Another competitive year in the Big East fueled by some of the best teams in the nation lead to some of the most exciting basketball in the world this season. With multiple teams coming in and out of the AP Top 25 throughout the season, Big East play lead to some of the biggest upsets and biggest wins of the year. Here’s what you need to know about the Big East this regular season coming into March.
Coming into the season we knew the Musketeers would be good, but did we know that they were going to be this good? Xavier exceed expectations this season and finished at the top of the Big East on the back of scoring extrordinaire Trevon Bluiett (Unanimous All-Big East 1st team selection) and company.
Xavier was carried by their offense, averaging nearly 85 points per game, ranking 11th in all of college basketball. While they could not beat Villanova in their two matchups, they only lost to two other teams over the course of the regular season. Coming into the Big East Tournament ranked 3rd in the nation, the Musketeers look like a strong contender to take home the conference championship. They play on March 8, against the winner of St. John’s and Georgetown, two teams that they swept in the regular season.
No surprise here, Jay Wright and his basketball robots were one of the best teams in the nation yet again this season, and finished second in the Big East regular season standings. Jalen Brunson (another Unanimous All-Big East 1st team selection), lead the team in points and assists per game and continued his career as one of the most efficient offensive players in the nation. Junior Mikal Bridges also had a breakout season, and was one of the best shooters on the team.
Villanova is coming into tournament season ranked 2nd in the country, but is currently leading the nation with 87.2 points per game. Their efficiency is their trademark, and rarely have the Wildcats slipped up this season, with only four losses this season, and all coming from gritty conference play. Villanova will play the winner of Marquette and DePaul on March 8, and then, assuming a they win, they will play the winner of Butler and Seton Hall.
Creighton once again was one of the best offensive teams in the nation due to their explosive backcourt of Marcus Foster (All-Big East 1st team) and Khyri Thomas (All-Big East 2nd team) who combined to average over 35 points per game. Thomas was also named the Big East defensive player of the year. Creighton was ranked 8th in the nation offensively, scoring nearly 85 points per game.
The Bluejays were one of the best teams in the country when playing at home, so it should be interesting to see how they play in a neutral tournament setting outside of Omaha. They play on March 8, against Providence, who they lost to in Rhode Island, but beat at home this season.
While Seton Hall jumped in and out of the AP Top 25 all season, they consistently remained one of the most dominant teams in the Big East all season. Senior leadership propelled the Pirates to a successful regular season, as veterans Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez were awarded All-Big East 2nd team recognition. Seton Hall was one of the strongest rebounding teams in the nation this year, lead by Delgado averaging a double-double and Rodriguez’s five rebounds per game.
Seton Hall had a few rough losses on the season (at Rutgers and at Georgetown) but performed well against tough Big East teams. The Pirates swept Butler and Providence in their matchups this season, and only lost conference games to Villanova, Xavier, Creighton and Marquette. They will play next on March 8, against Butler, who they just beat last weekend in their last conference game.
Providence finished among the middle of the Big East, largely on the back of fantastic play by their floor general Kyron Cartwright, who was given an honorable mention in the Big East awards. The Friars had different players step up in different games with no unstoppable offensive weapons, but five players averaging eight points or more per game.
They came up with some high high and some low lows on the season, defeating Butler, Creighton, Xavier, and Villanova over the course of the year, but also losing to DePaul, Marquette, and Houston. Providence will play March 8, against Creighton, who they split with on the season.
With Senior Kelan Martin leading the way and earning a unanimous All-Big East 1st team selection Butler has been one of the toughest teams in the Big East. Martin has make a case for himself as a possible conference player of the year, and has averaged nearly 24 points per game in conference play- leading the Big East. While the other pieces of Butler’s offense have been hit or miss as of late, Martin can be counted on to show up in big games.
While they have 12 losses, the Bulldogs have had one of the toughest schedules in the conference, and only six of those losses have come against unranked teams. Butler has played well against great teams this year as well, with impressive wins coming against Ohio State, Creighton, and Villanova. Their first game of the Big East tournament will be against Seton Hall, who beat them twice in conference play, on March 8.
Marquette has had a rollercoaster of a season, starting off strong and riding the wave of Sophomore star Markus Howard (who dropped 52 this season against Providence). Howard was voted to the All-Big East 2nd team, and his sharpshooting teammate, Andrew Rowsey, who also averaged 20 points per game, was given an honorable mention. Maquette remains one of the best shooting teams in the country (they made 335 3-pointers this season) which makes them a threat to take down any team on any night.
Over the course of the Big East regular season, Marquette managed to defeat Seton Hall and Creighton both times that the teams matched up. On the flip-side, they also lost to DePaul and St. John’s in that time. Marquette will be playing against DePaul again on March 7, looking to move on to play Villanova, who they upset last year, on March 8.
The Hoyas were lead by experienced big men in Marcus Derrickson and Jessie Govan all season. The pair averaged over 30 points and 18 rebounds per game, and Derrickson was voted to the All-Big East 2nd team for his offensive efficiency. Georgetown was also lifted by freshman guards Javon Blair and Jamorko Pickett (both of which were voted to the Big East All-Freshman team).
In Patrick Ewing’s first year as head coach, Georgetown started the season as one of the last undefeated teams to go down, and eventually lost at the hands of Syracuse. After that game they struggled to bounce back against tough Big East opponents, but managed to beat Butler and Seton Hall late in conference play. Georgetown will play play against St. John’s on March 7, for a chance to face off against Xavier in the next game.
In a season plagued by injury to one of the Johnnies’ best players Marcus LoVett, sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds emerged as one of the conference’s biggest stars. Ponds averaged nearly 22 points per game, and earned All-Big East 1st team recognition. With a roster filled with athleticism (Ponds lead the league in steals and Tariq Owens lead the league in blocks per game), St. John’s was a contender in most games but their lack of discipline on both ends of the court kept them from achieving their full potential.
Despite this, The Johnnies took town Duke and Villanova in the same week in February, and beat Butler at Carnesecca Arena in during Big East play. St. John’s will look to keep this momentum as they match up against Georgetown, who they played close in both matchups throughout the season, on March 7. The winner will play Xavier on March 8.
For back to back seasons, DePaul finished at the bottom of the Big East. Max Strus was the Blue Demons’ best scoring option, averaging 16 points per game, but shot just 40% from the field, largely because opposing defenses could focus in on the junior guard. Eli Cain regressed from last season, where he was the primary offensive option for DePaul, to shooting just 35% from the field and 66% from the freethrow line this season.
In two bright spots of conference play, DePaul beat Providence, and Marquette, for what was otherwise a forgettable season. DePaul will face off against Marquette again on March 7, with hopes of advancing to play Villanova on March 8.