Big East Baller Update No. 14: Its anyone’s tournament 

2/25/2023 MBB vs St Johns at MSG by Sofia Sawchuk, Associate Photo Editor. UConn men’s basketball defeat St. Johns 95-86 at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. The victory adds on to the Huskies’ streak of three straight wins, while also being UConn’s highest scoring game among their Big East matchups this regular season.

In the three years that the Big East Baller Update has existed, this is by far the most competitive the conference has ever been. Approximately six teams could leave Madison Square Garden with the Big East Tournament title, but what is the case for each automatic bid hopeful? 

Writer’s Note: There are no tournament odds due to the parity in this league. 

Writer’s Note II: Zach Freemantle and Kadary Richmond are not included in their team’s previews due to their injuries. 

Player of the Week

Colby Jones – Xavier 

Freshman of the Week:  

Alex Karaban – UConn 

1. Marquette Golden Eagles (17-3): Soaring above expectations 

Summary: After his team got picked ninth in the preseason poll, Shaka Smart might give the Big East their second straight National Coach of the Year. 

Quality wins: Creighton in Omaha and Baylor at home 

Worst Loss: Wisconsin at home 

Star Players: All-Big East First Team selection Tyler Kolek (12.7 ppg, 246 assists) and All-Big East Second Team selection Kam Jones (15.3 ppg) 

X Factors: All-Big East Second Team selection Oso Ighodaro (11.9 ppg, 102 assists) and Sixth Man of the Year David Joplin (9.2 ppg) 

2. Xavier Musketeers (15-5): The Xbox is back up and running 

Summary: In his return to the Queen City, head coach Sean Miller has taken the Musketeers to heights not seen since the Chris Mack days. 

Quality wins: Providence at the AMP and UConn at Gampel Pavilion 

Worst Loss: DePaul in Chicago 

Star Players: All-Big East First Team selection Souley Boum (16.8 ppg, 42.2% from three) and All-Big East Second Team selection Colby Jones (15.3 ppg, 42 steals) 

X Factor: Honorable Mention Jack Nunge (14 ppg, 7.1 rpg)  

3. Creighton Blue Jays (14-6): Flying at a slightly lower winning altitude 

Summary: The preseason conference favorites did not meet those expectations in the regular season but can make noise in the postseason. 

Quality win: Arkansas in the Maui Jim Invitational 

Worst Loss: Nebraska at home 

Star Players: All-Big East First Team selection Ryan Kalkbrenner (15.1 ppg, 62 blocks) and All-Big East Honorable Mention Trey Alexander (13.7 ppg, 43.2% from three) 

X Factor: Honorable Mention Baylor Scheierman (12.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg) 

4. UConn Huskies (13-7): In the Depths of Hurleymania 

Summary: If the Huskies play like they did when they started the season 14-0, they will make the Final Four. 

Quality wins: Alabama in the Phil Knight Invitational and Marquette at the XL Center 

Worst Loss: St. John’s at the XL Center 

Star Players: All-Big East First Team Selection Adama Sanogo (16.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and All-Big East First Team selection Jordan Hawkins (16.4 ppg, 37.8% from three) 

X Factors: Tristen Newton (10.1 ppg, two triple-doubles) and Andre Jackson (6.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 120 assists) 

5. Providence Friars (13-7):  

Summary: The players the Friars got in the transfer portal helped the team go above expectations for the second straight year. 

Quality wins: Marquette, Creighton and UConn at home 

Worst Loss: Seton Hall at home 

Star Players: All-Big East First Team selection Bryce Hopkins (16.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Honorable Mention Devin Carter (13.3 ppg, 54 steals)  

X Factor: Ed Croswell (13.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg) 

6. Villanova Wildcats (10-10): Do not count them out just yet 

Summary: The Wildcats are worse than they have been in years past, but with all of their pieces back, they are as much of a tournament title contender as anyone else. 

Quality wins: Xavier in Cincinnati and Creighton at home 

Worst Loss: DePaul in Chicago 

Star Players: All-Big East Second Team selection Eric Dixon (15.7 ppg) and All-Freshman selection Cam Whitmore (12.6 ppg, 36 steals) 

X Factor: Justin Moore (13.6 ppg in 11 games) 

7. Seton Hall Pirates (10-10): The first part of Sha’s plan 

Summary: The Pirates were bound to have a down year even though they brought in a coach who went to the Elite Eight last season. 

Quality wins: UConn at home and Providence at the AMP 

Worst Loss: Siena in the ESPN Events Invitational 

Star Players: Al-Amir Dawes (12.6 ppg) and Tyrese Samuel (10.7 ppg) 

X Factor: KC Ndefo (7.9 ppg, 60 blocks) 

8. St. John’s Red Storm (7-13): Bing Bong Bummer 

Summary: Perhaps Mike Anderson is not the answer as head coach in Queens. 

Quality wins: UConn at the XL Center and Providence at MSG 

Worst Loss: Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse 

Star Players: Most Improved Player Joel Soriano (15.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg) and David Jones (13.1 ppg) 

X Factor: Posh Alexander (10.3 ppg, 55 steals) 

9. Butler Bulldogs (6-14): The Thad Matta Way 

Summary: Unfortunately for Thad Matta, this is not the same Bulldogs team he inherited as an interim coach or the Ohio State Buckeyes that dominated the Big Ten for 12 seasons. 

Quality wins: Xavier and Kansas State at home 

Worst Loss: Georgetown at home 

Star Players: Jayden Taylor (13.2 ppg) and Manny Bates (11.6 ppg, 49 blocks) 

X Factor: Simas Lukosius (11.2 ppg) 

10. DePaul Blue Demons (3-17): Two steps back 

Summary: I genuinely thought that head coach Tony Stubblefield’s Blue Demons would improve from last season. 

Quality win: Xavier at home 

Worst Loss: Georgetown in Washington DC 

Star Players: Umoja Gibson (15.8 ppg, 41.2% from three and 144 assists) and Javan Johnson (14.3 ppg) 

X Factor: Eral Penn (8.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg) 

11. Georgetown Hoyas (2-18): End of the Patrick Ewing era? 

Summary: The Hoyas ended multiple historic losing streaks and had their own edition because of it. 

Quality wins: DePaul at home and Butler in Indianapolis 

Worst Loss: American at home 

Star Players: Primo Spears (15.9 ppg, 162 assists) and Brandon Murray (13.9 ppg) 

X Factor: Akok Akok (6.5 ppg, 62 blocks) 

Teams struggled to win on the road in Big East play, and even though the tournament is at a neutral site, the uncertainty will still remain. As Hayden Christensen says in “Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” (2005), “this is where the fun begins.” 

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