WhatIfSports.com used its college basketball simulation engine to play every matchup of the Big East Tournament 1,001 times. Villanova looks to add a tournament championship to its regular-season title and owns the No. 1 seed for the fourth year in a row. Challengers include Top 25-ranked Butler, a Providence team that’s on a six-game winning streak, upset-minded Marquette and defending tournament champion Seton Hall. Check out the prediction for every matchup.
Although Carnesecca Arena in Queens, N.Y. is technically the home of the Red Storm, St. John’s is no stranger to Madison Square Garden, having played seven games there during the 2016-17 season. St. John’s was 3-4 in those games, but one of its wins came against Georgetown, an 86-80 victory on February 25th. In a January meeting between the two schools, the Hoyas hosted and won 83-55.
We simulated the matchup 1,001 times and St. John’s emerged victorious 52.1 percent of the time, by an average score of 81.4-80.7.
Xavier has struggled mightily since losing star point guard Edmund Sumner to a season-ending knee injury. The Musketeers lost six straight games before righting the ship last Saturday at DePaul. With another win against the Blue Demons in the Big East Tournament, the Muskies should have a strong enough resume to punch their NCAA Tournament ticket.
We predict that Xavier will have no problem improving to 3-0 against DePaul, winning 72.2 percent of simulations with an average score of 79.4-72.9.
Two games between the Wildcats and Red Storm this year have each been decided by 13 points. Both Villanova victories, the margins were narrower than expected given the Wildcats’ perch atop the conference standings. A similar spread could be in store in the semifinals, though.
We’re predicting Villanova to win 85.1 percent of the time, with an average score of 88.8-76.5, a difference of 12.3 points.
In last year’s Big East Tournament, No. 3 Seton Hall upset No. 2 Xavier and No. 1 Villanova to claim its first conference tournament title since 1993. Is Kevin Willard’s squad capable of another magical run? The path will be tougher this year, with Seton Hall’s No. 5 seed meaning the Pirates could need three upsets to win the tournament. The first challenge will be a Marquette team that’s won four of its last five games.
If the simulations are correct, Seton Hall may have exhausted its luck last year. Marquette won 71.0 percent of the time, scoring 86.4 points to Seton Hall’s 80.1.
Providence and Creighton both finished conference play with 10-8 records, but the teams’ fortunes are heading in opposite directions. The Bluejays once ranked No. 7 in the AP poll and began the year with an 18-1 record. After losing starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. to injury, Creighton has been on a downward spiral, winning just two of its last six games. Providence, meanwhile, once had a 4-8 record in conference play but won its final six games.
Despite the directions the teams are trending, our college basketball simulation engine likes Creighton to advance, with the Bluejays outscoring the Friars 79.7-74.4.
For Butler, the Big East Tournament is one last chance to add to an already impressive NCAA Tournament resume. The Bulldogs will have their sights set on playing Saturday night. If Xavier hopes to knock off Butler, a couple things will need to go right for the Muskies. First, leading scorer Trevon Bluiett must be firing on all cylinders. When Bluiett’s shot is off, so too is Xavier. Second, freshman backup-turned-starter Quentin Goodin needs to protect the basketball. The point guard coughed it up six times when the teams met at the end of February, including a couple crucial turnovers down the stretch.
We have the Bulldogs coming out on top 62.0 percent of the time, winning by an average score of 81.8-77.9.
The highlight of Marquette’s season came on January 24th, when the Golden Eagles overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat No. 1-ranked Villanova 74-72 in Milwaukee. Rest assured that Jay Wright will use their last meeting as a reminder not to look past Marquette in the Big East semifinals. The Wildcats were 6-34 from deep in that game, including 0-6 performances from Kris Jenkins and Donte DiVincenzo, and 0-5 from Jalen Brunson. Barring another icy day from ‘Nova’s shooters, it’ll be tough for Marquette to spring the upset again.
We have Villanova moving on 66.1 percent of the time, with an average score of 88.2-83.3.
No team has had Butler’s number more than the Bluejays. Creighton has delivered two of Butler’s six conference losses. All Big East first-teamer Andrew Chrabascz was particularly ineffective against Creighton, posting a total of eight points on 4-18 shooting between the two games. If Butler’s post play is again ineffective, Creighton could be making a surprise run to the Big East championship game.
However, our college basketball simulation engine thinks the third time is the charm for the Bulldogs. Butler won 60.5 percent of simulations, outscoring Creighton 87.3-84.1.
Villanova’s tour of vengeance continues in the Big East championship game. After delivering some payback to Marquette for issuing one of its three losses, the Wildcats take aim at Butler, which twice defeated Villanova during the season. A victory over Butler should solidify Villanova as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, as the Wildcats take aim at defending their 2016 national championship.
In 1,001 simulations, the Wildcats triumphed 69.4 percent of the time, with an average score of 85.8-80.5.
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