Big East Q&A: Conference Tournament Edition

Posted by Justin Kundrat and Brian Otskey on March 13th, 2019

Finally, conference tournament week is upon us. Big East microsite writers Justin Kundrat and Brian Otskey teamed up this week to break down several of the conference’s key questions heading into the Big East tournament.

BO: How concerned should we be by Marquette’s late season slide?

What’s Going On With Marquette? (USA Today Images)

JK: I said last week that we shouldn’t be concerned — that it was just a late season stumble. And while a home loss to Georgetown had me rethinking that, I’m going to stand by it. Marquette was hampered by woeful offense in its initial three-game stretch, and completely turned things around on that end against Georgetown (its 1.14 points per possession was in line with its season average). I understand the tendency to worry after a four-game skid, though — particularly this time of year — but nothing has fundamentally changed with this team. Its problem appears to be mental. With a much improved defense to weather the poor shooting nights, things should course correct this week in New York.

BO: Did Seton Hall truly turn a corner last week heading into the postseason or was its more focused play a result of desperation?

JK: This is a team I will never figure out. Just when I started to buy in earlier this season, the Pirates sputtered to a 3-5 start in conference play; and when I wrote them off at 7-9 a few weeks ago, they proceeded to collect consecutive wins against Marquette and Villanova. The crazy thing is that the two games followed completely different narratives. Against Marquette, Seton Hall was down by 13 points with 10 minutes left before Myles Powell poured in 17 points in that span. It was a good win, but supported the theory that Seton Hall relies too heavily on Powell and cannot compete if other players are forced to score. Yet against Villanova, it was in fact the Pirates’ role players that propelled them to their third most efficient scoring game of the season. At their best, Seton Hall looks like a Top 25 team that can hang with anyone in college basketball, but its consistency gives me pause. Let’s see how this week turns out before making a final ruling.

BO: Providence showed some signs of life on Saturday and the Friars usually play well at the Garden. Are they a true sleeper in this tournament?

JK: For whatever reason, Providence always plays tough at MSG, but I’m not sure there’s enough to this team that would enable them to make a push for the crown. Its young backcourt hasn’t exactly turned the corner as expected this season, which has resulted in the least efficient offense of Ed Cooley‘s tenure at Providence. They can easily pick a game off of Butler, but Villanova should end any chance of a Cinderella story.

BO: What does Creighton, St. John’s, Georgetown and Xavier each have to do to to make the NCAA Tournament?

JK: Creighton is in with a win over Xavier on Thursday, but the Bluejays still have a shot even without it. St. John’s absolutely must beat DePaul tonight and even then would be right on the cut line unless the Red Storm can also topple Marquette. Georgetown and Xavier need to make the championship game, if not win it.

BO: When all is said and done, how many Big East teams hear their names called on Sunday evening?

JK: My guess is four. Villanova and Marquette are in; Seton Hall secured its bid with a heroic week; and one of Creighton or St. John’s will wiggle its way in this week. Nonetheless, It will be an exciting week at MSG with so much on the line.

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