The Big East conference is shaping up to be a wild race to the finish line once again in 2021, as we now sit only four weeks away from Selection Sunday.
Despite it being a two horse race at the top between Villanova and Creighton, there are a bevvy of teams in the middle of the conference jockeying for position in what appears to be a wildly competitive NCAA tournament bubble.
There really are no locks outside the top two teams, as programs from Seton Hall to Providence have their work cut out for them if they want to stay relevant in an everchanging bubble landscape.
Below let’s take a deeper look at what the conference looks like today and how we can properly evaluate each program at this point in this irregular regular season.
Villanova 13-3 (8-2)
Creighton 16-5 (12-4)
Seton Hall 12-8 (9-5)
Xavier 11-3 (4-3)
UConn 9-5 (6-5)
St John’s 13-8 (7-7)
Providence 11-10 (7-8)
Butler 7-11 (6-9)
Georgetown 6-10 (4-7)
Marquette 9-12 (5-10)
DePaul 3-9 (1-9)
Tier I: National Championship Contenders: Villanova and Creighton
Both these programs undoubtedly have Final Four potential, as these are two teams with experienced rosters and coaches.
For Villanova, head coach Jay Wright has one of his most balanced teams since he got to Nova in 2001. Seniors Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels have been the backbone of this ball club, as both have steadily improved and grew into their roles as the leaders of this Nova team. Throw in the immensely gifted sophomore forward, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and you’ve got a lineup that can attack you in so many different ways.
Expect Nova to finish somewhere on the 2 or 3 seed line with the potential to work their way up to a 1 if they wind up running the table.
For Creighton, it is much of the same. They are an absolutely explosive offensive group that can hang 90 on you in a blink.
Junior guard Marcus Zegarowski has been the motor of this team, scoring over 15 points per game.
If they can continue to make their 3’s — something they’re shooting at an extraordinary clip — expect the Blue Jays to be right in the thick of things come March.
Tier II: Bubble Teams: Seton Hall, Xavier, UConn, Saint John’s
Seton Hall is likely viewed atop this tier, sitting at 3rd in the conference at 9-5. They currently are safely in the field of 68, and have been steadily improving as the year goes on.
Senior forward Sandro Mamukelashvili has done it all for these Pirates, averaging 17.6 points to go along with a sturdy 7.2 rebounds. He’s been the hub of the offense which has helped overshadow some of their problems at guard.
Expect the Hall to be penciled in somewhere on the 7-10 seed line come Selection Sunday.
Next up we have Xavier, who has only played a measly seven conference games due to COVID.
The Musketeers started the season raging hot, winning their first eight games, but have cooled off of since. However, with a softer schedule upcoming, the X-men should be able to coast their way to a tournament bid so long as they can avoid some upsets along the way.
A signature win against #12 Oklahoma should go a long way in seeding these Musketeers somewhere in the 8-9 range.
The storied UConn huskies currently stand 5th in the Big East, as this is their first season back in the conference since 2014. Coach Dan Hurley has rejuvenated a program that has been on the periphery of the college basketball landscape of late, as the Huskies currently stand at 9-5 on the season.
With All-American guard, James Bouknight, set to return sometime this week, UConn is in great position to make a late surge and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016.
And last but not least, we have New York’s team, the Saint John’s Red Storm.
Head Coach Mike Anderson has done a phenomenal job with this group, as much like Dan Hurley at UConn, he’s helped revive a program that seemed to have bottomed out not too long ago. Usually in the cellar of the Big East, the Johnnies are 6th in the conference at an even 7-7.
However, despite the feel good story, St. John’s will have to continue to win down the stretch, as Joe Lunardi currently projects them outside the field of 68. A signature win against Nova is certainly huge for their resume, but games against Xavier, Seton Hall and Nova again will be critical in whether or not this team goes dancing in March.
Tier III: Dangerous Teams on the Outside Looking in: Providence, Butler, Georgetown, Marquette
Providence, Butler, Georgetown, and Marquette have all had their fair share of ups and downs, but could certainly still help decide the fate of this conference, as all four are more than capable of going toe to toe with the best of the best.
Each program has at least one signature win over a top 25 opponent, and will be very tough outs when the conference tournament begins in a few weeks.
Providence is probably the only team of this bunch with an outside shot at an at-large bid, while the rest will need to run the table to have any shot in the big dance.
Tier IV: Bottom Feeder: DePaul
Last, and certainly least, we have the DePaul Blue Demons, who have struggled mightily once again in 2021. Winner of only 3 games, there’s really not much else to say about this dismal program.
Regardless, the Big East has been one of the most fun conferences to watch in this topsy-turvy college basketball season, and it will be fascinating to see how the rest of the conference schedule unfolds as we near closer to the tournament.