Big East Bubble Watch: Volume I

Posted by Justin Kundrat & Brad Cavallaro on February 10th, 2020

We’re finally working our way into the heart of February. College football is over, the Super Bowl is over, and as these other attention-grabbing sports fade into the rear-view, college basketball embraces its time in the spotlight. We still have a solid five weeks of play before the NCAA Tournament tips off on March 17, but the bracket is already taking form. Below is Rush the Court’s first evaluation of the Big East. All figures below are from WarrenNolan.com.

Locks

Seton Hall is Back, Baby (USA Today Images)

Seton Hall: 18-5 (10-1); NET: 12; SOS: 20
Villanova: 17-6 (7-4); NET: 18; SOS: 2

  • Analysis: Some other sites have been cautious to call these two teams locks, but I can’t conceive a scenario where neither makes it. Both are shaping up to be seeded in the #3-#5 range, with incremental wins at this point serving to move the dial upward and ideally provide a favorable location draw. In spite of Villanova’s recent three-game skid, the Wildcats still boast a NET ranking of #18 with five Q1 wins. The concern for Jay Wright is less about seeding and more so fixing its short rotation and ailing post defense. Seton Hall meanwhile has seen a number of its secondary players emerge at just the right time. Romaro Gill‘s offensive play has stalled, but the likes of Sandro Mamukelashvili and Jared Rhoden are helping to soften a recent Myles Powell shooting slump.

Should Be In

Butler: 18-6 (6-5); NET: 10; SOS: 46.

  • Analysis: Butler is closer to “Lock” status than “Not Quite There,” but after a sizzling 15-1 start, the Bulldogs have only won just three of their last eight games. In those eight contests, the defense has given up 1.12 points per possession, as opponents are scoring both at the rim and around the perimeter. This is a concern for a team with a methodical approach that, in the beginning half of the season, used defensive stops to power its offense. Still, none of the trio of losses are necessarily bad — Butler is still 12-6 in Q1/Q2 games and has no losses in the Q3/Q4 territory. Consider this team safe, in general.

Creighton: 17-6 (7-4); NET: 22; SOS: 31.

Creighton Has Been Sneaky Good All Season (USA Today Images)
  • Analysis: The bracket aggregation site BracketMatrix lists Creighton’s average seed as a 5.08. With a 6-6 record in Q1 games and unblemished beyond that, the Bluejays look every part a Tournament team. Their defense, given a lack of size and inability to win the rebounding battle, is concerning, but a 7-4 conference record is propelled by a remarkably efficient offense (7th nationally). The remaining schedule offers more opportunities for quality wins, which can further improve their seeding, but the other benefit is that there are not many opportunities for bad losses either. Consider Creighton close — maybe a week or two away from being a lock.

Marquette: 17-6 (7-4); NET: 24; SOS: 10.

  • Analysis: Marquette has an eerily similar profile to Creighton in many ways. The Golden Eagles also have six Q1 wins, no bad losses, and a 7-4 Big East record. The notable part about this group is their much improved defense, with a range of long wing players and an improving front line in tow. They are currently slotted as a #6/#7 seed in most brackets, which should further improve once adjusted for Sunday’s home win over Butler. There is some margin for error here, so a few bad losses won’t put them out of the picture, but it’s too early to say definitively. Like Creighton, this team is almost to the point of playing for seeding.

Not Quite There

Xavier: 16-8 (5-6); NET: 45; SOS: 23. 

Xavier Might be Turning the Corner (USA Today Images)
  • Analysis: The Musketeers’ metrics might not be there yet, but perhaps no bubble team in the country has done more to improve their situation in the past week than Xavier. It picked up a road win at Seton Hall last weekend and then followed that up with wins over Providence and DePaul. So despite just a 2-7 record in Q1 games, they now have five conference wins and, more importantly, seem to have righted the ship. Tyrique Jones is playing like a madman around the hoop, posting six consecutive double-doubles including three straight with 18 rebounds. If this version of Xavier is here to stay, it would be hard to envision a record worse than 9-9 in the conference, which should be good enough to get the Musketeers in.

On the Fringe

Georgetown: 14-10 (4-7); NET: 52; SOS: 7

  • Analysis: The Hoyas’ resume isn’t terribly impressive, but the fight in this team despite the loss of its leading scorer, Mac McClung, has been. The Hoyas are 3-9 in Q1 games, but 11-1 in all others, a testament to the difficulty of their schedule and ability to avoid bad losses. Right now, a home win over Creighton and neutral floor win over Texas are the only thing this team has to its credit, but if McClung can get healthy, there are numerous opportunities for a few more quality wins. This team is on the outside looking in as of today, but it is worth paying attention to over the next few weeks.
Justin Kundrat (171 Posts)

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


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