While the B1G Ten just finished up a highly competitive and entertaining tournament at the “worlds most famous arena”, something just didn’t feel right. So interested (desperate?) were they to play their post season tournament in Gotham, the conference played a condensed regular season and moved the tourney up a full week. Along those same lines, the ACC is playing its post season tourney in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center this week. Schools from these two conferences have about as much history with NYC as Providence College and Seton Hall have with Ames, IA and Greensboro, NC. Square pegs in round holes I tell you, it just feels forced and contrived.
And now back to your regularly scheduled programming at @TheGarden…
— #BIGEASThoops (@BIGEASTMBB) March 4, 2018
The Big East Conference Tournament and Madison Square Garden go together like peanut butter and jelly. They have been playing the event there since 1983. The brackets are out and the games start this afternoon. MSG will be the place to be for Big East basketball fans once again.
Conventional wisdom is that Villanova is the team to beat, and why wouldn’t it be? Did you know that over the now five seasons of round robin “New” Big East Conference play, the Wildcats have a 77-13 record (.856 winning percentage)? They have owned this conference, won its tourney in 2015 and 2017, and of course the national championship in 2016. This year’s tournament seems a lot more wide-open than recent ones though. Xavier, which is the #1 seed this week can win the championship, as can Seton Hall (if Desi Rodriguez is back healthy), and maybe Creighton if their three-balls are falling. Just for fun, here is one man’s take on how each and every game will play out.
First Round – Wednesday
The day’s action tips off with Georgetown taking on St. John’s (8/9). Can we just let Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin play horse to see who moves along? If Shamorie Ponds is healthy, big if, the Red Storm, spurred on by a home court crowd will prevail. In game two (7/10), give me Marquette and their three headed three-point shooting stars (Andrew Rowsey, Markus Howard, and Sam Hauser) over DePaul.
In my scenario, the first game would be St. John’s against Xavier. While I think the Johnnies will give the Musketeers all they can manage, I’ll give XU the W. Creighton and Providence meet in the 4/5 game which tips off at 2:30. The team’s split in the regular season, but the Blue Jays are just not the same team since losing Martin Krampelj to an ACL injury in mid January (15-4 before, just 6-6 after). With that said, the Friars will not be gouged inside, and they will defend the three well enough to move on…at least I hope! Villanova and Marquette open the nightcap with a flourish. Steve Wojceichowski’s fighting Wojceichowskis, in desperate need of a big win for their NCAA resume, take Jay Wright’s charges to overtime before losing on a last second driving layup by Donte DiVincenzo. The day’s final game features the 3/6 matchup of Seton Hall and Butler. I feel sorry for fans of these universities because it won’t get started until after 10 PM, and it won’t be much of a game either. Riding the wave of emotion brought on by the return of Desi Rodriguez, the Pirates take out the Bulldogs rather easily. Onto the semis.
Photo: VU Hoops
There is something special about Big East Tournament semifinal Friday night at the Garden, the energy in the building is palpable. In our first game, I like Xavier (even though I love Providence). Trevon Bluiett and Quentin Goodin will do their thing from the perimeter, while Kerem Kanter and Tyrique Jones will have their way against the Friars inside. As for Nova/Hall, I’m torn. My heart says SHU, but my head says VU. The fact that Ish Sanogo will probably not play is huge because he is someone who could slow down Mikal Bridges. In the end, my head wins out and so does Villanova, barely.
Championship Game – Saturday
Villanova/Xavier – this one should be a doozy. They say it is hard to beat the same team three times in a season, and they are right. The Wildcats annihilated the Musketeers at home (89-65) and in the Cintas Center (95-79), and so Chris Mack’s team will have the last laugh this time. In a heavyweight rock fight, Xavier outlasts Villanova and hoists its first Big East Tournament trophy. The man of the night and overall tournament MVP is J.P., Macura that is.
And that is My 2 Sense for this week. Let the Madness begin!
Feature photo: Xavier Athletics