Five Questions: Big East Tourney Preview Edition

Posted by Justin Kundrat & Brad Cavallaro on March 11th, 2020

We made it, everyone. From Feast Week to December’s lull to conference tip-off and a February with no shortage of complete mayhem, we’ve somehow arrived at March in one piece. The Big East Tournament starts this evening at MSG with no clear favorite and a whole host of questions in tow. Microsite writers Justin Kundrat and Brad Cavallaro are here to break it down.

Q: With Marcus Zegarowski’s status in flux, where does that leave Creighton? Can the Bluejays win the Big East Tournament and/or advance in the NCAA Tournament without their star point guard at full strength?

How Will Creighton Respond Without Marcus Zegarowski (USA Today Images)

JK: It’s not that Creighton isn’t still a contender for the Big East crown, but I am seriously reconsidering their status as the top dog. The Bluejays excel offensively with dribble penetration and floor spacing to enable kick-out threes, and Zegarowski is a key cog in breaking his man down. His sophomore campaign has resulted in 16.1 PPG and 5.0 APG, and he’s shooting an absurd 45.6 percent from deep in conference play. Not only that, but this team isn’t deep, ranking only 343rd nationally in bench minutes. Outside of Ty-Shon Alexander, there’s nobody else to run this offense! For a team that relies so heavily on crisp offensive execution, I’m worried about their performance this week without him. Let’s see how his status trends, but it might be safe to hold him out until next week.

Q: Providence is one of the hottest teams in the country after rattling off six straight wins. Do you see this hot streak extending into the postseason?

JK: I think so, but I’ll caveat that by saying I’ve been slow getting on the Friars’ recent bandwagon. Their defense has been tremendous and ranks second in efficiency, per Barttorvik, since February 1. Providence is a long team that possesses an uncanny ability to force teams into shots they don’t want to take, and that’s enough to give plenty of opponents a problem. Where they struggle: 1) a propensity to foul; and 2) efficient scoring. Luwane Pipkins has been great and Alpha Diallo is finally showing some maturity, but outside of that duo, the Friars’ offensive output has been unpredictable. If this team runs into a similarly lengthy team (which they won’t face in the conference except maybe against Villanova) that can stifle its robust offensive rebounding, what happens? The impending run will come down to match-ups, in my opinion.

Q: Who is your pick to win the Big East championship and why?

The Pirates May Dunk on the Rest of the Big East This Weekend (USA Today Images)

JK: Seton Hall, barring Zegarowski not playing this week. I think the Pirates are still the most balanced team in the conference and will find their footing again. Myles Powell’s scoring may have dropped off, but he’s been terrific as a decoy and Sandro Mamukelashvili has taken a massive step forward this season. Willard has the ability to extend his rotation unlike some other teams, which should work to his favor on consecutive days. Yes, this team can lose when teams spread the floor and knock down shots, but it took 41 percent three-point shooting from Villanova to scrape by and Creighton will be hard pressed to repeat its performance without Zegarowski.

Q: Which Big East team has the best chance to advance in March?

JK: Probably Villanova, owing to its significant experience factor. Game planning on short notice becomes a critical skill in the Tournament for both the coaching staff and players, and neither Willard nor McDermott has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in their respective careers. Can they this season? Certainly, but I’ll bet on Jay Wright and a team that improves defensively with each game.

Q: The Big East award winners were debuted earlier this week. Who would be on your first and second teams and POY?


First Team: Markus Howard, Myles Powell, Saddiq Bey, Kamar Baldwin, Ty-Shon Alexander, Naji Marshall
Second Team: Collin Gillespie, Tyrique Jones, Romaro Gill, Alpha Diallo, Marcus Zegarowski

POY: Markus Howard

Justin Kundrat (175 Posts)

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

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