Big East: Fewer Beasts, but the Bite's Still There
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The Big East basketball tournament takes over Madison Square Garden this week, but much of the electricity is missing.
Yes, old-guard stalwarts Villanova and Georgetown have secured the top seeds. However, it's not the same with teams like Conneticut, Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Louisville playing for championships elsewhere.
Villanova (29-2, 16-2) earned the No 1 spot and will play the winner of Seton Hall v Marquette in the second round. The Hall (16-14, 6-12) actually handed Nova one of its losses in January but has since been in a prolonged slump, going 3-11 over their last 14 games. Coach Jay Wright and the Wildcats are looking to do Philadelphia proud and secure a top seed in the NCAA tournament this week, which would place them in New York CIty for the opening round.
Georgetown (20-9, 12-6) is the second seed, clinching it on Senior Day against Seton Hall:
The Hoyas will play the winner of Creighton v DePaul in the second round. They're solidly in the Big Dance, and coach John Thompson is hoping that D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera outside and Joshua Smith on the inside will help the Hoyas advance.
Smith-Rivera sat out Georgetown's win over Seton Hall on Saturday with a knee injury but is expected to play in the Big East Tournament.
Last week, Georgetown defeated Butler for the second time, 60-54 on the road:
That knocked the Bulldogs (22-9, 12-6) to the third seed and an interesting opener against Xavier (19-12, 9-9). The teams split in the regular season. Butler will need Kellen Dunham to perhaps top his 17 points per game average if it expects to make a run.
Providence won the Big East Tournament last year as a fourth seed. The Friars are seeded No 4 again and open with hometown favorite St John's. Both teams seem to be in the NCAA tournament, and a win in this game would mean a better placement there. Providence coach Ed Cooley depends on LaDontae Henton, while St. John's coach Steve Lavin may be on the hot seat if he loses this game. The Red Storm have only been to the NCAA tournament once in the five years of Lavin's tenure.
So, while Notre Dame and Louisville attempt to win an ACC tournament, the Garden may not be sold out like the old days. But there still should be enough drama in terms of NCAA seeding and the NCAA bubble.