Big East Bubble Watch: Volume IIPosted by Justin Kundrat on March 2nd, 2017
A positive resulting from the recent struggles of Creighton and Xavier is the opportunity it has afforded the conference’s bubble teams. At the beginning of the season, five was a fair benchmark for possible NCAA Tournament bids coming out of the Big East this season. Now, with just one regular season game remaining for each team, as many as seven teams could hear their names called on Selection Sunday. At the expense of quality seeding has come quantity, which might prove to be a boon given the unpredictable nature of March Madness. Here is where those seven teams stand as we head into of the final weekend of the regular season. RPI and strength of schedule (SOS) figures are from RPIForecast.com.
- Villanova: 27-3 (14-3); RPI: 1; SOS: 24
- Butler: 23-6 (12-5); RPI: 10; SOS: 11
- Creighton: 23-7 (10-7); RPI: 24; SOS: 44
Analysis: These three teams have made things pretty easy for themselves — even losing out would not be enough to destroy their NCAA Tournament hopes. Villanova is a virtual lock for a #1 seed, probably in the East Region; Butler has climbed its way up to the #3 seed line; and Creighton should find itself in the #5 to #6 range. With the right match-ups, all three are Sweet Sixteen contenders.
Should Be In
- Xavier: 18-12 (8-9); RPI: 35; SOS: 7
Analysis: The Musketeers’ awful slide has continued with the once 18-6 team having now lost six games in a row. A home loss to Marquette does not help matters but it alone is not yet enough to knock the Musketeers to the fringe. Xavier has gone 0-6 vs. the RPI top 25 this season, but it has avoided any bad losses and still boasts a total of eight top 100 wins. The concern for Chris Mack‘s team at this point isn’t so much its seeding but just how poorly it might perform in the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers’ last six games have been a disaster on the defensive end.
- Seton Hall: 19-10 (9-8); RPI: 48; SOS: 50
Analysis: The Pirates took care of business this week, winning its road trip to DePaul and rallying late to pick up a home win against Georgetown. The team’s underlying weakness remains its lack of a true point guard, but both Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez have developed into tremendous scorers off the dribble. The “take em” oriented offense might not be pretty, but coupling it with Angel Delgado’s rebounding presence has proven effective in generating scoring opportunities. A win at Butler on Saturday or over its first Big East Tournament opponent would lock things up for the Pirates.
- Providence: 19-11 (9-8); RPI: 55; SOS: 40
Analysis: The Friars are on an inverse trajectory from Xavier. Winners of five straight (four of which came against Big East locks or bubble teams), Providence is playing as well as any team in the conference right now. It feels a tad too early to consider the Friars as definitely in the NCAAs, but with a 19-11 overall record and the second-best defense in the Big East, they certainly look the part. Junior guard Kyron Cartwright owns the third highest assist rate in college basketball despite what appeared to be a roster devoid of scoring talent outside of Rodney Bullock. Swingman Jalen Lindsey is riding a 46.8 percent shooting clip from deep (26.9 percent last season) while transfer Emmitt Holt has given the Friars a nice inside-outside big man. Like Seton Hall, one more win in the next week should secure the bid.
- Marquette: 18-11 (9-8); RPI: 58; SOS: 54
Analysis: Yesterday Marquette belonged a notch below the rest of the “Should Be In” teams, but another good performance on Wednesday night changed everything. The road win at Xavier guarantees a .500 conference record, adds yet another top 50 RPI win to its resume and plays perfectly into the “eye test” analysis. Put simply, the Golden Eagles did what they do best: shoot lights out by spreading the floor with seemingly endless three-point shooters. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense, and when a team is shooting 57 percent from downtown, it’s difficult for opponents to stay patient long enough to set up their own attacks. Marquette has that rare quality that dares opponents to match its tempo — with a clicking offense, this is a scary seed on the #10 or #11 line.