NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big East Edition

Posted by Brad Cavallaro on March 17th, 2019

Here are some early reactions to each of the four Big East teams’ draws in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Marquette Received the Highest Big East Seed in the NCAA Tournament (USA Today Images)

#5 Marquette. Marquette is slotted in the dreaded #5/#12 match-up and will face media darling Murray State as a result. The Racers are led by a future NBA lottery pick in point guard Ja Morant, an exceptional athlete, ambidextrous finisher, and elite passer. The backcourt match-up between he and Markus Howard will be worth the price of admission, but also look out for Shaq Buchanan and his 13.0 PPG on the wing. The Golden Eagles have limped to the finish, losing five of six games, but Steve Wojciechowski‘s bevy of impressive shooters should keep them in the game.

#6 Villanova. Villanova has received high seeds since the formation of the new Big East six years ago, but this year will be a different situation for the Wildcats. Matched up against WCC automatic qualifier St. Mary’s, the Gaels have relatively strong metrics despite their #11 seed. They are an intriguing team — they lost to every decent opponent on their schedule with one exception — last week’s dominant performance against #1 Gonzaga. Villanova’s supporting cast will be key to how much longer Marchc continues for Jay Wright‘s club. Seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth are the known commodities, but the recent strong play of Jermaine Samuels and Saddiq Bey must continue for Villanova to advance very far in the NCAA Tournament.

#10 Seton Hall. Seton Hall will have most of the country rooting against it this week against Wofford, a popular mid-major team from the Southern Conference that was ranked this season. The Terriers only losses of the year came against Kansas, North Carolina, Mississippi State and Oklahoma, and they destroyed the second-best team in their league, UNC-Greensboro, three times. Wofford is one of the best shooting teams in the country (second in three-point percentage at 41.6 percent) with Fletcher Magee leading the way, but they consistently go deep with a collection of reliable long-range threats. The Pirates will have to leverage their size advantage with an imposing frontcourt trio of Michael Nzei, Sandro Mamukelasvili, and Romaro Gill defensively and on the glass. It will be fun to see Myles Powell and Magee trade bombs in what should be a tightly-contested game.

Relax, Chris Mullin, You Made It (USA Today Images)

#11 St. John’s. Exhale St. John’s fans — the Red Storm sneaked in as the last team in the NCAA Tournament field despite a miserable finish to the regular season. Chris Mullin‘s club is undeniably talented, but a lack of cohesion and size has been a major detriment down the stretch. Arizona State may be poised to take advantage with Romello White inside and freshman guard Lugentz Dort looking like a future NBA first rounder. If the Red Storm advance, they will likely face a tricky task in a veteran Buffalo team. This would be a much better match-up for St. John’s, as the Bulls don’t have a traditional low post big man, but CJ Massenburg and Jeremy Harris are terrific perimeter scorers.

NIT. Big East fans should also pay attention to the NIT closely this season, as five Big East teams qualified for the secondary event. Butler, Providence, Creighton, Xavier and Georgetown will all look to prove that they were snubbed from the Big Dance with deep NIT runs. Only DePaul — which was invited to the CBI — will not play in one of the NCAA’s two marquee postseason tournaments.

Brad Cavallaro (16 Posts)

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