We are hours away from the Big East Tournament kicking off at Madison Square Garden in the heart of New York City. For those of you that haven’t been paying attention, the Big East teams have been beating the life out of each other over the last month, and now it all comes down to a four-day tournament to see if anyone can steal the title or a bid to the Big Dance.
Every team got better as the season went on and the Big East should be sending six teams to the NCAA Tournament, maybe even seven if all goes according to plan for Marquette.
Can Shamorie Ponds (if he plays) light up MSG like he has in the past to help St. John’s steal a bid? Can the dominance of Georgetown’s bigs help them get to Saturday? Before we find that out, here is a game-by-game prediction of what I think may happen this week in the Big Apple.
- Georgetown vs. St. John’s – Does Shamorie Ponds play? Is Yakwe back from illness? Does Govan let him being snubbed from All-Big East selections put a chip on his shoulder to continue his strong play? At this point, St. John’s has played their hearts out including what many think was the best week in college basketball by beating Villanova and Duke. They have to be running on fumes with the short bench Chris Mullin has been using all year. I think if Patrick Ewing pushes the right buttons, they get the opening round victory. Georgetown
- Marquette vs. DePaul – When Marquette is hot they are on absolute fire, which it showed on Saturday vs. Creighton. Andrew Rowsey went off with six three-pointers to add to his 26 points. DePaul has been playing better, but I don’t think they really have a shot in this game. Marquette is looking to add another victory to their resume and hopefully make it to Thursday for a second game. I have not even begun to mention Markus Howard. Marquette
- Xavier vs. Georgetown – Xavier has the veteran leadership and coaching to get them to Saturday. As of now, they should be a #1 seed after capturing their first Big East Championship. Georgetown is a young team and I don’t think they have what it takes to stay with a well-rested Xavier team. JP Macura and his long sleeves should disrupt the Hoyas’ guards plenty and they have the bigs down low to bang with Govan and Derrickson. They also have a guy named Trevon Bluiett who is pretty good too. Xavier
- Providence vs. Creighton – Full preview coming tomorrow morning. In short, the Friars advance. Providence
- Villanova vs. Marquette – This could be a really fun game to watch. A lot of really good guard play on both sides. I touched on Marquette’s guards above that can both shoot the lights out (Friar fans will never forget where they were when Howard dropped 52 on them this year). Look for the guard play of Villanova’s Brunson, who is a potential National Player of the Year, Big East sixth-man of the year, Donte DiVincenzo, and super sub off the bench Collin Gillespie to help keep Marquette’s guards in check. The Wildcats have the experience and should be rested to take this one. Villanova
- Butler vs Seton Hall – These two teams played less than a week ago with the Seton Hall winning by seven. The big question is, will Desi Rodriguez play? Kadeem Carrington has picked up the slack for the Pirates since Rodriguez went down, averaging 24.25 points per game over the last four. Angel Delgado will still be lurking in the middle. Can Kelan Martin carry the Bulldogs to Friday night? I don’t think so. Seton Hall
- Xavier vs. Providence – The Friars beat the Musketeers at home this year and almost beat them at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati on February 28th. Xavier won by 10, but it was a lot closer than that throughout the game. Can the Friars put together a full 40 minute performance? If Kalif Young does not suit up this week, I think Xavier may have too much inside for the Friars to handle. Xavier
- Seton Hall vs. Villanova – Again, the big question is, does Desi Rodriguez play? Also, for the Villanova side, how healthy is Phil Booth? In the four games since his return from a hand injury, he is averaging just 8.25 points per game, which is below his season average. I think this tournament is still Villanova’s to lose. Villanova
- Xavier vs. Villanova – Villanova blew Xavier out twice this year, once by 24 and then by 16. If that is not what is on the minds of the Musketeers, then I don’t know what is. They finally got a taste of a Big East Championship this year, but the conference still goes through Villanova, and if they want to be known as outright champions, they have to finish them off at MSG. This game will be a lot closer than the last two in my opinion. It’s always tough to beat a team three times in a season. I’m going to go with Xavier here. It just feels like their year.
Big East Tournament Champion : XAVIER