Updated March 9 9:26 a.m.
We are in the midst of Championship Week, the height and conclusion where all college basketball teams will, for the most part, know if they are going dancing in the NCAA tournament. The Big East begins their first round tournament games this evening at Madison Square Garden for the the thirty-sixth consecutive year.
St. John’s – Georgetown: St. John’s is playing in their home away from home. This can essentially be considered a home game for the Johnnies. That gives them an advantage. However, Georgetown’s size will stretch the Red Storm into taking awkward, more difficult shots. If those shots are falling, St. John’s moves onto the Quarterfinals. Give me St. John’s in this one.
Marquette – DePaul: Marquette has one of the best shooting back courts in America – if they are firing on all cylinders. DePaul has made leaps and bounds progress as a team since last year, keeping most of their Big East conference games competitive. The Golden Eagles have been so up and down, it’s difficult to choose a winner in this one. During the season, Marquette won at home by 18, DePaul won at home by 8. I think this one is close and DePaul comes out on top.
St. John’s – Xavier: The Johnnies pulled out a win over an athletic and skilled Georgetown team. They’ve gone toe-to-toe against Xavier too. The Red Storm has shown they are capable of taking down high caliber teams. I don’t see them dismantling Xavier. Musketeers move on.
Creighton – Providence: This game will be interesting played out on a neutral court. It was a drubbing against Providence when they visited the Bluejays. The Friars held their own when Creighton visited. The Friars are 2-3 in their last 5 games. I’m going with Creighton. Their uptempo, share the ball first mindset carries them to a date with Xavier.
Marquette-Villanova: The Wildcats were pushed in both conference games against the Golden Eagles this season, winning 100-90 and 85-82. If Marquette’s three-headed attack of Andrew Rowsey, Markus Howard, and Sam Hauser are firing on all cylinders, they have a chance to end Villanova’s conference tournament run much earlier than expected. The consistent, level-headed play by the Wildcats has me picking them to move on, however.
Seton Hall – Butler: For the second time since the new-look Big East formed, Butler and Seton Hall finished the regular season playing each other and then meet one another in the first round of the conference tournament. Butler was not grounded defensively in their final regular season match-up, which has been the case over the course of the season. Seton Hall will have all four seniors back, a different look than last Saturday when two were out for the game. The Bulldogs are favored to win, but it depends on which team shows up for them. The Bulldogs are 2-5 in their last 7 games. I think the Pirates move on.
Xavier – Providence: This season saw these two teams split the home and home match up, both winning on their own floor. Providence will have to move the ball to get open looks. I think the Friars have what it takes today to take down Xavier. The Musketeers play an uptempo brand of basketball which makes it difficult to guard them, especially in transition. I think Providence keeps it close enough where they eek out a win.
Villanova – Butler: Butler is going to need consistent shooting in this one coupled with stout defense if they’d like to move on. Last night’s inspiring win over Seton Hall shows the Bulldogs can play at a high level. They need to string together a full game to be in this one against Villanova. The Wildcats displayed great shooting and sharing the ball in their win over Marquette yesterday. To be fair, Marquette is abysmal on defense. It’s no wonder the Wildcats had so many open shots. The Golden Eagles rank 176 out of 351 division-I teams according to Kenpom. Nova ranks first in the nation in effective field goal percentage. Villanova moves on.
This article will be updated.