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Butler, Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament Preview

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NEW YORK – This is March, and it is that time of year again. Championship week is upon us, and the teams of the Big East make their yearly exodus to the mecca of college basketball. This year’s Big East Tournament is from March 8-11 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Let’s take a look at the teams in the tournament and how they match up. 

Marquette – Marquette was projected to finish ninth in the conference and now they are regular season champions with the top seed in this tournament. Led by Big East Coach of the Year Shaka Smart, Marquette uses their quick and efficient offense to blow by teams. Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek has been the engine that makes Marquette’s offense go, but the blossoming of Kam Jones has set the Golden Eagles over the top. 

Xavier – Xavier can play good, high quality basketball, seen when they won 11 straight from late November to early January. Recently it hasn’t been nearly as great, as they’ve dropped three of five and are looking to get their groove back before the Big East tournament. Xavier is another team with a high-powered offense led by Souley Boom and Colby Jones. Sean Miller’s Musketeers play a team brand of basketball that makes them difficult to stop. 

Creighton – Creighton is an incredibly streaky, boom-or-bust type team. When it’s good and they’re winning, they roll. However, when they get on a losing streak, it’s bad and they can’t seem to figure things out. On the resume, Creighton has both an eight-game win streak and a five-game losing streak. Big East Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Kalkbrenner is a unicorn, and a special player that Creighton builds around. Don’t let the Blue Jays get hot, if they can get out of their own way.

UConn – Their conference record is incredibly deceiving, UConn is a very good basketball team. All seven of their losses have come against Big East opponents, but do not let that fool you. Advanced analytics love the Huskies, as they fit the rare air of being in both the Top 25 on offense and defense per KenPom rankings. Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins and the rest of the Huskies are looking to make a statement entering the NCAA Tournament as one of the favorites in New York. 

Providence – The Friars are right back in the Big East mix with a whole new team and a whole new style. Not as dynamic as some other Big East offenses, they’re still very effective on offense led by Bryce Hopkins. These guys won’t be the favorites, but they can hang with some of the Big East’s best, going 3-3 against ranked Big East teams this season. They’ll look to give some of the seeds above them some trouble in the later rounds. 

Villanova – Villanova has struggled under first-year head coach Kyle Neptune after Jay Wright’s departure. However, they’ve dealt with a lot of injuries and they’re heating up at just the right time as winners of six of their last eight. One thing you can always count on from Villanova is that they will do the fundamentals of the game right. At 82%, the Wildcats are the best free throw shooting team in the country by a wide margin. If there’s any team that can steal a bid and win the Big East tournament from nowhere, Villanova’s your darkhorse. 

Seton Hall – The mastermind behind last year’s miracle Saint Peter’s team has come home, as Shaheen Holloway returns to Seton Hall to be the head man at his alma mater. The Pirates have lost five of their last seven, so they will look to turn it around and gain some momentum in New York. Al-Amir Dawes and KC Ndefo lead a Seton Hall team high on defense and they’ll look to shut down the talented offenses of the Big East. 

St. John’s – Another streaky team in the Big East, St. John’s has gone on great winning streaks, especially to start the season, but have trailed off in stretches and dropped a few games here and there. Posh Alexander and Big East Most Improved Player Joel Soriano lead the Storm as a team that loves to push the ball and play at their pace. The Johnnies will play Butler in the first round, and they have the potential to make some noise if things go right. 

Butler – Sitting at 14-17 and the ninth seed, this was not the ideal season for the Butler men’s basketball team. Under Thad Matta in his first year back at the helm, the ‘Dawgs are moving in the right direction. They have one of the top defenses in the Big East and make teams earn their points. Center Manny Bates re-injured his shoulder in the season finale at Xavier, so not having him in the lineup is a big blow. On the offensive side of the ball, the top scorers are going to have to step up and score more. Butler will look to play the spoiler in order to shake things up and vanquish the big dogs of the Big East. 

DePaul – DePaul has not had a great season, but they are another team looking to play the spoilers here at Madison Square Garden. The Blue Demons roster is full of forwards and size, and they use their advantage on defense. One of the best shot blocking teams in the conference, teams are careful around the rim. 

Georgetown – Somebody has to be at the bottom of the Big East, and Georgetown finds themselves in last entering the Big East Tournament. Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas won a pair of Big East games this season, but it has not been the easiest season. However, no team can be counted out as two seasons ago Georgetown stunned the basketball world by winning the Big East Tournament.