Big East storylines
1. How will Seton Hall handle success?
Seton Hall has gone on an unbelievable run over the last month of the season, winning 12 of their final 14 games, including their memorable upset of Villanova in the final. However, now the Pirates have the target on them. For the first time all year, this team of mostly sophomores has been pegged as a favorite, and expected to make a push for the Sweet 16. That can be a lot to handle for a young team that had struggled mightily over their first season and a half as a group. Gonzaga is a very formidable opponent, so if Seton Hall gets off to a lackadaisical start the Pirates could be in danger of being upset.
2. Fast Tempo Battle in Raleigh
It has taken Andy Enfield a few years to plant his impression on the USC program, but the former Florida Gulf Coast coach has his Trojans playing high flying basketball. USC is 20th in the country in possessions per game, and 36th in adjusted offensive efficiency. USC can shoot and get to the rim, but they also are poor on the defensive side. Providence does not always look to pick up the pace, but they've shown they can be effective in transition with their athletes. If Providence is able to close down on the USC shooters, the Friars should be able to advance to the next round. Either way, look for the winner of this one to put up at least 80 points.
3. Will Butler get back into form?
The Bulldogs have had a strange season. They started off strong, but then struggled for most of January and February. After seeming to get back on track towards the end on the season, Butler lost in a non competitive game against Providence in the Big East Tournament. Roosevelt Jones and Kelan Martin have produced all year, but the team will need leading scorer Kellan Dunham to continue his run of hot shooting if they want to make a run in March.
4. A chance to face the top conferences
The Big East gets a chance to face teams from two conferences that many have pegged as the deepest in the nation this year, in USC and Texas Tech. The Pac 12 and Big 12 each sent seven teams to the tournament, so it will be interesting to see how the the Big East middle tier stacks up to that of the other two conferences. All three Big East teams playing on Thursday have a chance to make major statements for the conference. While Seton Hall's opponent is not necessarily from a power conference, the Hall still faces a perennial tournament team with plenty of talent and a great coach. Under Mark Few, the Zags now have made the NCAA Tournament 18 straight years, and have won their first round game each of the last 7 years.
5. Can Kris Dunn have his moment?
Kris Dunn had a phenomenal season. He won his second straight Big East Player of the Year award while leading Providence to the NCAA Tournament yet again. However, it seems like Dunn's play has been underwhelming of late. Dunn is coming off a 1-8 shooting performance in the Big East Tournament against Villanova, and had games of 8 and 2 points down the stretch. Success in the NCAA Tournament is often determined by guard play, and Dunn is in a tremendous situation against USC to show why he is one of the most highly decorated guards in the nation.