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Big East tournament preview: Can Villanova position itself for a No. 1 seed?

Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono
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Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono (Getty Images)

The Dagger will be previewing this week's marquee conference tournaments. Here's our look at the Big East:

Big East Tournament
Dates: March 12-15
Site: New York (Madison Square Garden
Top four seeds: 1. Villanova, 2. Creighton, 3. Xavier, 4. Providence
Draw: Click here

Best draw: Georgetown. At 17-13 overall, the Hoyas need quantity of wins as much as quality. An opening-round game against Depaul should provide one stress-free. And while a must-win quarterfinal against Creighton won't be easy, Georgetown would probably rather see the second-seeded Bluejays than top-seeded Villanova. Last week, the Hoyas beat Creighton by 12 and lost to Villanova by 18.

Worst draw: Providence. If the Friars need to make the Big East title game to feel confident about receiving an at-large bid, they certainly have their work cut out for them. Up first is an equally desperate St. John's team on its home floor. Then if Providence survives the surging Johnnies, their reward is a top-seeded Villanova team that handled the Friars twice in the regular season. 

Three players to watch:

• Doug McDermott, F, Creighton — The national player of the year favorite is coming off a 45-point masterpiece on senior night to eclipse the 3,000-point plateau.

• Semaj Christon, G, Xavier — The all-conference sophomore is fourth in the Big East in scoring and sixth in assists. Oh, and he's a pickpocket on defense too.

• Bryce Cotton, G, Providence — In addition to averaging 21.7 points and 5.9 assists, Cotton also seldom comes off the floor. A handful of overtime games has pushed his average to 40.3 minutes per game.

Bubble implications: Few leagues have a higher percentage of bubble teams than the Big East. While Villanova and Creighton are well-positioned to earn high seeds and Depaul, Butler, Seton Hall and Marquette need an automatic bid, the other four teams in the league are in a murkier position. The program in the best position is Xavier, which probably needs only to beat Marquette in the quarterfinals to shore up a bid and might be able to sneak in even with a loss. Georgetown, St. John's and Providence likely can't afford a loss in their first game and might need to wins to feel secure.

Projected champ: Creighton. If Villanova and Creighton both avoid upsets and reach the title game, how can anyone not go with the Bluejays? The two Big East powers have met twice and Creighton has rolled both times, winning by 21 and 28 points. One reason for hope for Villanova is that it has plenty of motivation with a potential No. 1 seed on the line. Another is that the Wildcats have been the more consistent team against the Big East's mid-tier programs. Whereas Villanova hasn't lost a single league game against anyone besides Creighton, the Bluejays surrendered the league title because they dropped road games at Providence, St. John's, Georgetown and Xavier. 

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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