Big East Bubble Watch: Volume I

Posted by Justin Kundrat on February 13th, 2018

With about one month remaining until Selection Sunday, the race to secure an NCAA Tournament bid is on. The Big East as a whole has exceeded preseason expectations thus far and is on pace for six or seven bids despite its ongoing intra-league cannibalism. RPI and strength of schedule (SOS) figures are from and the NCAA Nitty Gritty Report.


Could Villanova and Xavier Both Receive #1 Seeds? (USA Today Images)

  • Villanova: 23-2 (10-2); RPI: 3; SOS: 31
  • Xavier: 23-3 (11-2); RPI: 2; SOS: 10

Analysis: These two teams have made things pretty easy for themselves — even losing out would not diminish their NCAA Tournament hopes. Villanova is at this point a near-lock for a #1 seed with a 23-2 overall record and the #3 RPI. On the other hand, Xavier has also climbed to the #1 seed line with Duke’s recent struggles and several losses for the other top teams.

Should Be In

  • Creighton: 18-7 (8-5); RPI: 23; SOS: 48. Analysis: Creighton narrowly avoided what would have been its first bad loss (Quadrant 3/4) of the season last Wednesday, riding a 29-point performance from Marcus Foster to a one-point victory at DePaul. Yes, surrendering 23 points to the Blue Demons’ Marin Maric poses questions about the Bluejays’ interior defense, especially following the season-ending injury to Martin Krampelj. But we have yet to see in what form Greg McDermott‘s team is going to take given an extremely limited frontcourt rotation. The alternative is that with Toby Hegner at the five, Creighton can have five legitimate outside shooting threats on the floor at one time. Despite narrowly missing out on a signature win over Xavier on Saturday, the Bluejays are 8-7 against Quadrant 1/2 teams and should have no problems earning a 10-8 or better conference record.

  • Seton Hall: 17-8 (6-6); RPI: 28; SOS: 29. Analysis: Pirates fans may have started to panic after a home loss to Marquette last Wednesday, but with a 6-6 conference record and a projected 9-9 final record, there’s enough in their resume to warrant a bid (barring a collapse). Senior Khadeen Carrington’s play has improved lately after a string of off shooting nights and Angel Delgado continues to be a steadying force inside. Seton Hall currently owns a 7-6 record against Quadrant 1 teams and a plethora of opportunities to further build upon it. However, a three-game skid and recent road loss to Georgetown are weighing down its long-term seeding potential. The Pirates’ inconsistent defense and short rotation are a cause for concern in March, but when things are clicking, this senior-laden group can challenge just about anyone.
  • Butler: 17-9 (7-6); RPI: 30; SOS: 20. Analysis: Talk about missed opportunities. The Bulldogs rallied from an 18-point first half deficit last Tuesday against Xavier, only to succumb in overtime. That said, their signature victories over Villanova and a rising Ohio State team give this group enough to hang its hat on, especially when coupled with zero losses to teams outside of Quadrant 1. Like several other teams in the Big East, Butler’s limited depth up front will hold them back against physical frontcourts. But a consistent scoring punch from Kelan Martin to the tune of 20.3 PPG and an improving man-to-man defense have propelled LaVall Jordan‘s group to a 7-6 conference record.

Not Quite There

Providence Needs (USA Today Images)

  • Providence: 16-9 (7-5); RPI: 44; SOS: 28. Analysis: It’s been a rocky season for the Friars, but a 7-5 conference record and a string of home victories over Xavier, Butler and Creighton give this resume plenty of bulk. Highly touted freshman Makai Ashton-Langford‘s playing time has dropped in conference play, but the scoring contributions of sophomore Alpha Diallo have been encouraging, particularly with Kyron Cartwright struggling to find his shot. Nevertheless, things appear to be heading in the wrong direction. A recent scare to a low-key surging Georgetown squad and a home loss to DePaul are pushing this group into “On the Fringe” territory. Their upcoming schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Friars face Villanova this week before heading to Butler.

On the Fringe

  • Marquette: 14-11 (5-8); RPI: 63; SOS: 18. Analysis: After four consecutive losses — three of which came at home — Marquette appeared to be playing its way out of the field. Then last Wednesday night happened. Sharp-shooting sophomore Markus Howard returned to form, accumulating 32 points in a road win at Seton Hall. Perhaps even more importantly, the Golden Eagles got contributions from guys outside of their big three: Sacar Anim totaled a career high 15 points, while big man Matt Heldt added 10 of his own. Moreover, the recent road loss at St. John’s doesn’t look so bad anymore. Given its lackluster defense, this team’s results will rise and fall with its shooting prowess. That shooting will be needed to close out conference play: The Golden Eagles are just 3-9 against Quadrant 1 teams with three of the next five games on the road.
  • St. John’s: 13-13 (2-11); RPI: 67; SOS: 2. Analysis: It’s silly to have a 2-11 Big East team in the conversation here, but it’s also hard to ignore what the Red Storm have achieved lately. Chris Mullin‘s group has collected three straight wins in an incredibly impressive fashion, the most recent of which was a home stand against Marquette. St. John’s will likely need to win out the remaining five games of its schedule and make a run in the conference tournament, but doing so would put the Red Storm in the 40s of the RPI, per RPIForecast, and make for an interesting selection committee scenario next month. This team simply cannot be ruled out at this point.
Justin Kundrat (153 Posts)

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

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2 responses to “Big East Bubble Watch: Volume I”

  1. Butt Boogers says:

    I love my Johnnies, but unless they win the BE tourney they are not getting in. They’re a fringe NIT team right now with bad losses to Georgetown, Depaul, plus getting thumped by Providence and Butler

  2. wisemovement says:

    The Friars had lost two in a row — at Butler and Seton Hall at home — and play at Xavier on Wednesday, meaning that they would be staring a four-game losing streak in the face had they lost at Georgetown. As it stands, Providence is 3-7 against Quadrant 1, which includes home wins over Xavier and Villanova, but they’ve also lost two Quadrant 3 and one Quadrant 4 games. MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: , KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 11): Middle Tennessee has had some good things happen to them in recent days. Belmont and Murray State have both climbed into the top 75 of the RPI, meaning that the Blue Raiders have gone from having one Quadrant 1 win to three Quadrant 1 wins. At the same time, Belmont is now 76th in the RPI.

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