanova, although that required an historic three-point shooting performance. They enter the tourney having lost five of their last seven and will be hard pressed to beat Seton Hall, although they battled just five days ago against them on the road. Still, on Villanova’s side of the bracket, there’s no reason to bet Butler.

Any of the other teams may steal an upset like St. John’s has done throughout the season and the same goes for Marquette. However, winning tournaments requires putting together runs and for now, it only feels like Xavier and Villanova can do that. Seton Hall is the third-best team in the Big East, but without a healthy Rodriguez and on Nova’s side of the bracket, will be hard to bet on. If it comes to Xavier and Villanova again, the Wildcats could be favored by double digits considering how they’ve dominated that matchup.

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