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2018 Big East Tournament Guide

Ed Cooley at Madison Square Garden

The Big East Tournament kicks off today, with seeds 7-10 playing on Wednesday night to determine who moves on to the Quarterfinals, where the real fun begins. Here’s your 2018 Big East Tournament guide.

Fast Break: Sorting out the Teams

Xavier: The Villanova-killer claimed the regular season crown from the Wildcats and is primed for a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but this week is seeking their first Big East Tournament banner this week.

Villanova: After some late-season hiccup losses, the Wildcats are still in position for an NCAA Tournament one-seed and potential repeat for the Big East Tournament Championship.

Seton Hall: The hot-and-cold Pirates find themselves in a favorable third seed for the Big East Tournament but will need to put together a consistent 40 minutes every game if they want their second banner in three years.

Creighton: Despite key midseason injuries that took out key players the Bluejays are a talented team with a tough road to the championship, having to go through Providence and Xavier to get to Saturday.

Providence: The Friars have a surprisingly good opportunity to make it to the championship game, having beaten both Creighton and Xavier this season and matching up well with both teams, but will need the most from all their players in order to accomplish this.

Butler: The Bulldogs have a repeat matchup with Seton Hall in their first game, whom they lost to narrowly not even a week earlier, but the Bulldogs have plenty of talent to make themselves a dark horse team in this tournament.

Marquette: It’s do or die for the Golden Eagles, who are sitting squarely on (and in some cases, the wrong side of) the NCAA Tournament bubble and will need some wins in this tournament to bump their bid chances in the right direction.

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Georgetown: The Hoyas have become a real challenger late in the Big East season under first-year head coach Patrick Ewing, but are facing a scrappy St. John’s team Wednesday for a chance to take on Xavier the next day.

St. John’s: The Red Storm started the Big East 0-9, then took down two top five teams in a week to show they’re still a threat, and now will look to do the same in the Big East Tournament – if they can play focused and composed, and if Shamorie Ponds is healthy and playing well.

DePaul: The Blue Demons are also attending the Big East Tournament.

5 Storylines of the 2018 Big East Tournament

The Two Titans: Perhaps even bigger than the Big East Tournament itself will be the fact that two Big East teams – Xavier and Villanova – are both in position to secure one seeds in the NCAA Tournament when the selections are announced on Sunday. Questions will range from “will an early loss bump one of these two teams down?” to “if they meet in the championship game, will one jump ahead of the other?” Outside of impact questions, many will be watching to get a glimpse at how these two teams play, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

The Real Tenants of MSG: The Big Ten Tournament wrapped up with a thrilling Michigan victory over Purdue basketball in the World’s Most Famous Arena. And yet, it felt wrong in a way. Maybe it was because the average distance of Big Ten Conference schools from Madison Square Garden came out to about 630 miles, or maybe it was because a major conference tournament was played so early that it felt like that one guest who shows up to a party too early and then has to find a way to occupy their time before everyone else shows up. But fans of the Big East (and college basketball in general) will be quick to tell you that the main attraction is here this week when the Big East arrives.

Those Local Guys: St. John’s is a fascinating team. They have the talent to run with the best, and have proven that by beating the likes of Duke and Villanova. They’re also a team that can’t put it together enough on the floor to win anything significant. Hence, their ninth place seeding combined with local fans makes them an interesting threat as an upset creator. Every fan knows the magic of MSG, and it could rear it’s head and slay both Georgetown and St. John’s – putting the Red Storm in the semis to play a Creighton or Providence team that both are looking for a way to move their seeding up as much as possible this week.

Endangered Species: The Golden Eagles are running out of time, and fans know it. Now the seventh seeded Marquette team needs to get some wins. What better place to do that than in the conference tournament? The Golden Eagles play DePaul on Wednesday, and the Blue Demons shocked the Eagles when DePaul beat them in Chicago just a few weeks ago. But the Golden Eagles pack an offensive punch that will give them answers against Chicago. After that, they’ll find no easy matchups as they have to find a way to take down the Villanova Wildcats, followed by the winner of Seton Hall and Butler – all teams that can give Marquette fits if they don’t play them right.

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The Dark Horse: Providence has the most interesting path to a conference championship this year of any of the teams. As a five seed they have a favorable first round matchup with Creighton who, since losing their big men, has become a much more manageable opponent for the Friars, followed by a semifinals face off against Xavier, St. John’s, and Georgetown. The Friars swept both Georgetown and the Red Storm, and split a matchup with Xavier – but played them very close on the road, and took care of business at the Dunkin Donuts Center against the Musketeers. If the Friars do get by Friday night, they find themselves in familiar territory in a championship game against one of five other Big East teams – only one of whom the Friars have yet to beat this season (Seton Hall).

What’s at Stake?

The Team to Beat: Xavier

Xavier is playing on a whole new level for their program – and it’s thrilling to watch. They won’t have an easy time making it to the championship, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a goliath of a team coming into MSG. “Fear the Musketeer” has never been more true, and with a Big East Regular Season crown on their heads, expect every team to be looking to slay the king the first chance they get.

The Team to Do It: Villanova (Honorable Mention: Providence)

Both Villanova and Providence have a good chance of beating Xavier – after all, they’ve both done it before. Villanova has the talent, with two First-Team All Big East selections, but you can never count out a hungry Friars team either – just ask Xavier and Villanova about that. When I said Xavier had a tough journey to the Big East crown, I meant it for exactly that reason.

Best Early Matchup: Georgetown vs. St. John’s

Both teams are better than their record indicates, and could create headaches for whoever they play – after they get through beating each other up a bit on Wednesday. Despite their low seeding, both teams offer an exciting brand of basketball to watch with plenty of potential to make a little noise of their own, even if they’re not playing for anything.

Playing to Dance: Marquette

If the Golden Eagles bounce, they’re done. Period. They may need to beat Villanova in the second round just to be able to breathe a little about Selection Sunday, but if they really want to feel secure the Golden Eagles may need to go to Saturday night – if not win outright. A tall order? Maybe, but this is March and crazier things have happened.

Playing for Seeding: Creighton, Providence, and Butler

While Villanova and Xavier are comfortably seeded on top of the world, and Marquette is looking to make their way in, these three teams are okay right now and, barring any meltdowns, looking to improve their seeding. Providence may have the most to gain, as they have some spectacular wins as well as terrifically awful losses, but the Bulldogs and Bluejays can both gain something with some good conference wins.

Watch Out For: Providence

When their backs are against the wall this Friars team plays their best basketball. The question is, will the Friars be feeling heat on Thursday against Creighton, or will they be focusing on Sunday? A misstep may not cost them a bid, but it will make them nervous. The Friars could either win the whole thing outright or bounce early – it’s entirely based on which team shows up to MSG.