NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big East TeamsPosted by Justin Kundrat on March 12th, 2017
Below is a review of how the selection process concluded for each Big East team and what they should expect in the first few rounds of the NCAA Tournament.j
- Villanova, #1 seed, East Region. The Wildcats got what everyone was expecting: a trip to Buffalo followed by a short commute to Madison Square Garden, the venue of their recent Big East championship, if they can notch two more wins this week. In terms of specific match-ups, Jay Wright‘s team should have no problem disposing of its #16 seed play-in-game winner. The more intriguing game would come next against Wisconsin, a team that opened the season 21-3 before stumbling down the stretch in February and March. The Badgers could give Villanova a run for their money, given their propensity for slowing the pace and playing tenacious defense — not to mention their NCAA Tournament chops and outstanding coaching.
- Butler, #4 seed, South Region. A #4 seed usually gets the treat of a #13 mid-major that has dominated its conference — Winthrop from the Big South fits the mold. The Eagles finished 15-3 in conference play, but the league ranked 28th of 32 Division I conferences this season (per KenPom). The Eagles’ uptempo style of play, while entertaining, should falter against Butler’s deliberate defensive schemes. The only potential downfall is if Winthrop, a top 50 team nationally in three-point shooting, gets hot early and forces Butler to play from behind.
- Creighton, #6 seed, Midwest Region. Creighton gets a tricky draw in Rhode Island: Dan Hurley’s team was squarely on the bubble before running the table in the A-10 Tournament this weekend. While offensively limited at times, the Rams are a defensive stalwart capable of disrupting the Bluejays’ streaky offense with a plethora of interchangeable athletes. Hassan Martin was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and will be a headache for Creighton’s Justin Patton. This game will come down to what version of Creighton comes to play, the lethal outside shooting group or the stagnant, Marcus Foster-led “take ’em” one.
- Seton Hall, #9 seed, South Region. The looming threat of North Carolina in the second round needs to be put on the back burner for now. Arkansas, with 6’10” Moses Kingsley inside, should be able to offset some of the interior scoring threat that Angel Delgado poses. The key for the Pirates in this game will come down to two factors: 1) whether they can exploit the Razorbacks’ poor defensive rebounding, and 2) how effectively they can limit Arkansas’ transition scoring opportunities. On its face, this feels like a game Seton Hall should win.
- Marquette, #10 seed, East Region. Marquette got a nice draw in receiving a grossly overseeded South Carolina team. The Gamecocks are brutally inefficient on the offensive end (315th nationally in effective FG%) and have dropped six of their last nine games. Frank Martin’s highly-touted defense has also faltered over the last few weeks, and they aren’t particularly great at defending against where the Golden Eagles excel — at the three-point line. If Marquette can take care of the ball, it should win this battle of offense vs. defense.
- Xavier, #11 seed, West Region. Like Marquette, Xavier gets a potentially overseeded team that has been sliding lately. Maryland is heavily dependent on the play of a single player (Melo Trimble), doesn’t have a dominant interior scorer and isn’t a good rebounding team. This means that Chris Mack‘s group — at least on paper — matches up very well with the Terrapins. The real concern will come on the defensive end, particularly in whether the Musketeers can slow down Trimble and force the Terps off the perimeter.
- Providence, #11 (Play-in-Game) seed, East Region. Contrary to some concerned citizens, the Friars made the field. Coincidentally, they drew a repeat of last year’s first round matchup with USC, an uptempo group that wins games on the backs of its athletic wings. As such, Kyron Cartwright and Alpha Diallo will have their hands full on the defensive end in this game. The x-factor will be the play of Rodney Bullock, who had one of his best games of the year last season against the Trojans.