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Men’s Big East basketball tournament recap

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Marquette defeated Xavier to win the Big East tournament title on March 11. Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics. 

The Big East tournament has come and gone and led us into the NCAA Tournament and the NIT. We will be taking a look at each team and preview their offseason or their tournament aspirations. We will start from the bottom of the standings and work up toward the top.

The Georgetown Hoyas lost their first-round game to the Villanova Wildcats 80-48. The next day the school announced that they had fired Patrick Ewing. Ewing finished 75-109 in his six seasons at the helm. The school has not hired his replacement quite yet, but there have been rumors of Ed Cooley leaving Providence to take over the Georgetown program. Also, a few players have already entered the transfer portal including leading scorer Primo Spears who averaged 16 points per game. Whatever coach takes over will have to revitalize a program that finished 7-25 this season and has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2015.

The DePaul Blue Demons defeated the Seton Hall Pirates 66-65 on a game-saving block at the buzzer. In their quarterfinals game, they led Xavier at halftime but ultimately fell 89-84. The Blue Demons finished the season 10-23. Head coach Tony Stubblefield will continue to build his team through the transfer portal and hope to get DePaul back to winning ways. It will be a difficult task as four players in their rotation have exhausted their eligibility. 

The Butler Bulldogs were dealt a blow before tip-off when the team announced that Manny Bates and Eric Hunter Jr. had not met the academic expectations of the program. The Bulldogs were unable to match the physicality of the St. John’s Red Storm and were outrebounded 53-28 in a 76-63 loss. Hunter Jr. missed his final collegiate game and is out of eligibility. Myles Tate, Myles Wilmoth, Pierce Thomas, Chuck Harris and leading scorer Jayden Taylor have since entered the transfer portal and will be looking to play elsewhere next season. Taylor led the Dawgs with 12.9 points per game. It remains to be seen if other players will follow suit, but the Bulldogs have been active in the transfer portal already and have reached out to multiple players. The Bulldogs lost eight conference games by 20+ points and head coach Thad Matta will have to put this season behind the program or there will be even more questions about why he was hired.

The St. John’s Red Storm defeated Butler in first-round action but fell to the Marquette Golden Eagles 72-70 in overtime of the quarterfinals. After the loss, they fired Mike Anderson after four seasons as the head coach. Anderson went 68-56 and was unable to lead the Red Storm to the NCAA Tournament during his tenure. St. John’s last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2019. It is unknown if Andre Curbelo will return to the team. Curbelo missed games during the season and seemed to be out of the rotation at times. The Red Storm could see the majority of their veteran-laden team return depending on who becomes head coach. 

In head coach Shaheen Holloway’s first season, the Seton Hall Pirates fell in their first-round game to DePaul. The Pirates were selected for the NIT but lost to Colorado 65-64 and ended their season with a 17-16 record. The Pirates leaned on the use of the transfer portal and will most likely continue to utilize the portal. Kadary Richmond finished as the team’s third-leading scorer at 10.1 points per game and looks to be featured prominently in the offense next season.

The Villanova Wildcats opened up the Big East tournament with a rout of Georgetown but lost to Creighton 87-74 in the quarterfinals. The Wildcats dealt with ups and downs all season long in head coach Kyle Neptune’s first season after Jay Wright’s surprising retirement. Cam Whitmore looks to be off to the NBA draft as a lottery pick with Justin Moore seemingly likely to go the professional route as well. It is too early to say what Villanova’s other players will do, but Villanova fans should be prepared for a potential rebuild model as Neptune starts to get adjusted to the Big East conference. 

The Providence Friars had a first-round bye in the tournament and fell in the quarterfinals with a 73-66 loss to the UConn Huskies. Providence in the last two seasons has built their team through the transfer portal and will continue to as long as Ed Cooley is the head coach. The Friars will open up NCAA Tournament play against the No. 6 seed Kentucky Wildcats on March 17 in East Region first-round play. Rumors have swirled around Cooley leaving the team after the tournament to go to Georgetown, but Cooley’s focus remains on his current team.

The UConn Huskies defeated Providence and advanced to the semifinals of the Big East tournament, but fell 70-68 to Marquette. This is Dan Hurley’s best team in his five seasons as head coach. The Huskies will take on No. 13 seed Iona in the first round of West Region play. This matchup is intriguing as it will be a face-off between Hurley and Iona coach Rick Pitino. This game is expected to be well attended with the two northeastern schools tipping off in Albany, New York.

The Creighton Bluejays defeated Villanova to advance to the semifinals but lost to Xavier 82-60. Head coach Greg McDermott is in his 13th season at Creighton with one of his most talented teams yet. The athleticism and size on his roster have helped the Bluejays to a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They will face off against the No. 11 seed NC State Wolfpack in first round of South Region action. 

The Xavier Musketeers narrowly escaped against DePaul and defeated Creighton in the semifinals to advance to the championship game of the Big East tournament. The Musketeers struggled against Marquette and found themselves down at halftime. They were unable to come back and fell 65-51 to finish second in the Big East. Head coach Sean Miller was hired before the season but was not short of controversy as he was embroiled in an FBI investigation of college basketball and the Arizona program. Miller was somehow not suspended by the NCAA as his assistant coaches at Arizona ended up facing the brunt of the sanctions. Regardless, Miller has Xavier attempting to return to the Sweet 16 but first they will have to take on the No. 14 seed Kennesaw State Owls in the Midwest Region.

The Marquette Golden Eagles advanced to the championship game off of wins against St. John’s, UConn. They then were able to stifle the Xavier offense in the Big East championship game. This was a huge win for a team that was picked to finish ninth in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Head coach Shaka Smart has the Golden Eagles looking to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2003. Marquette will take on the No. 15 seed Vermont Catamounts in the first round of the East Region.