Here at the Basketball Capital of the World, the women’s basketball team has already clinched the Big East Tournament title earlier this week. Yet, there is still more basketball to be played with the men’s Big East tournament getting into full swing. Aside from favoring Dan Hurley’s Huskies to win the conference, what team do you think the confetti will rain down on? Here’s each team that our writers want to see win:
If the Chattanooga Mocs haven’t proven things yet, this is March. The Musketeers are on the cusp of making the tournament, having lost 10 of 16 and reeling from a 12-2 start to the season. Despite their struggles, Xavier has a talent cesspool. It all starts with Jack Nunge (13.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 52% from the field), the Iowa transfer who has proven that he could thrive without defending Player of the Year Luka Garza or Keegan Murray. But it’s more than just him as Paul Scruggs (11.9 PPG), Colby Jones (11 PPG) and Nate Johnson (10.4 PPG) have all stepped up offensively to keep the Musketeers close in games. Should the Musketeers beat Butler, they would have to play the Providence Friars, setting up the possibility of not only an upset, but of Dwon Odom snatching ankles again. As I’ve said before, as long as they make it to Friday night, they will be in the tournament. Win the whole thing and Travis Steele might get a lifetime extension.
Surprisingly, the No. 1 seed in this tournament might have the most to prove out of anyone. While finishing Big East play with a 14-3 conference record, the Friars and their fanbase have dealt with analytics all year, claiming they are the luckiest team in college basketball. They are ranked in the AP Poll, but are not top 25 in the KenPom or NET ratings, being swept by No. 2 in the conference by Villanova and having canceled games against UConn and Seton Hall. No matter the opponent, the Friars have been in close contests all season, but usually came out on top. Here’s the main point: good teams win close games. Providence may be top dogs of the regular season, but a quick exit to similarly rated Seton Hall or Marquette, along with not making it to at least the Sweet 16, could severely put a damper on the historic season the Friars have had. They have a chip on their shoulders, and I believe they will play with a ton of fight this weekend.
Marquette Golden Eagles
Has there been a five seed in Big East Tournament history that has had a more preferable road to the championship than the Marquette Golden Eagles? I’m not sure. In their first game, they have to play Creighton, who ranks No. 68 in KenPom. Creighton beat Marquette twice this year and as the adage goes, it’s hard to beat the same team three times in a season. If they win that one, then they have to play Providence, perhaps the weakest one seed in BET history. Need proof of this? Marquette already beat the Friars by 32 points earlier this year, although they did drop one in Rhode Island later this year. Once you get to the championship, it’s all about momentum, which they will have plenty of. The Justin Lewis-led team is good enough to get some big wins and their road is as easy as any other team.