Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are all but set — but what other Big East teams could go dancing this March?

5 months ago
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Providence and Villanova will play one of the league’s most important games during this tense stretch run. March arrives Friday and NCAA Tournament résumés continue to come into focus.

Connecticut would be a No. 1 seed and Marquette checks in as a No. 2 seed, according to the most updated projections at Bracket Matrix. Creighton has a chance to reach the No. 3 seed line with a strong finish — that top trio can start booking their plans for after Selection Sunday.

Who joins them is still to be determined. Seton Hall, the Friars, the Wildcats, Butler and St. John’s were all named on at least one of the 114 field simulations submitted prior to Thursday morning. The Pirates and Providence would claim two of the last four at-large bids while Villanova, the Bulldogs and the Red Storm are all on the outside.

Every result is critical from now until St. Patrick’s Day. That’s when the committee will convene to parse the bodies of work compiled by the eventual 68 qualifiers. Opportunity remains to strengthen your case — Saturday’s noon tip at Amica Mutual Pavilion is exactly such an occasion.

The best month of the college basketball year is officially upon us. Let’s enjoy it.

What to know: It’s simple math for the Huskies going forward. Win two of their last three games and they’ll be outright Big East champions for the first time in nearly two decades. Avenging an opening conference loss to the Pirates will be at the top of the list for UConn in the coming week.

What to know: It’s been quite a response from the Golden Eagles since a blowout loss at Connecticut. Marquette has won its last three games by 34, 24 and 22 points — the latest against the Friars was over early in the first half. Tyler Kolek departing with an oblique injury was the only downside — that’s something to monitor as the calendar flips to March.

What to know: Last week featured the best and worst of the Bluejays. They forced just three turnovers in an 80-66 loss at the Red Storm — Creighton ranks last nationally per possession in forcing opposing giveaways. The following spanking of the Pirates featured 13 made 3-pointers — the 17th time this season the Bluejays have cracked double digits from deep.

What to know: A season sweep of the Huskies would all but assure an NCAA Tournament berth for the Pirates. They’re still on the bubble despite some quality wins — a poor performance in the nonconference portion of the schedule has left some lingering doubts. Seton Hall had won five of six before absorbing a 21-point hammering at the Bluejays.

What to know: It’s not all that complicated for the Friars with respect to their NCAA Tournament chances. Win the next two games and avoid a disaster at Madison Square Garden — that’s the path to an at-large bid for Providence over the next couple of weeks. Saturday’s home matchup against the Wildcats should be electric.

This week: at Providence, at Seton Hall

What to know: It make or break time for the Wildcats in their next two games. Villanova is likely on the wrong side of the bubble with tough trips to come against the Friars and Pirates. Win both of those games and a March Madness ticket will be just about in hand. Lose both of them and the Wildcats could be stuck having to win the conference tournament.

What to know: Is it already too late for the Red Storm? With respect to their at-large NCAA Tournament chances, probably. The Blue Demons and Georgetown to close the regular season won’t move the needle, but two more wins would certainly extend any momentum St. John’s hopes to carry into the league tournament on its home floor at Madison Square Garden.

This week: At Georgetown, at Butler

What to know: The rampant Golden Eagles dismissed the Musketeers by 24 in a Sunday meeting, one that ended any at-large NCAA Tournament hopes for the visitors. Xavier snapped a four-game losing streak by brushing aside the Blue Demons, but it’s too late to salvage any legitimate bubble hopes.

What to know: The clock has officially struck midnight for the Bulldogs after a contending start to the league schedule. Five straight defeats have pushed Butler beyond NCAA Tournament contention — the last four have all come by double figures. The latest was a 23-point home smashing by the Red Storm — the Bulldogs enjoyed just a 3-2 lead early in the first half.

What to know: Ed Cooley won’t finish in last place during this debut season with the Hoyas. They finished a season sweep of the Blue Demons in a 77-76 nail biter in Chicago over the weekend. Cooley was in the Sweet 16 with the Friars in that same city just two short years ago. Things certainly can change over time, can’t they?

What to know: The Blue Demons come in at 309th nationally, according to KenPom.com as of Thursday afternoon. Who else resides in that neighborhood? Georgia Southern, Alcorn State, Jackson State, Western Michigan, Wagner, Lafayette and Le Moyne rank from 292nd to 315th — they’re all teams who would be bought for guarantee games by power conference opponents.…Read more by Bill Koch

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