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Big East Tournament Preview

By Matt Hill

As Gus Johnson said last year, this is the big one. It's the Big East.


About 12 years ago, the Big East looked like it was dead in the water after original members Boston College, Syracuse and Pittsburgh all left for tobacco road.


The group called the Catholic 7 formed what was the new Big East, added three new members in Xavier, Butler and Creighton and later added UCONN back. The new Big East has been a rousing success.


The new Big East has won three national championships and with UCONN leading the way there is a great chance of getting a fourth. It has also seen the rise of Creighton and Xavier from mid-major powers to legitimate Power 6 juggernauts.


The Requiem for the Big East film was not the end. It was just the beginning of what is the purest major college basketball conference. 


Without further ado let's talk about this year's Big East tournament, starting with the contenders, then the bracket busters and then the longshots.

 

CONTENDERS


UCONN

KEY PLAYERS

Tristen Newton 15.2ppg 5.9apg 

Cam Spencer 15.2ppg

Donovan Clingan 6.52rpg 2,09 blocks per game.

 

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

*Only lost to Kansas non-conference.

*Lost to Seton Hall and Creighton in Big East play coming into the last week of the Big East season.

*Ranked No. 1 in the country most of the Big East season.

 

OUTLOOK

UCONN is looking to go back-to-back and a lot of experts and fans expect them to do that. I think Clingan is going to be the key. He is going to have to show out and if he does they are going to be hard to beat. They are a very well-rounded team that plays as a team. I don't see a lot of weaknesses. The Huskies are going to be hard to handle.

 

Marquette

KEY PLAYERS

Tyler Kolek 15ppg 7.64apg (Leads Conference)

Ogo Ishadoro 14.0ppg 7.29rpg

Kam Jones (Just came back from injury)

 

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

*Beat Kansas in Maui Invitational.

*Overcame injury to Kam Jones.

*Lost to UCONN last week to pretty much end hopes of a No. 1 seed.

*Tyler Kolek suffered an oblique injury at the end of the season.

 

OUTLOOK

Things looked a lot better for Maquette earlier in the winter. The Kolek injury is big coming down the stretch. I thought Marquette played very well against Creighton last Saturday but if he can't go in the Big East Tournament, there goes their chances of winning it and getting a No 1 seed. I wouldn't count Shaka Smart out though. He has done a great job at Marquette and I am sure he will have this team ready for the postseason.

 

Creighton

KEY PLAYERS

Baylor Scheierman 18.3 ppg 8.6rpg  4.0apg

Ryan Kalkbrenner 17.1ppg 7.3rpg 2,9 blocks per game (Leads Big East)

Trey Alexander 17.5ppg 4.8apg


TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

*Three Big East Player of the Year candidates but Scheierman is leading the pack.

*Defeated UCONN at home 85-66.

*Lost to two Mountain West teams UNLV and Colorado State.

 

OUTLOOK

This is a team that is a mystery. Creighton has three possible first-team All-Conference selections and has some impressive wins, but also has some bad losses like to UNLV and Colorado State. This team definitely has the potential to win the Big East Tournament and make a serious run at the Final Four.

 

Seton Hall

KEY PLAYERS

Kadary Richmond 16.2ppg, 6.9rpg 4.92apg

Dylan Addae Wus  5.54rpg

Al Amir Dawes 14,5ppg

 

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

*Defeated UCONN 75-60 in December.

*Huge turnaround for Shaheen Holloway in year two. 

*Slow start in non-conference play puts them on the bubble.

 

OUTLOOK

After a tough first year and a rough start to the non-conference season, Holloway and the Pirates turned things around with a huge victory over UCONN at the Rock in December. Holloway is coaching his alma-mater and it looks like he is going to be here for awhile. Will be bracketed with UCONN in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament.

 

BRACKET BUSTERS


Providence

KEY PLAYERS

Devin Carter 19.3ppg 8.2rpg

Josh Oduro 16.3ppg


TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

*Defeated Creighton, Marquette and Wisconsin.

*Defeated Georgetown in Ed Cooley's return to Providence.

*Lost key bubble game to Villanova at the end of the season.

 

OUTLOOK

Providence could be put as a contender but the Friars are very inconsistent. They have two of the best players in the conference in Carter and Oduro, but still find themselves on the bubble and are not trending the right way. The Friars are going to need some wins in the Big East Tournament.

 

Villanova

KEY PLAYERS

Eric Dixon 16.2 ppg 6.3rpg

Brendan Hausen 53 3-pointers

Justin Moore (Coming back from injury)

 

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

*On the bubble but had a huge win over Providence at the end of the season. 

*Won battle of Atlantis.

*Lost to three Philadelphia schools.

 

OUTLOOK

Villanova has had a very topsy turvy season losing to three Philadelphia mid-majors but by the same token beating national powers in the Battle of Atlantis. Looks like Villanova is going to be sweating it on selection Sunday but could really help the cause with a couple of wins in the Big East Tournament. This is going to be fun to watch with the Cats and the Friars.

 

St. John's

KEY PLAYERS

Dannis Jenkins 14.5ppg 5.5apg

Joel Soriano 14.4ppg 9.5rpg


TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

*Upset Creighton 80-66 in February.

*Almost a brand new team that has some disappointing losses.

*Looks like they have overcome the noise of the Rick Pitino press conference in the loss to Seton Hall in February.

 

OUTLOOK

Rick Pitino made not only sports headlines but was actually featured on MSNBC's Morning Joe program after railing his players following a loss to Seton Hall where they blew a double digit lead. I don't think he meant to be so demeaning and was trying to fire his team, it was a very bad look. We will see how it affects recruiting, but in the time being the team responded by beating Creighton and getting themselves back on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. We will see if they can keep this up on their home turf in the Big East Tournament.

 

Butler

KEY PLAYERS

Pierre Brooks 14.8ppg

Jalen Thomas 6rpg

Posh Alexander 4.8apg

 

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

*Defeated Penn State and Texas Tech in non-conference play.

*Defeated Marquette on January 2nd.

Went on a 5-game Big East losing streak toward the end of the season to drop off the NCAA tournament bubble.


OUTLOOK

The Bulldogs went on a five-game losing streak in the Big East toward the end of the season, but showed during conference play and even in the non-conference that they are dangerous and will be a tough out in the Big East Tournament. Overall, it has been a marked improvement this season after several lean years for the Bulldogs.

 

Xavier

KEY PLAYERS

Quincy Olivari 19.4ppg (Leads conference)

Desmond Claude 15.3 ppg

Abou Ousmane 6.4rpg

 

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS 

.*Defeated crosstown rival Cincinnati 84-79.

*Played one of the top non-conference schedules in the country.

*Played season without its two most high profile players Zach Freemantle and Jerome Hunter.

 

OUTLOOK

Despite a close to .500 record, Xavier has stayed under bubble consideration because of its Quad 1 victories and a brutal non-conference schedule. Sean Miller has really had to do a whirlwind coaching job to keep things afloat.

 

LONGSHOTS


Georgetown

KEY PLAYERS

Jayden Epps 17.9ppg

Dontrez Styles 13.1ppg

Supreme Cook 8.1 rpg

 

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

*Other than two wins over DePaul in Big East play, a huge struggle for the Hoyas.

*In a total rebuild under first year head coach Ed Cooley.

 

OUTLOOK

It would be a shock if the Hoyas won a game in the Big East Tournament. They are definitely in a rebuild under head coach Ed Cooley. He says it is going to turn around, but we will see.

 

DEPAUL

KEY PLAYERS

Chico Carter Jr. 11.9 ppg

Elijah Fisher 10.4 ppg

 

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

*Winless in Big East play.

*Fired head coach Tony Stubblefield mid-season.

 

OUTLOOK

There is not much to say here. Some big names are being floated around for the opening. It is going to take a great coach and someone who recruits Chicago to turn it around.

 

BIG EAST SUPERLATIVES

 

PLAYER-OF-THE-YEAR: Baylor Scheierman, Creighton

There were six or seven guys who were deserving of this award, but we decided to go Scheierman because he is the best All-around player in the conference who can do everything. Scheierman can score with the best of them, pass as good as anyone and get tons of rebounds. It was a very close vote in my opinion and I originally said Tyler Kolek, but a late season injury changed my mind.

 

If we are talking what player means the most to their team, I would say Donovan Clingan of UCONN, but he spent too much time out of the lineup with injury to be considered. His teammate, Tristen Newton, was probably my runner-up. Seton Hall's Kadary Richmond and Creighton's Ryan Kalkbrenner were also in the running. In the end, it is Scheierman who gets the nod.

 

COACHES-OF-THE-YEAR: Dan Hurley, UCONN and Shaheen Holloway, Seton Hall.

Both coaches did such good jobs they both deserve to be rewarded. Everybody wondered if UCONN would be as good as they were last year and there were a lot of doubts. Hurley just reloaded and replaced the starters with players just as good. There is a lot of talk about Hurley being national coach of the year. He is definitely in the running.

 

Holloway coached his team to a first-division finish in the conference after being picked ninth in the league coming into the season. We remember Holloway from Saint Peters and the great run he had there making it all the way to the elite 8 two years ago which propelled him to get hired by his alma-mater. He is leading the Pirates to great things.

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