Big East Bubble Watch: Volume I

Posted by Justin Kundrat on February 23rd, 2017

Selection Sunday is fast approaching and remaining schedules provide dwindling opportunities to make the cut line for the NCAA Tournament. Given how wide open the Big East has been this season (thanks in large part to a number of injuries affecting Xavier and Creighton), there is an unusually large number of conference teams still with a fighting chance. Here is where those teams stand as we head into one of the final weekends of the regular season. RPI and strength of schedule (SOS) figures are from RPIForecast.com.

Locks

Villanova and Butler are Two of the Big East’s Mortal Locks (USA Today Images)

  • Villanova: 26-3 (13-3); RPI: 2; SOS: 29
  • Butler: 22-6 (11-5); RPI: 11; SOS: 12
  • Creighton: 22-6 (11-7); RPI: 26; SOS: 48

Analysis: These three teams have made things pretty easy for themselves — even losing out would not be enough to diminish their NCAA Tournament hopes. Villanova is a near-lock for a #1 seed even after last night’s home loss to Butler, while the Bulldogs and Bluejays should find themselves on the #4 or #5 seed lines.

Should Be In

  • Xavier: 18-10 (8-7); RPI: 22; SOS: 8

Analysis: Even accounting for the season-ending injury to Edmond Sumner, Xavier shouldn’t have needed to worry about which tournament it would take part in at the end of the regular season. But an ankle injury to leading scorer Trevon Bluiett has changed that perspective. Bluiett was back in action on Wednesday night, but the Musketeers regardless dropped their fourth consecutive game in ugly fashion at Seton Hall, and their upcoming schedule isn’t favorable. Still, three more losses would put Chris Mack‘s team at 18-13 with an RPI of ~38, which likely means squarely in the field. On the plus side, Xavier has been getting much better contributions from its post players, especially RaShid Gaston, which was a major concern earlier this season.

Not Quite There

  • Seton Hall: 17-10 (7-8); RPI: 48; SOS: 38

Analysis: The Pirates have a more favorable RPI than some of their “on the fringe” counterparts below, but Seton Hall’s overall resume remains spotty. It owns a neutral floor win over South Carolina, which is slipping by the day, and more recent homecourt wins over Creighton and Xavier. At 7-8 in Big East play, the Pirates would be best served by finishing 2-1 or making a run to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament. Either way, with Khadeen Carrington quickly becoming a very good point guard and Angel Delgado posting double-doubles nearly every night, Seton Hall certainly looks the part of an NCAA Tournament team.

On the Fringe

  • Providence: 17-11 (7-8); RPI: 54; SOS: 34

Analysis: Two weeks ago, the Friars were virtually left for dead at 14-11 overall and 4-8 in conference play. But a flurry of victories over Butler, Xavier and at Creighton have put Providence back in the discussion. The most dramatic change has come in the scoring contributions from the team’s role players. No longer are the Friars relying so heavily on Rodney Bullock to generate offense. In fact, Providence’s last four games have featured four different players leading the team in scoring. The selection committee metrics for this team might not instill much confidence, but there’s a decent chance the Friars finish the season at 10-8 in conference play, making it difficult to argue against their inclusion.

  • Marquette: 17-10 (8-7); RPI: 71; SOS: 63

Analysis: With a sub-par RPI and a spotty defense, it’s tough to think of the Golden Eagles as a legitimate NCAA Tournament team. When things are clicking (see: Marquette vs. Villanova on January 24), Steve Wojciechowski‘s team can rest its laurels on an offense that ranks as the eighth most efficient in college basketball. But teams that can slow the pace or chase Marquette off the perimeter can create a different story. Nonetheless, an 8-7 conference record with wins at Creighton, Villanova and Xavier provides for three RPI top 25 wins, and there are ample opportunities to turn things around. Winning its remaining three games would put the Golden Eagles in the ~48 range in RPI and therefore squarely on the bubble.

Justin Kundrat (143 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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