Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Green’s storylines to watch for in the 2019 Big East tournament

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

Champ week has arrived and for the 37th consecutive season, the Big East tournament takes place at Madison Square Garden as action kicks off on March 13. With the parity witnessed in conference play, expect this edition to have the potential to be the craziest one yet as I provide some storylines to watch for.

1) Villanova’s dominance:

Since reconfiguration in the 2013-14 season, the Villanova Wildcats have enjoyed the most success in the Big East tournament winning four of the last six titles. In order to capture its third straight crown, Villanova will have to overcome adversity as it has struggled to find a consistent third scorer to complement Phil Booth and Eric Paschall.

Saddiq Bey and Colin Gillespie are players who have provided an alternative option at various points this season. Bey has been the Wildcats’ best shooter from the perimeter at 38.6 percent, while Gillespie leads the team in steals with 1.2 steals and scored a career-high 30 against Georgetown on Feb. 3.

2) First round teams as potential spoilers:

Wednesday’s first round games are shaping up to be the most competitive in sometime as St. John’s, who slid into the No. 7 seed off three consecutive losses to close Big East play will look to knock off the tenth-seeded DePaul Blue Demons tomorrow night in the first round. 

The Red Storm will need to overcome a season sweep from the Blue Demons by having extra support on offense outside of Shamorie Ponds. The Blue Demons put together their best run in the conference since the 2006-07 season with seven wins and must ride the hot hand of Max Strus if they hope to win four games in as many nights. A possible invitation to the NIT could be at the stake depending how far DePaul can go in the conference tourney, which could mark a return to postseason play for the first time in 12 seasons.

3) Grabbing life by the horns:

While Villanova, Marquette and Seton Hall are virtual locks to make the 68-team field in the NCAA Tournament, Georgetown, Creighton and Xavier must make deep runs in order to make strong cases for the few at-large spots left.

After giving up 101 points to DePaul on March 6, Georgetown rallied and pulled off an upset of then-No. 16 Marquette in the regular-season finale, 86-84 on March 9. The Hoyas clash with the No. 3-seeded Seton Hall Pirates at 9:30 p.m. ET on Thursday as the teams split the regular season meetings.

The Creighton Bluejays have clicked on all cylinders as they are riding a five-game winning streak into the tournament as they clash with the No. 4 seed Xavier Musketeers at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. Thursday’s game serves as a de facto elimination game in terms of at-large positioning for the NCAA Tournament as the Musketeers have also been on a hot streak winning six of their final seven games in league play.

4) Marquette’s late-season woes:

The Marquette Golden Eagles appeared to be well on their way to winning the school’s first outright Big East regular season title, but a four-game losing streak to end the season allowed the Villanova Wildcats to swipe the outright crown.

In a season of unpredictability, each team except the Hoyas endured a three-game losing streak at one point or another in Big East play, which could serve as a potential positive for the Golden Eagles to make a run in NYC.

Marquette gets the winner of DePaul/St. John’s on Thursday night at 7 p.m. and looks to win its first Big East tournament crown and will need Markus Howard and Sam Hauser to be on their A-games in order for fantasy to become reality.

So much chaos and unpredictability over the last 11 weeks should lead to an exciting Big East tournament from start to finish.