Marquette is taking all of the attention in the Big East, and it’s easy to see why. Shaka Smart took a team that wasn’t ranked at the beginning of the year and led it to its first solo Big East title in program history.
But the Big East tournament — something the Golden Eagles have also never won — will be far from straightforward.
Big East Tournament Basics
Big East Tournament Bracket
Marquette, UConn enter tournament on hot streaks
The Big East has five teams safely into the NCAA tournament already, and really any of them could cut down the nets at Madison Square Garden by.
Outside of Marquette, UConn seems to have rebounded completely. The Huskies were once the hottest team in the country, opening the year on a 14-game win streak while reaching as high as No. 2 in the rankings. Conference play caught up to them a bit, but the Huskies closed the year out winning eight of their last nine games comfortably.
Xavier has more than held its own in the Big East behind Souley Boum and Iowa transfer Jack Nunge. The Musketeers finished just two games behind Marquette in the conference standings, and pulled off season sweeps over both UConn and Providence. The team isn’t getting Zach Freemantle back as expected, however, after he needed surgery on his left foot last week. While they've survived without him, Freemantle would have been a huge addition in the postseason.
On The Bubble: Villanova needs a win
The top five teams in the Big East are solidly in the tournament. The only other team with a real chance is Villanova, though it’s a long shot.
The Wildcats made a bit of a push at the end of the season, closing with seven wins in their last nine games. Their only wins over ranked opponents all year came in that run, too, with back-to-back victories over Xavier and Creighton.
But at 16-15, anything short of a Big East tournament title will send first year coach Kyle Neptune to the NIT.
Sleeper Pick: Creighton
At the beginning of the year, Creighton looked like it was finally ready to run the Big East. Things didn’t go as planned as the Blue Jays lost six straight right before conference play, and have been trying to rebound ever since. Ryan Kalkbrenner and Trey Alexander still led Creighton to the No. 3 seed this week, and all but two of their conference losses were by single digits.
The Blue Jays are absolutely talented enough to take the Big East tournament if they get hot.
Our Pick: UConn over Xavier
The Huskies are back to normal and will pull off the clean sweep in the Big East tournament, following the Geno Auriemma and the women's win in their tournament Monday. The biggest challenge will be getting past Marquette.