Madison Square Garden
New York City
Record: 22-9, 13-5
The Wildcats backed their way into a regular-season title, but this isn’t the same team that has won three of the last Four Big East Tournaments. That said, all of their losses came on the road so that’s at least something and they have experience of winning at Madison Square Garden. The issue is that anyone can beat them so if you want back an underdog, this is the perfect Tournament for that. Villanova’s first Game should be straightforward against Providence or Butler, but anything can happen against Xavier or Creighton, both of whom need wins to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament. Villanova lost at Xavier a couple weeks ago and needed overtime at home to beat Creighton. It’s a similar case in the Championship, though it’s a toss up for who makes it from the bottom half of the bracket.
Record: 23-8, 12-6
The Golden Eagles had the Big East wrapped up and then they started losing and have now dropped Four straight heading into this Tournament. Once considered a consistent, all-around squad, nothing is clicking, whether on offense or defense. Markus Howard is still scoring, but he hasn’t been efficient and has shot 10-for-36 from the field in the last two Games, both against weaker defenses. None of their matchups will be easy and that starts with its likely quarterfinals opponent, St. John’s, who already swept the Eagles when they were playing well. This is a balanced team around Howard, but they could easily lose to St. John’s at MSG, making them a hard bet for a 2-seed. Even then, neither Seton Hall nor Georgetown will be easy outs in the semifinals.
Record: 18-12, 9-9
The Pirates got the 3-seed with a tiebreaker over three other teams. They’ve had a weird season from beating Kentucky to having multiple losing streaks in the Big East to closing with back-to-back wins over Marquette and Villanova. There are still questions about them on the road and while Myles Powell and Myles Cale can be elite, they rank as one of the least efficient offenses in the conference. They should get past Georgetown, but everything after is a toss up. At the least, they are a decent upset pick due to a favorable route while entering off a mini-winning streak.
Record: 17-14, 9-9
The Musketeers are one of the hottest teams in the Conference having won six of its last seven. The problem is that their first opponent, Creighton, has been equally as good, winning its last five. The Bluejays are slight favorites, but they split in the regular season. Xavier may be playing well, but its likely route to the Championship includes being an underdog in every Game. And while it’s on a nice run, its most recent loss came against Butler, the 9-seed. It also doesn’t help that Naji Marshall, its best offensive player, is questionable to play after missing the last Game.
Record: 18-13, 9-9
The Bluejays are sitting right on the bubble and likely need two more wins to have a shot to make the NCAA Tournament. They have better overall numbers than Xavier and three of their losses came in overtime. Creighton feels like the best underdog to win this Tournament because of that stat, going to overtime on the road against both Villanova and Xavier. The Bluejays have a slew of scorers, but also size in Martin Krampelj to deal with the bigger teams like Xavier. They could lose their first Game or win it all, that’s how competitive the Big East has been this season.
Record: 20-11, 8-10
If the Red Storm want to make the NCAA Tournament, they’ll need to beat DePaul, but also possibly Marquette. Playing at MSG helps, but this is still a team that already lost at home to Georgetown, Providence and Xavier. They also haven’t won more than two Games in a row in Conference play this season so winning Four in Four days seems like a real stretch. This team has talent, but they haven’t put it together and they’ve shown little reason to trust them to make the Championship.
Technically, anyone but the last three seeds can win the Big East Tournament. Georgetown is also in the mix as a 6-seed, but it’s another team that hasn’t won more than two in a row in Conference play. Villanova and Marquette are the favorites, but both are reeling. The Wildcats are the favorite and the easiest bet, but taking a gamble on Xavier, Creighton or Seton Hall could be the best strategy. The Bluejays may be playing their best basketball and are in must-win situations, making them the viable upset pick.