Weekly Big East Postseason Outlook

Posted by Justin Kundrat on February 16th, 2015

With just three weeks remaining in conference play, most Big East teams have started rounding into postseason form. For some units like Butler and Providence, this means steady improvement with an eye on seeding and positioning. For others like Seton Hall and St. John’s, it means clinging to NCAA Tournament hopes that seemed much more secure a month ago. As we approach March, we’ll run down the status of each Big East team’s postseason prospects in this weekly look. As of today, the league appears to have six solid NCAA teams, with the remainder in the discussion for NIT bids.

Villanova (23-2, 10-2)
Up Next: Monday vs. Seton Hall, Saturday at Marquette
RPI: 4 SOS: 28

Darrun Hillard (USA Today Images)

Darrun Hillard Kept Villanova in Contention for an NCAA #1 Seed Saturday (USA Today Images)

On Track For: NCAA, No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Villanova boasts one of the strongest resumes of any team in the country: 5-1 vs RPI Top 25; 9-1 vs RPI Top 50; and its two losses were on the road to Georgetown (#21) and Seton Hall (#70). Even accounting for another loss the rest of the way, Villanova should still find itself locked in as a No. 2 seed this season, with an outside chance at a No. 1 seed if it can win out. Regardless, this team’s numbers classifies it as an elite team that is poised to run away with the Big East regular season crown. Yet some of the same knocks will be made as last season: Who is Villanova’s go-to guy; can it compete against more athletic opponents; and has it been tested enough? Only time will tell, but Jay Wright’s team looks like its on the right track.

Butler (18-7, 8-4)
Up Next: Monday at Creighton, Saturday at Xavier
RPI: 24 SOS: 20

On Track For: NCAA, No. 4 or No. 5 seed. Perhaps the biggest surprise this season has been the play of Butler under interim-turned-head coach Chris Holtmann. Junior Kellen Dunham has provided consistent scoring while a number of other players — Alex Barlow, Kelan Martin and Andrew Chrabascz — have given the Bulldogs better offensive versatility and defensive tenacity. Butler’s November win over North Carolina is still impressive, and while the Bulldogs are just 7-7 vs. the RPI Top 100 and 2-5 vs. the RPI Top 25, their lone loss outside of the top 30 was at Tennessee (#80). The Bulldogs have played a challenging schedule and have won nearly every game they were supposed to have won.

Providence (18-8, 8-5)
Up Next: Wednesday at DePaul, Tuesday (2/24) at Villanova
RPI: 22 SOS: 11

On Track For: NCAA, No. 6 or No. 7 seed. While close in RPI ranking to Butler, Providence’s resume is entirely different. The Friars are 10-5 vs. the RPI Top 100, 3-2 vs. the RPI Top 25, and have three dumbfounding losses: at Marquette (#137); at Boston College (#142); and at home against Brown (#235). The plus side is that these losses were early in the season and the Friars have made up for it by going 8-5 against Big East opponents. They will have two more chances to add quality wins to their profile when they travel to Villanova and host Butler, but Friars fans should not be worried about missing the NCAA Tournament at this point.

Georgetown (16-8, 8-5)
Up Next: Tuesday vs. St. John’s, Saturday vs DePaul
RPI: 21 SOS: 4

On Track For: NCAA, No. 6 or No. 7 seed. Like Butler, Georgetown has taken care of business against inferior opponents, as all eight of this team’s losses were to RPI Top 50 units. However, the Hoyas are just 3-8 vs. the RPI Top 50, and poor outside shooting coupled with a heavy reliance on D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera has hurt them at times. Winning the pair of upcoming home games against St. John’s and DePaul would serve to eliminate any lingering doubt about their NCAA chances, and that January win over Villanova will go a long way from both a resume and confidence standpoint.

Xavier (16-10, 7-7)
Up Next: Wednesday at Cincinnati (OOC), Saturday vs. Butler
RPI: 42 SOS: 31

On Track For: NCAA, No. 9 or No. 10 seed. Xavier has been the very definition of middle of the pack.  It has an average record, no great wins (although they swept Georgetown) and a handful of losses to RPI sub-100 teams. The Musketeers have been stumbling somewhat lately, dropping three of their last five games — including home losses to Creighton and St. John’s — and their schedule certainly doesn’t lighten up. Xavier will likely need to finish at .500 and step up its lackadaisical road play since winning their remaining home games — against Butler and Villanova — is a tall task.

St. John’s (17-8, 6-6)
Up Next: Tuesday at Georgetown, Saturday vs. Seton Hall
RPI: 35 SOS: 32

On Track For: NCAA, No. 10 or No. 11 seed. St. John’s is teetering back and forth on the bubble — one win and they’re in; one loss later and they’re out. They are 7-6 vs. the RPI Top 100 and 2-5 vs the RPI Top 25. Winning four of their last five games has significantly improved the Johnnies’ chances, but it is safe to say that a minimum record of 3-3 in their remaining six games is a must. The recent play of Sir’Dominic Pointer alongside the recovered D’Angelo Harrison has pushed Steve Lavin’s team to another level of play, but can they sustain it?

Seton Hall (15-10, 5-8)
Up Next: Monday at Villanova, Saturday at St. John’s
RPI: 70 SOS: 75

On Track For: NCAA bubble/NIT. Talk about falling apart. Seton Hall was once a Top 25 team and now they’re on the outside looking in with the situation growing more dire. The Pirates are now 8-10 vs. the RPI Top 150 and 1-5 vs. the RPI Top 25. At 5-8 in conference play with just five games remaining, the Pirates may have to win out or most of them coupled with a deep Big East Tournament run. Either way, Jaren Sina’s departure and the growing tension between players has not eased the situation. Cohesion simply doesn’t form overnight.

DePaul (12-14, 6-7)
Up Next: Wednesday vs. Providence, Saturday at Georgetown
RPI: 133 SOS: 89

On Track For: NIT. DePaul has been a pleasant surprise this year, starting at 5-2 in conference play before the wheels came off. It would take a miraculous stretch of wins to alter this team’s fate, but most fans would agree that the NIT is a great outcome for a team that was supposed to finish dead last. Billy Garrett Jr. and Myke Henry have done a fantastic job improving the arc of this program.

Marquette (11-14, 3-10)
Up Next: Saturday vs. Villanova, Wednesday (2/25) at Butler
RPI: 137 SOS: 49

On Track For: NIT bubble. The arrival of both Matt Carlino and Luke Fischer has gone a long way in fixing the residual effects from a team that lost four starters and a head coach. What’s amazing is how competitively Marquette has played this season, losing a number of its games closely or in overtime. Their record may indicate otherwise, but the Golden Eagles are playing stout defense and would be best-served in an NIT setting.

Creighton (12-14, 3-10)
Up Next: Monday vs. Butler, Saturday (2/24) at DePaul
RPI: 125 SOS: 59

On Track For: NIT bubble. Everyone knew it would be a rebuilding season in Omaha, and while the Bluejays have played a handful of competitive games, the season-ending injury to Isaiah Zierden effectively put the final nail in Creighton’s coffin. The team is just 3-10 in conference play and just doesn’t have the experience to compete this season. An NIT appearance is possible with a string of victories, but the CBI or CIT seems more likely.

Justin Kundrat (175 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at justin.kundrat@gmail.com

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