The Big East tournament is back at Madison Square Garden in New York City, looking to crown another champion and, perhaps, another national title contender. It all gets underway on March 7 as first-round games tip with the championship slated for Saturday, March 10.
So, what can fans expect from this year’s battle just off Broadway? Some pretty fantastic basketball and maybe we can, finally, put those “the Big East is dead” rumors to bed. After all, this is a conference with two of the top-five teams in the nation and the potential for a Villanova-Xavier championship tilt should be more than enough to keep fans happy, particularly when both squads are vying for No. 1 seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Let’s break all down, shall we?
‘Nova, once again, comes into the Big East tournament as the favorite, but it’s not quite as clean cut as it’s been in years past. The Wildcats, ranked No. 2 in the country, have won the tournament twice in the last four years, but suffered from injuries late in the regular season and lost to both St. John’s and Providence down the stretch.
There have been some concerns about Villanova’s offense of late – the Wildcats scored just 69 points in a one-point victory over Seton Hall on February 28 – but the squad is confident in its star, Jalen Brunson. He’s a playmaker and if he can get the ball in his hands, he can make things happen.
“That’s the sign of a great player,” ‘Nova coach Jay Wright said of Bridges. “He loves having the pressure on his shoulders. That’s what the great ones do. That’s was vintage Jalen Brunson — no feel of failure.
Xavier, meanwhile, won the Big East regular-season crown, but also lost twice to Villanova earlier this year. The Musketeers, ranked No. 3 in the country, did bounce back after their February 17 loss to ‘Nova and now come into the tournament riding a three-game win streak. The 15 Big East wins this season also mark a program-best and Trevon Bluiett is a force to be reckoned with when he’s got the ball. The shooting star was a unanimous Big East first-team selection, averaging 19.4 points and 2.6 assists per game.
There is, of course, however, potential for some upsets.
Fifth-seeded Providence wrapped up the season 19-12 overall and 10-8 in Big East play, but the Friars are still on the NCAA Tournament bubble and need a solid run in the conference tourney to keep on playing in March. Keep an eye out on seniors Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright. They’re averaging 14.1 points and 11.4 points respectively and provide Providence a high-low punch that could give opposing defenses fits.
Watch out for Seton Hall as well. The Pirates, who have been embroiled in controversy for the last few weeks after being mentioned in the Yahoo!Sports report regarding NCAA violations, are hoping to capture their second conference title since 2016 and boast one of the most experienced rosters in the entire country. Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Ish Sanogo are all seniors and all determined to garner some good press for their program.
And, last but not least, St. John’s won’t likely win the Big East tournament, but you might want to tune in just to see what Shamorie Ponds does in the Red Storm’s first-round matchup against Georgetown. The sophomore from Brooklyn led the league in scoring and steals this season with 21.6 points and 2.6 per game. He also chipped in 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists and became the first player in Chris Mullin’s three seasons at the helm to be named first-team all Big East.
This one is going to be fun. Here’s the week’s upcoming schedule:
Big East Tournament Schedule 2018
*** all times are EST
Wednesday, March 7
Game 1: No. 8 Georgetown vs. No. 9 St. John’s – 7 p.m. on FS1
Game 2: No. 7 Marquette vs. No. 10 DePaul – 9:30 p.m. on FS1
Quarterfinals, Thursday, March 8
Game 3: No. 1 Xavier vs. No. 8 Georgetown/No. 9 St. John’s – Noon on FS1
Gam3 4: No. 4 Creighton vs. No. 5 Providence – 2:30 p.m. on FS1
Game 5: No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 7 Marquette/No. 10 DePaul – 7 p.m. on FS1
Game 6: No. 3 Seton Hall vs. No. 6 Butler – 9:30 p.m. on FS1
Semifinals, Friday Mach 9
Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner – 6:30 p.m. on FS1
Game 8: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner – 9 p.m. on FS1
Championship, Saturday March 10
Game 9: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner – 6:30 p.m. on FOX