Big East tournament preview, predictions: Who's in bubble trouble?

The 2019 Big East tournament tips off Wednesday, March 13 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Below is an in-depth look at the tournament, including a complete bracket, TV schedule, analysis and predictions.

2019 Big East tournament bracket, seeds

The complete 2019 Big East men's basketball tournament bracket. (Big East)
The complete 2019 Big East men's basketball tournament bracket. (Big East)

Who is the favorite?

There are co-favorites in the Big East, not that either one of them are playing well enough to deserve that title. Top-seeded Villanova arrives in New York having dropped five of its past eight games. Second-seeded Marquette stubbornly refused to take advantage, losing four straight to end the regular season a game back of the first-place Wildcats.

If forced to crown a favorite, the smarter pick is Villanova. The Wildcats have some veterans who have won multiple Big East tournaments and multiple national titles in their decorated careers. That experience can only help.

Who else can win?

The better question might be who can’t win? At least four other teams besides Villanova and Marquette have realistic hope: Seton Hall, Creighton, Xavier and St. John’s.

Seton Hall is the most unpredictable team in the Big East, as evidenced by its final six games. The Pirates defeated Villanova, Marquette and Creighton ... and lost to St. John’s, Xavier and Georgetown.

Creighton and Xavier played their way back from the dead with strong finishes to the season. The Bluejays strung together five straight wins, while the Musketeers have reeled off six victories in their last seven.

St. John’s, on the other hand, skidded to the finish line, but it still boasts maybe the league’s most talented roster. Shamorie Ponds, Justin Simon, LJ Figueroa, Mustapha Heron and Marvin Clark are each exemplary talents. They just don’t often defend cohesively, win 50-50 balls or display disciplined shot selection.

Bubble implications

Seton Hall (18-12, 9-9, KenPom 59, NET 61)

Those season-ending wins over Marquette and Villanova improved the outlook dramatically for Seton Hall. Now the Pirates appear to be a cut above the teams on the fringes of the bubble thanks to a 6-7 record against Quadrant 1 competition including non-league victories over Kentucky and Maryland. Seton Hall might be safe no matter what it does in New York. Another win or two would leave no doubt.

St. John’s (20-11, 8-10, KenPom 74, NET 66)

They aren’t playing up to their potential, but the Johnnies still might be on the right side of the at-large cut line if the season ended today. Three wins over Marquette and Villanova and a non-league victory over VCU might be enough quality wins to offset a soft non-conference schedule, a sub-.500 Big East finish and poor computer metrics. It’s imperative St. John’s avoids losing to DePaul in its opening game. Should the Johnnies also beat Marquette for a third time, they’ll be safe.

Creighton (18-13, 9-9 KenPom 50, NET 54)

The biggest flaw in Creighton’s resume is that its road win at Marquette may be its only victory over an NCAA tournament team. The Bluejays are 3-10 against Quadrant 1 competition, and the two other victories came against rebuilding Providence and fellow bubble team Clemson. Creighton has a chance to bolster its resume in New York if it can get past Xavier in the quarterfinals and earn a third crack at Villanova in the semis. Win both those games, and the Bluejays would have reasonable at-large hope.

Three players to watch

1. Markus Howard, G, Marquette — College basketball’s sixth-leading scorer is averaging 25 points and has erupted for 40 or more three times this season.

2. Shamorie Ponds, G, St. John’s — He’s instant offense, just like Howard. The jet-quick combo guard gets defenders off balance with his handle and is a streaky outside shooter.

3. Myles Powell, G, Seton Hall — Another high-scoring guard, Powell has tallied at least 17 points in each of Seton Hall’s past 10 games.

One big storyline

How many Big East bubble teams can play their way into the NCAA tournament? Villanova and Marquette are safe, Seton Hall is in decent shape, St. John’s and Creighton have work to do and Butler, Xavier and Georgetown need a full-fledged miracle.

2019 Big East tournament TV schedule

All times Eastern

Wednesday, March 13 | First round

No. 8 Providence vs. No. 9 Butler — 7 p.m., FS1

No. 7 St. John’s vs. No. 10 DePaul — 9:30 p.m., FS1

Thursday, March 14 | Quarterfinals

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 8 Providence/No. 9 Butler — Noon, FS1

No. 4 Xavier vs. No. 5 Creighton — 2:30 p.m., FS1

No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 7 St. John’s/No. 10 DePaul — 7 p.m., FS1

No. 3 Seton Hall vs. No. 6 Georgetown — 9:30 p.m., FS1

Friday, March 15 | Semifinals

Winners of quarterfinals 1 and 2 — 6:30 p.m., FS1

Winners of quarterfinals 3 and 4 — 9 p.m., FS1

Saturday, March 16 | Final

Semifinal winners — 6:30 p.m., FOX

VILLANOVA, PA - FEBRUARY 27: Collin Gillespie #2 of the Villanova Wildcats drives to the basket against Markus Howard #0 of the Marquette Golden Eagles in the first half at Finneran Pavilion on February 27, 2019 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Will we get a Villanova-Marquette rubber match at Madison Square Garden in the Big East tournament? (Getty Images)

2019 Big East tournament predictions

First round

No. 9 Butler over No. 8 Providence

No. 7 St. John’s over No. 10 DePaul

Quarterfinals

No. 5 Creighton over No. 4 Xavier

No. 1 Villanova over No. 9 Butler

No. 2 Marquette over No. 7 St. John’s

No. 3 Seton Hall over No. 6 Georgetown

Semifinals

No. 5 Creighton over No. 1 Villanova

No. 2 Marquette over No. 3 Seton Hall

Final

No. 5 Creighton over No. 2 Marquette

Other conference tournament previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC