Big East mascots, Big East Tournament preview

CBB Review prepares you for every conference tournament leading up to Selection Sunday. Up next: The Big East Tournament.

It’s everyone’s favorite conference tournament! The Big East Tournament returns to Madison Square Garden and with five teams legitimately searching for the championship, it’s set to be as good as ever.

Marquette, UConn, Xavier, Creighton, and Providence all have the best chances at cutting down the nets on Saturday night, but Villanova and Seton Hall could be dangerous dark horses, to at least upset a team and shake up the bracket.

2023 Big East Awards

Player of the Year: Souley Boum, Xavier

Freshman of the Year: Cam Whitmore, Villanova

Transfer of the Year: Souley Boum, Xavier

Coach of the Year: Shaka Smart, Marquette

First Team:

  • G: Souley Boum, Xavier (16.8 PPG, 4.5 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 42.2 3P%)
  • G: Tyler Kolek, Marquette (12.7 PPG, 7.9 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 39.6 3P%)
  • F: Bryce Hopkins, Providence (16.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.3 APG)
  • F: Adama Sanogo, UConn (17.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 59.5 FG%)
  • C: Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton (15.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 2.2 BPG)

Second Team:

  • G: Kam Jones, Marquette (15.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • G: Jordan Hawkins, UConn (16.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 38.4 3P%)
  • G: Colby Jones, Xavier (15.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 40.2 3P%)
  • F: Eric Dixon, Villanova (16.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 APG)
  • F: Jack Nunge, Xavier (14.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 BPG, 52.5 FG%)

Big East Tournament Simulation

First Round – Wednesday, Mar. 8

8. St. John’s (17-14, 7-13) vs. 9. Butler (14-17, 6-14) – 3 p.m. on FS1

Don’t totally count Butler out of this game. The Bulldogs won at home the last time these two faced off. But when it gets down to it, St. John’s is at home and has the Big East’s best rebounder in Joel Soriano. Butler averages a cool 30.0 rebounds per game, 359th out of 363 Division I teams. They can defend, but they can’t score or rebound, two things St. John’s does well.

Mat’s Pick: 8. St. John’s

7. Seton Hall (17-14, 10-10) vs. 10. DePaul (9-22, 3-17) – 5:30 p.m. on FS1

20% of Seton Hall’s Big East wins came against DePaul, but the Pirates only won by 4 and 5 points respectively. The same goes for the Hall as it does for the Red Storm – the Pirates are a big draw at MSG in March at the Big East Tournament. That will help this feel like a home game, and Seton Hall should prevail a third time.

Mat’s pick: 7. Seton Hall

6. Villanova (16-15, 10-10) vs. 11. Georgetown (7-24, 2-18) – 8 p.m. on FS1

Villanova playing on the first day of the Big East Tournament? That almost doesn’t seem real. But it is the fact of the matter, as the Wildcats are the nightcap against the Hoyas. Ever since Cam Whitmore and Justin Moore both came back and settled in from their injuries, this became a new team. One could easily argue that a healthy Villanova team all season would have been something more like 20-11. They’re much better than their record states and it’ll show against a Hoyas team that only won two Big East conference games all season.

Mat’s Pick: 6. Villanova

Quarterfinals – Thursday, Mar. 9

1. Marquette (25-6, 17-3) vs. 8. St. John’s – Noon on FS1

I used to LIVE for the Big East Tournament growing up in the middle of Big East country in Connecticut. And matchups like these are why. An underrated yet talented St. John’s team taking on the top team in the conference in their own building, with so much at stake. Unfortunately for St. John’s home court advantage won’t matter all that much against a Marquette Golden Eagles team with another, more important postseason tournament in their eyes.

Mat’s pick: 1. Marquette

4. UConn (24-7, 13-7) vs. 5. Providence (21-10, 13-7) – 2:30 p.m. on FS1

Following the Friars’ 18-point loss to the Huskies on Feb. 22, Providence head coach Ed Cooley had an interesting take:

“This fan base is extremely spoiled. Appreciate winning. appreciate that. There’s a reason why them dudes are in the Hall of Fame, on the men’s and women’s side. Don’t get arrogant with it, appreciate it, and try to get the next one. That’s what an educated fan base appreciates and that’s what the Friars do.”

Oh boy. Needless to say, the Garden is going to get pretty intense on a Thursday afternoon. And most of that intensity will be directed at Cooley. Even though both schools are nearby Manhattan, the UConn fanbase will travel more, and many of them live in New York City anyway, likely coming up with jeers to shout as we speak. It will be peak Big East Tournament basketball, and it will also be a UConn win. The Huskies have won their last 5 games and 9 of their last 11.

Mat’s pick: 4. UConn

2. Xavier (23-8, 15-5) vs. 7. Seton Hall – 7 p.m. on FS1

Both teams are dealing with the injury bug at the worst time. Pirates’ point guard Kadary Richmond hasn’t played since he logged seven minutes against UConn on Feb. 18. Xavier forward Zach Freemantle was ruled out for the season on Sunday. Both of these are huge losses, and both teams have surprisingly picked up good wins in their star players’ absences. One of those happened to be a 22-point win for the Musketeers over the Pirates. I think this game will be closer, but X has too much firepower for an offensively-challenge SHU team to stop.

Mat’s pick: 2. Xavier

3. Creighton (20-11, 14-6) vs. 6. Villanova – 9:30 p.m. on FS1

We’ve got to have one Big East Tournament Cinderella, right? I don’t know if you can really call Villanova a “Cinderella,” but if you can, this would be the year. Creighton simply relies on scoring the basketball, but they usually do so better at home. Plus, when away from Omaha this season, the Bluejays are just 7-9. Not too convincing against a ‘Cats team they just lost to (in Philadelphia) by a dozen.

Mat’s Pick: 6. Villanova

Semifinals – Friday, Mar. 10

1. Marquette vs. 4. UConn – 6:30 p.m. on FS1

What a matchup. Why do we actually deserve games like this in March? The two hottest teams in the Big East, potentially meeting up in the semifinals. The teams split the regular season series, with each taking a game in their own building. If anything separates these two teams, it’s the margin of victory. During Marquette’s six-game winning streak, the Golden Eagles have won by an average of 6.8 points. Meanwhile, UConn has won five straight by an average of 15.4 points. Both teams are playing hotter, but the Huskies are doing so in a dominating fashion.

Mat’s Pick: 4. UConn

2. Xavier vs. 6. Villanova – 9 p.m. on FS1

Can Villanova take home one more win and really give the Selection committee something to think about? One could argue that even getting to the Big East Championship could get the Wildcats to the Big Dance. But one could also argue that getting past Xavier is just too big of an animal. For me, Xavier’s ability to move the basketball is top-notch, while Villanova’s is the opposite. Xavier’s cohesion on offense is beautiful, while Villanova’s offense is more susceptible to dry spells.

Mat’s pick: 2. Xavier

Championship – Saturday, Mar. 11

4. UConn vs. 2. Xavier – 6:30 p.m. on FOX

With Zach Freemantle, I’m really not sure who would win this game. But for me, that’s the difference here. Without Freemantle to help inside, Jack Nunge is left with more work to do. While Xavier is a good rebounding team, pulling down boards over Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan for 40 minutes is a tough task. The lack of a true point guard may hurt the Huskies in March, and Souley Boum can certainly take advantage of that, but this just looks like a game where the Sanogo/Clingan tandem can take over and win it for UConn.

Mat’s pick: 4. UConn

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