BIG EAST CONFERENCE
Madison Square Garden, New York City
Record: 28-3, 15-3
The Wildcats have dominated this Conference the last three seasons, but it can’t be forgotten that they’ve won only one of these Tournaments in that period. They’re obviously the favorites again, but could face Seton Hall in the semis, a team that knocked them out two of the last three years. Of course, ‘Nova knocked off the Pirates by 20-plus points in both meetings this season. And while Villanova hasn’t had extreme success in this Tournament, it’d take a lot to not see them in the championship. Marquette provides the toughest task in the semis, given that the Golden Eagles already beat them. But as in previous years, it’s not the easiest thing to find the team that’s going to upend the favorite. Seton Hall won as the 3-seed last year and Providence as the 4-seed three years ago.
Record: 23-7, 12-6
The Bulldogs are the obvious team to back to beat Villanova. The Bulldogs already did so twice, but their other six Conference losses can’t be overlooked. This is a good team that can compete with almost anyone, but their lack of elite talent has caused problems. To reach the championship, they shouldn’t have trouble with Xavier, but the meeting with Providence or Creighton in the semis will be tough. The Bulldogs were swept by Creighton and split with Providence.
Record: 20-11, 10-8
Speaking of the Friars, they’re in a great position coming in off six-straight wins. One of those happened to come at Creighton and it’s evident the Bluejays aren’t the same team without Maurice Watson at point. If the Friars win that, they’ll be looking at another winnable Game against Butler. The problem will be trying to get past Villanova in the finals, a team that has had their number this season.
Record: 19-11, 10-8
The Golden Eagles are also playing well, winning Four of their last five, but their road is far from easy. Marquette draws Seton Hall in its first Game, a Game that’s a toss up after the first two Games were decided by three points each, one in overtime. And then, the winner likely gets Villanova and beating them twice in one season is almost unheard of, although Butler thinks otherwise.
Record: 20-10, 10-8
It’s the same situation for the Pirates with both teams likely in the NCAA Tournament, even with a loss in their first Game. And if Seton Hall wins this, they’ve been absolutely destroyed by ‘Nova in two previous meetings so it’s going to take a lot for them to make the championship Game.
Record: 23-8, 10-8
The Bluejays were headed for a truly great season and then Watson tore his ACL. since, they have not won back-to-back Games since the last day in January, making a Tournament run close to impossible. If they get by Providence, they’ll likely have to go against Butler in the semis.
Record: 19-12, 9-9
The Musketeers fit into that mold of being less effective due to injuries as Edmond Sumner was everything to this team. Xavier has fallen so far — recently losing six straight — that it’s fighting on the NCAA bubble. They should be fine against DePaul, but expecting a win against Butler with the way they’re playing is a long shot. The Bulldogs beat them in Cincinnati only a couple weeks ago.
Villanova is the easy pick here, but for those looking for the team that’s most likely to make a run, that’d have to be either Marquette or Providence. That said, the Golden Eagles could easily fall to Seton Hall in their first Game, while the Friars will have to go through Butler to make the championship Game and then still could get Villanova. The Bulldogs will be a trendy pick having swept Villanova, but it’s hard to go against the Wildcats in this Tournament.