Big East Tournament preview and predictions: 7 NCAA tournament bids a real possibility

The 2017 Big East tournament tips off Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Here is an in-depth look at the tournament including a complete bracket, TV information, analysis and predictions.


1. Who is the favorite?

Villanova, of course. The senior class of Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds has actually only won one Big East tournament title, but they’ve now won four Big East regular season championships, and topped this year’s standings by three games.

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2. Who else could win the tournament?

Villanova is head and shoulders above the rest of the league, so any other pick is a long shot, but there are four other contenders. Providence, which has won six-straight, is the conference’s hottest team. Butler is its second-best. Seton Hall, the defending tournament champion, has a trio of upperclassmen who were also major contributors on last year’s team. And Marquette, who could get Villanova in the semifinals, is one of two teams to beat the Wildcats this year.

Of the four, Butler is probably the best bet to upset Villanova. After all, the Bulldogs have already done so twice this season. Of the rest, perhaps Creighton could get hot from beyond the arc and get to the final. But if you want conference tournament upsets, it’s probably best to look somewhere other than the Big East.

3. Who got the best and worst draw?

Any team who can get to Saturday’s title game without having to go through Villanova — so any team on the bottom half of the bracket — has to feel pretty good about its draw. Xavier might be feeling the best of all: The Musketeers should pick up a comfortable win over DePaul, then will get a chance to pick up a massive résumé win over Butler, which is projected as a 3-seed by some bracketologists.

Marquette, on the other hand, gets a tough matchup with Seton Hall as its first and possibly only chance to supplement its still-questionable résumé. And even if the Golden Eagles get that win to shore up their NCAA tournament chances, they’d still have the top seed standing in between them and an appearance in the final.


Marquette (19-11, 10-8, KenPom 28, RPI 55): The Golden Eagles appear to be in pretty good shape, but a more nuanced look at their résumé shows that four of their five best wins on paper came against Creighton and Xavier after those teams had lost their star players to injuries. But, that being said, an upset of Villanova and a few nice non-conference victories have Marquette in pretty good position. A win over Seton Hall in the 4/5 game would be nice, but probably not necessary.

Seton Hall (20-10, 10-8, KenPom 54, RPI 43): Most bracketologists seemed to think the Pirates punched their tourney ticket with a road win at Butler on the season’s final weekend. They could do that definitively with a win over Marquette. Without it, they’re still in very good shape, but aren’t a lock.

Providence (20-11, 10-8, KenPom 53, RPI 52): The Friars have won six in a row, and four of the six victories came over postseason teams. They don’t have a win that stands alone at the top of their résumé, but they did beat Butler, and are 5-2 against fellow bubble teams. One more win would almost surely be enough.

Xavier (19-12, 9-9, KenPom 43, RPI 34): The Musketeers have beaten one team over the past month … and that team is DePaul. They have no signature wins, and most of what they do have came prior to Edmond Sumner’s season-ending injury. They almost surely need two wins, over DePaul and Butler, to save their season.


You know about Villanova’s stars — Hart, Jenkins, Jalen Brunson, etc. — but here are three non-Villanova players to watch at The Garden.

Angel Delgado is the best player in the conference who doesn’t play for Villanova. (Getty)
Angel Delgado is the best player in the conference who doesn’t play for Villanova. (Getty)

1. Angel Delgado, F, Seton Hall: Delgado is tied with Caleb Swanigan for the Division-I lead with 25 double-doubles on the season. He ranks in the top 15 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, and had 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 16 boards in Seton Hall’s upset of Butler on Saturday.

2. Justin Patton, C, Creighton: A redshirt freshman whose late growth spurt has helped him develop a unique skill set that meshes size, athleticism and guard skills. He’s a potential lottery pick as early as this summer.

3. Kelan Martin, F, Butler: A high-volume, not-so-high-efficiency scorer who now comes off the bench for the Bulldogs. He’s a mismatch for almost anybody who tries to defend him.


If things play out right for bubble teams, the Big East could send seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA tournament. That would be a remarkable haul for a conference that is solid, but in no way measures up to the Big 12 or ACC.

Villanova will draw much of the attention, but the Wildcats are all but locked into a 1-seed. It’s the bubblers that really have a lot to play for in the Big Apple. Conference executives will likely be hoping for a Xavier upset of Butler and a Providence win over Creighton. That would make seven bids a real possibility.


All times Eastern

Wednesday, March 8 | First round
No. 8 St. John’s vs. No. 9 Georgetown — 7 p.m., FS1
No. 7 Xavier vs. No. 10 DePaul — 9:30 p.m., FS1

Thursday, March 9 | Quarterfinals
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 8 St. John’s/No. 9 Georgetown — Noon, FS1
No. 4 Marquette vs. No. 5 Seton Hall — 2:30 p.m., FS1
No. 2 Butler vs. No. 7 Xavier/No. 10 DePaul — 7 p.m., FS1
No. 3 Providence vs. No. 6 Creighton — 9:30 p.m., FS1

Friday, March 10 | Semifinals
Winners of quarterfinals 1 and 2 — 6:30 p.m., FS1
Winners of quarterfinals 3 and 4 — 9 p.m., FS1

Saturday, March 11 | Final
Semifinal winners — 5:30 p.m., FOX


First round
No. 8 St. John’s over No. 9 Georgetown
No. 7 Xavier over No. 10 DePaul

No. 1 Villanova over No. 8 St. John’s
No. 4 Marquette over No. 5 Seton Hall
No. 2 Butler over No. 7 Xavier
No. 6 Creighton over No. 3 Providence

No. 1 Villanova over No. 4 Marquette
No. 2 Butler over No. 6 Creighton

No. 1 Villanova over No. 2 Butler

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