Big East 2016-17 Tournament Preview

- Ky McKeon

(Check out the Preseason Preview Here)

Final Standings:

3MW’s All Conference Team:

Biggest Storylines:

1. ACL Tears: The Mo Watson and Edmond Sumner Story

Injuries are part of college basketball, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about them – especially when it comes to the season-ending kind that affects star players on up-and-coming teams.

Creighton was an absolute tear (pun not intended) to begin the season, sprinting out to an 18-1 start leading many to proclaim them as a Final Four Sleeping Beauty. Mo Watson looked like the hero that Omaha deserved, putting on his best season in his final year with the program. Then tragedy struck on January 16th when Mo went down with the knee injury that would end his college career. To add insult to this injury, Watson was recently charged with rape / sexual assault and has left the program entirely. A sad ending to an otherwise fantastic career. The Jays sputtered to a 5-7 record to close conference play without their star point guard.

Three weeks later following the Watson injury, Edmond Sumner went down with an ACL tear of his own. Xavier hadn’t been quite as impressive as they had been in 2015-16, but the Musketeers were still 15-6 and projecting to enter the Dance as a top six seed. Without Sumner, Xavier is 4-6 and had lost six straight games prior to beating basement dweller DePaul on March 4th. The Musketeers are in serious danger of falling out of the bracket.

2. Where the (expletive) did Providence come from?

Riddle me this, Batman: How does a team that loses two NBA draft picks from a season ago finish with the same conference record it did when said draft picks resided in the locker room? I have no fucking clue. What Providence did this season is absolutely incredible, and Head Coach Ed Cooley deserves a ton of accolades for his work with the Friars this year. 

When Providence started the year 10-2, I was like “whaaaaaat?” Then, when the Friars started conference play 4-8, I was like “Oh yeah, that’s more like it”. But since February 8th, Providence has won six games in a row, vaulting them to 10-8 Big East record and a 3-seed in the conference tournament, leading me to sound like a teenage girl once again.

Kyron Cartwright and Rodney Bullock were outstanding this season in their respective roles. This team has zero seniors on its roster. Look out for next year.

3. JT3 on the Brink

After finishing 14-17 (5-13) and (presumably) missing a second straight NCAA Tournament, many a Hoya fan are calling for the resignation (or canning) of long-time Coach and D.C. basketball legend, John Thompson III. Most think JTIII is untouchable, and I tended to agree for a while given his pedigree and his apparent intimidating personality. But something has to be done at Georgetown. This is a storied basketball program with a strong recruiting history. A Big Dance berth should be a given every single season.

4. Villanova: Smooth and Steady Wins the Big East

When the UConn women’s basketball team won their 100th game in a row, sparking a media mini media frenzy with the otherwise-ignored women’s side of the college game, the Nova Wildcats completed their 90th victory in that same time span. Yes, Villanova went 90-10 over a 100 game stretch playing in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball.

All Jay Wright’s teams have done in the first four years of the new Big East conference is win the regular season title every single season. In fact, no team has finished closer than two games behind the Cats since 2013-14. After GQ Jay shed the unfair “can’t win in the NCAA Tournament” stigma with a National Championship last year, the focus has rightfully shifted to how great of a coach this guy is.

Villanova runs like a well-oiled machine; it’s a beautiful motion offense combined with a relentless team defense. The Cats are 28-3 (15-3) this season, and are a lock to sit on the 1-seed line come Tourney time – and all this was done without 5-star center recruit Omari Spellman.

Tournament Preview


The tournament tips off on Wednesday March 8th, and concludes on March 11th.  All games will be played at one of the Meccas of basketball, Madison Square Garden.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Madison Square Garden, see the Knicks play” – Jackie Chan

Projected Tournament Teams and Seeds

  1. Villanova: 1-seed

  2. Butler: 3-seed

  3. Creighton: 7-seed

  4. Marquette: 9-seed

  5. Providence: 10-seed

  6. Seton Hall: 10-seed

  7. Xavier: 11-seed

The seed-lines above are based on my latest bracketology. As stated above, Villanova will get a 1-seed even if they lose their first Big East Tourney game. The Josh Hart led Cats are a legit contender to repeat as National Champs.

I’ve raved about Butler’s resume ad nauseam, but the Dogs really do have a nice list of accomplishments to point to over the course of the season. The Committee’s eye test combined with the analytics factor may push Butler down to a 4-seed depending on how conference tourney play goes.

Creighton and Xavier are both in free fall. Creighton’s ceiling is a 5-seed (if they win the tourney), basement is a 9-seed. Xavier’s ceiling is a 9-seed (if they win the tourney), basement is the NIT.

Marquette had a fantastic season by Marquette standards. Kudos to Wojo fitting the guard transfers together and getting the Eagles back to the NCAA Tournament.

Dark Horse Team(s)

Remember last year when the Seton Hall Pirates played giant killer behind the heroics of Isaiah Whitehead on their way to a Big East Tourney Ship? This squad has the chops to do that again. Seton Hall is playing their best basketball right now, winning four in a row including an impressive resume bolstering win at Butler to close out the year. This squad underachieved all season and now is finally putting all the pieces together. The Pirates are one of the league’s best defensive and rebounding teams, two important aspects to be good at if you’re targeting a postseason crown. The core of Khadeen Carrington, Angel Delgado, and Desi Rodriguez is one of the best in the Big East. 

Tournament Predictions

(8) St. John’s defeats (9) Georgetown
(7) Xavier defeats (10) DePaul

(1) Villanova defeats (8) St. John’s
(5) Seton Hall defeats (4) Marquette
(2) Butler defeats (7) Xavier
(3) Providence defeats (6) Creighton

(1) Villanova defeats (5) Seton Hall
(2) Butler defeats (3) Providence

(1) Villanova defeats (2) Butler

With the Conference Tourney title secured, the Cats will clinch the #1 overall seed on Selection Sunday (I think Kansas and UNC both lose their conference tournaments – HOT TAKE). Villanova shouldn’t have any trouble disposing of the Red Storm (beat them twice by double digits) or the Pirates (beat them twice by an average of 26 points).

Butler will pose a challenge to Nova’s quest for glory. The Dogs already have two victories over the Cats, adding more fuel to the Dog vs. Cat nature narrative. If Butler wins this tourney, the Committee cannot keep them off the 2-line. Their match with Providence should be a good one.

I think Xavier and Creighton both go down early. The DePaul win should be enough to keep the Musketeers in the Field of 68, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they were left out of the Dance with a loss to Butler. Providence is playing their best basketball right now, and Creighton is in total disarray.

Georgetown fires JTIII, he lands softly at a lesser, but still prestigious University. DePaul questions whether hiring a coach they already had a few years back really was the best choice for its program (hint: it wasn’t).