The Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden is one of college basketball’s most famous traditions. The tournament starts on the heels of an exciting conference season, as the race for the regular-season conference championship came down to the last game. When Creighton beat Seton Hall at home on Senior Night, they forced a three-way tie for the regular-season title. The Bluejays and Pirates shared the regular-season championship with Villanova, who barely escaped Georgetown on Saturday.
The intense race is likely just a preview of what is to come this week in New York City. The Big East is projected to get as many as seven of its ten teams into the NCAA Tournament. A dominant run by one of the top three teams could earn them a No. 1 seed next week.
Here is a breakdown of all the favorites, dark horses, and longshots to win the Big East tournament (odds courtesy of FanDuel).
Villanova earned every bit of their share of the regular-season conference championship. To win at Seton Hall to keep their championship hopes alive was a huge confidence builder. Coach Jay Wright has reminded the media consistently how uncharacteristically young his team is. However, without a single scholarship senior on the roster, the Wildcats have not seemed to miss a beat.
The Wildcats have one of the most impressive resumes in the country. They trail only Kansas and Baylor with ten Quadrant 1 wins. Oh, and speaking of Kansas, that was Villanova’s big signature win in the non-conference portion of their schedule.
As a top-two seed in the Big East tournament, Villanova has a built-in advantage. They earned a “bye” in a sense, as their quarterfinal opponent (either Xavier or DePaul) will have played the night before. A meeting with Seton Hall in the semifinal round may likely determine which team stays in the East Regional (also played at MSG) for the NCAA Tournament.
Seton Hall (+290)
Though Seton Hall earned a share of the regular-season championship, they must be sick to their stomach that they did not win it outright. The Pirates needed one victory in their final two games to claim sole possession of the title. However, they lost to Villanova at home and at Creighton to end the season. Because of tiebreakers, Seton Hall dropped to the No. 3 seed in the Big East tournament.
Despite the rough ending to their season, Pirates fans should still be confident that they can win three games in three days. Seton Hall is one of the most experienced teams in the country. They feature three seniors and two juniors in their starting lineup. Myles Powell is a Naismith Player of the Year Award semifinalist who can take over any game. The Pirates have two of the best defenders at their positions in the country in Quincy McKnight and Romaro Gill. Seton Hall ranks in the top 30 in the country in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom. So even when their shots don’t fall, they can find other ways to win.
Seton Hall does not have the easiest draw. They face a rested Marquette team before possibly having to play Villanova and Creighton back-to-back. However, expect coach Kevin Willard to have his team focused in an effort to claim a championship that should have solely been theirs.
Creighton’s final home game against Seton Hall was billed as one of the biggest regular-season games in school history. The hyped-up crowd helped their Bluejays to a dominating performance. As a result, Creighton earned the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament and all the scheduling perks that come with it.
Do not underestimate the advantage that Creighton will enjoy in their first two games. The winner of St. John’s- Georgetown will have a very quick turnaround to play at noon on Thursday after their game ends late Wednesday night. In addition, because they play at noon in the quarterfinals, Creighton benefits from a little extra rest than their eventual semifinal opponent.
The celebration after beating Seton Hall on the last day of the season was somewhat muted after Creighton received some potentially devastating injury news. Their second-team, All-Conference point guard Marcus Zegarowski suffered a knee injury in their last game and is doubtful for the Big East tournament. He is such an integral part of their offense that winning three games in three days seems unlikely without him.
Providence (+600), Butler (+700), Marquette (+950), Xavier (+1600)
The best bet of this bunch has to be Providence. The Friars caught fire at the end of the season and head into the tournament on a six-game winning streak. In the last calendar month, they beat five consecutive ranked opponents with two wins on the road. They have shown they can beat anybody, anywhere. If they can get by a tough Butler squad in the quarterfinals, they are likely to face an undermanned Creighton team without Zegarowski. Providence’s path to the championship round does not appear as daunting as the paths of others.
The fact that Xavier has such reasonable odds is surprising since they have to win an extra game than the top seeds. Marquette has Player of the Year candidate Markus Howard that they can rely on, but they have been playing too inconsistently to take seriously. Butler is also an interesting value bet, and they have the same path as Providence if they can beat the Friars in the quarterfinals. If you have Butler beating Providence, they are certainly worth a bet at +700.
Georgetown (+6500), St. John’s (+6500), DePaul (+10000)
Kemba Walker’s UCONN team won five games in five days in the Big East tournament. None of these teams are capable of winning four games in four days.