Rejoice New York, it’s almost here! The best basketball MSG gets all year.
Worthy of at least a rhyming couplet singing its praises, this year’s Big East tournament has huge implications for almost every team involved. While the favored Villanova Wildcats are all but locked into a one-seed for the NCAA Tournament, the rest of the conference is in a dogfight to improve their seeding or get off the bubble entirely. Who will boost their stock the highest, and who will screw their March Madness hopes with a crushing loss? You could find out those answers when the action gets underway March 8. Or, I guess we could give you the odds for it now.
Starting with those heavily favored Wildcats, they’ll have plenty of motivation for this tournament even with their fate decided. Not only will they be looking to avenge an upset loss to Seton Hall in the finals last year, they’re also 0-2 against the rival Butler Bulldogs this season. Beating them in the finals would be a nice way to even the score and enter March Madness with a ton of momentum.
Should Chris Holtmann’s squad get the hat-trick over the Wildcats, Butler could end up as high as a two-seed in the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs won’t have an easy road to the finals, though, having lost both games this year against their likely semi-final opponent, Creighton. The Bluejays are the only other Big East team that’s assured its spot in the dance, and beyond them, things get interesting.
Marquette, Seton Hall, and Providence all have a 9-8 conference record heading into the final weekend of the regular season, meaning the quarterfinals matchups are still up in the air. Each team has a claim to superiority over the other: Seton Hall has the best RPI of the three, Providence has the toughest strength of schedule, and Marquette has the most impressive wins, knocking off Villanova and then-no. 7 Creighton. In the end, all of these teams could squeak in regardless of their Big East tourney results, but a positive showing would help keep them stay out of play-in game conversations.
No team needs to string a few wins together in this tournament more than Xavier. Ranked 16th when the calendar turned to 2017, the new year hasn’t been kind to the Musketeers. They lost point guard and second leading scorer Edmond Sumner to injury, and now have lost six-straight. Their reservation in the Madness is about to be auctioned to the highest bidder, and they’ll need more from guard Trevon Bluiett – fresh off an ankle injury of his own – to make sure it stays in the family.
It won’t be easy for any of the middling teams to make noise in this top-heavy tournament: Villanova has the 10th-best scoring differential in the nation, while Creighton ranks 19th and Butler 43rd. However, this new Big East has seen magic before during the brief history of its conference tournament. In the first year (2014), no. 8 Seton Hall knocked off no. 1 Villanova and no. 4 Providence went on to win. It’s unlikely, but the appeal of college ball is that anything can happen.
So keep your chins up, St. John’s and Georgetown fans; even you could win this tournament and seize that automatic bid!
What’s that? Oh, sorry DePaul, I wasn’t talking to you. No, you can start focusing on next season.
For everyone else, here are the odds for this year’s tourney.
Odds to win 2017 Big East Tournament
- Villanova: 4/3
- Butler: 2/1
- Creighton: 13/2
- Marquette: 16/1
- Providence: 25/1
- Seton Hall: 25/1
- Xavier: 40/1
- St. John’s: 200/1
- Georgetown: 200/1
- DePaul: 500/1
Photo credit: goxavier.com [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]