2021-22 Big East Tournament Predictions

Providence looks to capture Big East Tournament title
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Champ Week is here. The Big East looks poised to get 7 NCAA Tournament bids, second only to the Big Ten this year. The conference is back to where it usually is, being one of the best conferences in the country. Because of that, this tournament could and will get very fun and very interesting this week at Madison Square Garden. It could end up being the best of all of the conference tournaments this season. Look out for some fun and magic at MSG.

2021-22 Big East Tournament Predictions

First Round – Wednesday, March 9th

#8 Xavier Musketeers Vs. #9 Butler Bulldogs

Both of these teams have really disappointed me this season. But I will start with Butler. They are awful offensively. They are dead last by a wide margin in scoring average and are also dead last in rebounding average. Everyone from Chuck Harris to Bryce Nze has underperformed this year. The talent is there on paper, but it just has not shown up on the court. This could be head coach LaVall Jordan’s last stand because this performance isn’t The Butler Way.

On February 3rd Xavier was ranked #21 in the AP Poll and had a 16-5 record. It looked like they were surely going to make it to the NCAA Tournament and even perhaps get a good seed. Since then the Musketeers have completely fallen off the rails. They have lost nine out of eleven games since then and are now squarely on the bubble. There were events “Fire Steele!” chants in the Cintas Center. Travis Steele’s job could also be in jeopardy if Xavier doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament. They’re not going to lose this one. They can’t. Paul Scruggs and Xavier start to turn things around and win easily.

#7 St. John’s Red Storm Vs. #10 DePaul Blue Demons

Everyone knows that DePaul is the perennial cellar-dwellers in the Big East. Thanks to Georgetown though, they actually did not finish last in the conference for once. They had a couple of surprise wins in conference play. Javon Freeman-Liberty has been excellent as expected, and David Jones has been really good too. But that was pretty much it for the Blue Demons this season.

For some reason, St. John’s was picked to finish 4th in the Big East in the preseason. I never really understood that. I picked them to finish 5th and knew that was too high. As I said back then, there was just too much uncertainty. Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander were the givens, and both have been great. But the rest of the roster has been inconsistent. The Red Storm are the highest-scoring team in the Big East but are not very good defensively. In fact, they are 306th in the nation in points against per game. That won’t matter too much in this game, their high-volume scoring and the backcourt duo of Champagnie and Alexander leads them past the Blue Demons.

#6 Seton Hall Pirates Vs. #11 Georgetown Hoyas

Pretty much every Hoya fan would just like to forget that this whole season even happened. It has been painful and disappointing since the very beginning. It started with a loss to Dartmouth and ended with a 20-game losing streak that included going 0-19 in Big East play. That is the worst conference record in the history of the league. I recently wrote about how Patrick Ewing needs to resign, but that doesn’t look like it is going to happen, nor does it seem like he will get fired. Anyways, let’s focus on the team. Aminu Mohammed was a unanimous selection to the All-Big East Freshman Team. He should take home Big East Freshman Of The Year honors too. Despite him, the high-volume shooter Kaiden Rice, and last year’s Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player Dante Harris, the Hoyas don’t have a chance in this game. But hey, at least team captain Donald Carey won the Big East Sportsmanship Award.

Seton Hall has been streaky all throughout conference play. At one point in January, they lost four of five. Now they come into the Big East Tournament having won eight of their last ten games. The official loss of Bryce Aiken for the rest of the season hurts, but they have gotten adjusted to him being out already. Kadary Richmond injured his thumb in the regular-season finale on Saturday but is expected back for the BET. Even if he misses this game or is limited, The Pirates will cruise past the defending Big East champion Hoyas.

Quarterfinals – Thursday, March 10th

#1 Providence Friars Vs. #8 Xavier Musketeers

This is a really intriguing matchup. Both teams have a lot to prove. Providence to trying to prove to everyone that they are truly a good team and are not just getting lucky, and Xavier is trying to prove that they belong in the NCAA Tournament and get back to their early-season form. Travis Steele could also very well be coaching for his job. Providence is led by big man Nate Watson and Big East Sixth Man Of The Year Jared Bynum. They have a great combination of players with Al DurhamNoah Horchler, and others. The Friars are the second-best three-point shooting team in the Big East but are kind of middling in other categories. But they did win their first Big East regular-season title in program history, and they were a founding charter member of the conference.

I get why seemingly most people think Providence has just gotten lucky this season. But I think that criticism will fuel the 11th ranked Friars to the win.

#5 Marquette Golden Eagles Vs. #4 Creighton Bluejays

This is another intriguing game. Two teams that have greatly outperformed my expectations for them. Both come into this tournament as locks for the big dance and are trying to pick up more good wins to improve their seeding. The problem with Creighton is that they lost Ryan Nembhard. He was having a great freshman season before suffering a wrist injury against St. John’s last month that required surgery and ended his season. They have lost two of their three games since then, but that one win was against 18th ranked UConn. DII transfer Ryan Hawkins has been excellent and Big East Defensive Player Of The Year Ryan Kalkbrenner. Keep them in contention,

Pretty much the entirety of Marquette’s team from the coach to the players were new heading into this season. This season’s Big East Most Improved Player Justin Lewis was really the only key guy that returned. A bevy of newcomers in the form of freshman and transfer came in and gelled quickly. The Golden Eagles are pretty good offensively and are second in the conference in scoring average, but their defense struggles at times. I think Marquette’s talent and scoring (Creighton is 10th in the conference in scoring.) leads them to the victory.

#2 Villanova Wildcats Vs. #7 St. John’s Red Storm

Villanova has played one of the hardest schedules in the country. They currently sit at #8 in the AP Poll and, unlike last year, come into the Big East Tournament fully healthy. The Wildcats are 16th in offensive rating and on the other side of the ball are 34th in points against per game. Four players average double figures in points per game and two others average a little over nine a game. They are the best three-point and free-throw shooting team in the Big East.

While Villanova did not exactly blow out St. John’s this season in their two regular-season matchups. But these are a different set of circumstances. Collin Gillespie and company have their sites set on a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Red Storm have one of the best backcourts in the country, but the Wildcats are not going to let that stop them.

#3 UConn Huskies Vs. #6 Seton Hall Pirates

Another very intriguing quarterfinals matchup. I don’t think either of these teams gets enough credit for how good they truly are. I have already talked about Seton Hall. Then there is UConn. The trio of R.J. Cole, Adama Sanogo, and Tyrese Martin have 20th ranked Huskies back near the top. They have good depth, being able to go nine players deep. UConn is second in the Big East in scoring and leads the conference in rebounding and blocks. Sanogo is fourth in blocks per game in the Big East and is the conference’s leading rebounder. He is a serious Big East Player Of The Year contender.

This could be one of the best games of the whole tournament and it’s only the quarterfinals. The interior defensive prowess of Seton Hall’s Ike Obiagu (leads the Big East in blocks per game.) and UConn’s Adama Sanogo will be a great matchup to watch. In the end, I have UConn edging this one out in a close one.

Semifinals – Friday, March 11th

#1 Providence Friars Vs. #5 Marquette Golden Eagles

These two teams split their season series. When they met in Milwaukee, Marquette won by 32. In Providence, the home Friars won by two. Providence couldn’t get anything to fall in that first game. Neither team shot well in the second matchup, but the Friars still were able to come out on top.

For me, the key to this game is Friars forward Noah Horchler. In the first game against the Golden Eagles this year, the former North Florida Osprey only had 2 points and 5 rebounds. In the second game, he had an 11 point 10 rebound double-double. I think Providence scores just enough to win this one.

#2 Villanova Wildcats Vs. #3 UConn Huskies

These two teams also split their season series. When they met in Philly, Villanova won by 11. Then when they met in Hartford, UConn won by two. To win this game, the Huskies will need to replicate what they did at home. Villanova shot much better in their home game. Eric Dixon had 24 & 12 in that game but in the loss, he only had 2 & 4. If he can dominate on the low block they will win. I’m taking ‘Nova in a close one.

Finals – #1 Providence Friars Vs. #2 Villanova Wildcats

This is the big one. The kings of the Big East versus the surprise team. Villanova wants a two-seed and to return to the top of the conference that they have mostly owned for a while. Providence wants to win their first-ever Big East Tournament Title and to prove all of the doubters and haters wrong.

Nate Watson vs. Eric Dixon. Al Durham vs. Collin Gillespie. Ed Cooley vs. Jay Wright. And those are not it. There are so many intriguing matchups. The outcome of this game just depends on whoever takes over. Gillespie is one of the best players in the country. On the flip side, Jared Bynum has been a lethal shooter all year. So much intrigue and so many storylines here.

This game is really a toss-up. It could go either way. Jay Wright has led his Wildcats to multiple national championships. Ed Cooley has not done that. He and his team have surely seen all of the criticism that they have gotten. The fight that the Friars have and the desire to prove people wrong will propel Providence to their first-ever Big East Tournament Championship.

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