Is the Big East Really Only a Three-Bid League Right Now?

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 9th, 2014

The Big East survived conference realignment to become the No. 3 league in terms of conference RPI and KenPom.com at this point of the season. Despite those lofty rankings, the league really only has three teams that sit comfortably on the right side of the bubble as of today. How is this possible? The short answer is that while it is true that the Big East failed to pick up a bunch of notable wins, it also avoided the awful resume-killing losses which weigh down a league’s RPI rating. As a matter of fact, the Big East has just five losses against teams outside the RPI top 100 teams. Let’s take a look at where all 10 teams stand in terms of NCAA Tournament chances with two months remaining in the regular season. From first to worst:

Jay Wright Has Lost His Magic Touch at Villanova (Photo credit: H. Rumph Jr/AP Photo).

Jay Wright and Villanova has bounced back nicely this season. (AP)

Villanova: 14-1, 3-0 Big East

  • Projected Postseason: Villanova is a lock to make the NCAA Tournament after an 11-1 non-conference run which featured wins against Kansas and Iowa on a neutral court. Right now, the Wildcats project to be a No. 2 seed.
  • Best Case Scenario: Jay Wright’s team gets through Big East play with no more than three losses and wins the Big East Tournament. A record of roughly 26-4 would put Villanova in contention for a N0. 1 seed. The Wildcats would need Syracuse to falter in order to earn the No. 1 seed in the East Regional hosted in New York City.
  • Worst Case Scenario: It turns out Villanova isn’t as good as its non-conference performance suggested. Villanova loses six to eight games in the Big East and winds up a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Creighton: 13-2, 3-0 Big East

  • Projected Postseason: After a couple unexpected (but now acceptable) losses to San Diego State and George Washington, Creighton looks like a team that could make a deep run in March. Currently, Creighton finds itself on the five-, six-, or seven-seed line of the NCAA Tournament, depending on which projected bracket you look at.
  • Best Case Scenario: The Bluejays aren’t affected too much by the injury status of Grant Gibbs and lose only a handful of Big East games. Despite zero top-50 wins against the RPI in the non-conference slate, Creighton would still be in line for a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Worst Case Scenario: Creighton loses three or four games with Gibbs out against its toughest stretch in the Big East. Gibbs has a setback or doesn’t return with the same explosiveness. Creighton finishes with seven or eight league losses and drops into the dreaded #8-#9 game.

Xavier: 12-3, 2-0 Big East

  • Projected Postseason: After losing all three games in the Bahamas, Xavier has rebounded and looks like an NCAA Tournament team. The Musketeers own top-50 wins against Cincinnati and Tennessee in the non-conference season and don’t own any bad losses (although the loss to USC looks worse every week). Xavier currently sits in the #8/#9 game on most projected brackets.
  • Best Case Scenario: Semaj Christon steps up and emerges as a superstar to lead Xavier to a Big East title. The Musketeers don’t have the non-conference resume to earn a top three seed, but could easily land a four-seed with a Big East title.
  • Worst Case Scenario: The Musketeers’ newfound offensive efficiency dissipates over time and Xavier finishes fourth or fifth in the Big East, sneaking into the NCAA Tournament as a result.

Georgetown: 10-4, 2-1 Big East

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Playing At A High Level (Getty)

John Thompson III and Georgetown are in danger of missing the Big Dance. (Getty)

  • Projection Postseason: After the Friars blew out Georgetown on Wednesday night, the Hoyas are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. They’re 2-2 against the top 50, but unlike most Big East teams, they also have a loss against a sub-100 team (No. 199 Northeastern). Georgetown will likely make the Tournament, but the Hoyas sit squarely on the bubble.
  • Best Case Scenario: Georgetown sorts things out as Joshua Smith develops into a low post force whose offense outweighs his porous defense and inability to stay on the court. He makes up for the fact that John Thompson III doesn’t get anything out of his bench or Nate Lubick. Georgetown rebounds to finish third in the league and grabs a No. 7 seed.
  • Worst Case Scenario: Georgetown never finds a third option in its offense and falls out of the NCAA Tournament discussion after a .500 season in the conference.

Butler: 10-4, 0-2 Big East

  • Projected Postseason: Like many of their fellow conference members, the Bulldogs have blown most of their opportunities to pick up big wins against RPI top 100 teams. Butler has just one top 100 win against Princeton, with losses to Xavier, Villanova, Oklahoma State, and LSU. The Bulldogs currently own a spot in just seven of 35 brackets in the Bracket Matrix.
  • Best Case Scenario: There’s enough talent on this team for Butler to win 12 games in this conference. Butler is projected to win just eight games by KenPom.com, but with teams floundering left and right, it’s not unreasonable for the Bulldogs to pull off a top-four finish.
  • Worst Case Scenario: Butler isn’t competitive in its first year in the Big East and finishes below .500 to barely land an NIT bid.

Marquette: 9-6, 1-1 Big East

  • Projected Postseason: Marquette doesn’t fall in the “first four out” category or the “next four out” which means the Golden Eagles are nowhere near the NCAA Tournament right now. Buzz Williams’ squad should land in the NIT after taking on a tough non-conference schedule.
  • Best Case Scenario: Marquette suddenly finds its offense, beats Creighton in their second meeting, defeats Villanova twice, and goes on to win 13 or 14 Big East games. It’s not completely implausible if you don’t believe in Creighton and Villanova. The Golden Eagles would still just sneak into the Big Dance in this scenario.
  • Worst Case Scenario: The Golden Eagles continue to flounder with the ball and finish .500 in the Big East and miss the NCAA Tournament and the NIT.

St. John’s: 9-5, 0-2 Big East

Can Steve Lavin Get Some Momentum Going With All His Talent? (AP)

Can Steve Lavin Get Some Momentum Going With All His Talent? (AP)

  • Projected Postseason: With zero wins against the RPI top 100, St. John’s would barely make the NIT as of right now. The Johnnies have losses to Wisconsin, Syracuse, Xavier and Georgetown, teams that all rank in the RPI top 50, but Steve Lavin’s team didn’t play a single game in the non-conference slate against the RPI #51-#100.
  • Best Case Scenario: St. John’s wins 12 Big East games thanks to the tremendous amount of talent Steve Lavin has at his disposl, but it’s not enough to make the NCAA Tournament thanks to the aforementioned poor non-conference results.
  • Worst Case Scenario: The Johnnies continue to toil in mediocrity and miss out on both the NCAA Tournament and NIT.

Seton Hall: 10-6, 1-2 Big East

  • Projected Postseason: None. The Pirates didn’t pick up a single top 100 RPI win in the non-conference slate and lost games to Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Peter’s. Barring a complete turnaround, the Pirates won’t sniff the postseason.
  • Best Case Scenario: Seton Hall gets and stays healthy enough to upset a few of the league’s top teams to give fans some ongoing faith in Kevin Willard and his squad.
  • Worst Case Scenario: Seton Hall barely puts together a team coherent enough to finish ahead of DePaul and avoid the league basement.

Providence: 11-5, 1-2 Big East

  • Projected Postseason: None. The Friars have battled through dismissals and injuries to put together a decent squad capable of at least beating throttling Georgetown. Otherwise, Providence is 0-4 vs. the RPI top 100 (losses to Kentucky, UMass, Maryland and Villanova).
  • Best Case Scenario: The Friars are playing hard under Ed Cooley and should pull off an upset or two thanks to Bryce Cotton. The senior guard becomes an all-league player in his final season and leads Providence to the NIT.
  • Worst Case Scenario: Providence falls apart thanks to a very thin rotation and finishes behind DePaul.

DePaul: 8-8, 0-3 Big East

  • Projected Postseason: It’s DePaul, so no. Being .500 after 16 games is good enough for the Blue Demons. DePaul has been more competitive than most years, but Oliver Purnell still has a lot of work to do to become a Big East contender.
  • Best Case Scenario: DePaul tops its 2012 win total of just three Big East wins. It’s feasible with so many Big East teams struggling right now.
  • Worst Case Scenario: DePaul is gonna DePaul and finishes with one or two league wins.
Jameson Fleming (18 Posts)

Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.


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