Marquette fans might not be enjoying the season, but the Big East is having one heck of a sophomore campaign. In his first bracketology of the season a few months ago, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi made the bold prediction of seven Big East teams dancing in March. Many scoffed at the prediction, refusing to believe that a 10 team conference that some refer to as “midmajor” could get 70% of its members into March Madness. Fast forward to the present and there are only six Big East teams in the latest bracketology, but one isn’t far off.
With solid records, RPIs in the 20s or better, and SOSs in top 25, it is safe to say that Villanova, Georgetown, Butler, and Providence will be dancing. On the other end, the poor non-conference play of Depaul and the awful conference play of Creighton and Marquette will keep them watching the tournament from their dorm rooms. That leaves three teams in the Big East that still have the chance to play their way in. With the right victories, the Big East could be one of the most well represented conferences in the Big Dance.
Let’s take a look at the profiles of these three teams (data from rpiwizard.com)
Current Record: 15-11
Current RPI: 69
Current SOS: 48
Expected Record: 17-13
Expected RPI: 76.1
Expected SOS: 47
Remaining Games (Chance of Victory%): @SJU (30%), CREI (73%), PROV (48%), @GTWN (19%)
Current Record: 16-9
Current RPI: 41
Current SOS: 25
Expected Record: 18-12
Expected RPI: 51.9
Expected SOS: 22
Remaining Games (Chance of Victory%): HALL (70%), XAV (51%), GTWN (48%), @MARQ (54%), @NOVA (13%)
Current Record: 17-10
Current RPI: 33
Current SOS: 20
Expected Record: 19-12
Expected RPI: 33.8
Expected SOS: 12
Remaining Games (Chance of Victory%): BUT (57%), @SJU (49%), NOVA (42%), @CREI (70%)
If the remaining games were played on paper, and the three teams play to their seeds in the BET, Xavier would make it in, Seton Hall would be out, and Saint John’s would be sweating bullets. There are a few key games Big East fans should watch out for:
1. 2-21 Seton Hall at St. John’s: Seton Hall will be coming off a 5 game losing streak and be without their star player. A win would keep them off the ledge but with only a 30% chance of victory, and all the negative momentum, it’s hard to see a happy ending for the Pirates. A Saint John’s victory won’t do much for their resume but no one wants to be another team’s slumpbuster.
2. 2-23 Xavier at St. John’s: A battle of the bubble teams. Xavier starts in a better position with a much friendlier schedule. Advantage should go to the home team Johnnies who are in great need of some top 50 wins to avoid the chopping block.
3. 2-28 Georgetown at St. John’s: Georgetown would be the biggest win the Johnnies would have all season. They are currently favored to lose but the game is a toss up in the truest sense. It all depends on which St. John’s shows up, the one that dominated Providence on the road or the one who got dropped by the Blue Jays. A win would nearly synch a bid for St. John’s.
4. Every Seton Hall game: Seton Hall has played its way into a corner. In order to find their way to the promised land, they will need to win three out of their remaining four games. Not an easy task with trips to the Verizon Center and Madison Square Garden. Even if they win three out of four, they will probably still need to win two in NYC to have even a ghost of a chance. The Pirates have a very long, uphill battle in front of them.
Long story short, seven teams is not impossible for the Big East, but it is certainly improbable. Unless Willard can somehow steer his Pirate ship away from the brink with his best player on suspension, the Pirates will be NIT bound or worse. But Xavier and St. John’s are in great position to play their way into the tournament. And who knows? Maybe Marquette can get hot in New York and win four in a row to make eight. A blogger can dream…