We’ve held off long enough. It’s time to start getting serious about Bracketology posts!
In the past, we would do them religiously whenever ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, CBS’s Jerry Palm, or SB Nation’s Chris Dobbertean put a new bracket out. We haven’t done that this year, because the landscape of college basketball has been even weirder than usual and the brackets have undergone cataclysmic shifts on a weekly basis.
This week, we’re going to just focus on Lunardi’s bracket from Thursday. He has six Big East teams in the field, with each of the six avoiding the First Four in Dayton.
Let’s take a look at how each team stacks up.
What a shock, the Wildcats are the #1 overall seed, yet again. They would obviously select the East Regional, meaning they’d be playing in Pittsburgh and Boston before ideally heading to San Antonio.
This draw is incredibly favorable for the Wildcats, as none of these teams have really done much to stand out this year. A potential Elite Eight meeting against Creighton (more on them shortly) could be dicey if only because it would be at least the third time the two teams will have met this season. Wichita State isn’t quite what they used to be, but they’re still a very solid team.
Overdone Jay Wright in the NCAA Tournament narratives aside, I think Villanova is a safe bet for the Final Four with this draw.
This is a pretty good first-round draw for Creighton. They should be able to handle Georgia or Baylor because a very tough test against a North Carolina team that has made it to back to back National Championship Games. The Tar Heels have displayed below-average three-point defending this year, so if Creighton could get it going they would have a shot at the upset.
To borrow a term from soccer, this is a region of death. While Xavier would likely get a nice showing from their fans in Nashville and be able to take down Northern Kentucky, TCU would be a tough test as Jamie Dixon has turned the Horned Frogs into a ferocious bunch. They don’t really play defense (#111 on KenPom at the moment) but they have the fifth-ranked offense in the nation, not unlike Arizona State, who Xavier fell to in November.
If the Musketeers can survive both and make it to the second weekend in Atlanta, they’ll likely be greeted by Florida or Duke, who speak for themselves. Then, if they win that game, they’ll see West Virginia or Cincinnati (which would be amazing). Despite a recent dip, the Musketeers are still a very good team with a very good coach, but they’re going to have to run the gauntlet if they want to get to their first Final Four in school history.
Yeah, region of death. Butler doesn’t not win first round games, so they would take down Florida State and face West Virginia. The Mountaineers are one of the most well-rounded teams in the nation, and generally in the NCAA Tournament I defer to coaching to pick my winners. At the moment, LaVall Jordan isn’t quite on Bob Huggins’ level, so I would have to take WVU. I think Butler would make them sweat, though.
Seton Hall Pirates
This is an incredibly intriguing draw for the Pirates, because it’s not crazy to see them in the Final Four. Obviously, they have a ton talent. Angel Delgado is one of the best big men in the nation and it would be hard for any team in this region to contain him. I’m not sold on Michigan State, Oklahoma (more on them shortly) is very good, but I feel Seton Hall’s guards could contain Trae Young (at least to an extent) Arizona State is trending downwards, and Clemson is a wild-card. Having to travel all the way to Boise and then Los Angeles wouldn’t be super ideal for the Pirates, but at least it’s better than playing Gonzaga in Denver at 11 PM, right?
Marquette Golden Eagles
Let’s get this out of the way: If the Golden Eagles make the NCAA Tournament, they’re going to be one of the toughest teams to project. They have one of the nation’s best offenses, and Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard project to become the first pair of Big East teammates to score 20+ points per game. Add in Sam Hauser’s 15 a game, and Marquette is dangerous.
The obvious issue is that they aren’t particularly good on the defensive side of the ball. To rack up NCAA Tournament wins, Marquette will need to score 90 points a game. That’s a tough task against teams like Notre Dame and Oklahoma, but if the three starts falling, you never know.
So, there we have it. This will still probably change a dozen times before March, but it’s nice to get a look at where prognosticators have the Big East at the moment. The Providence Friars currently sit in the Next Four Out group, so they need some help and will likely find themselves in Dayton if they get in, but sending 60-70% of the league to the NCAA Tournament yet again looks to be in the cards for the Big East, which is excellent news.