2014 Big East Basketball Tournament Predictions From WhatIfSports.com image

2014 Big East Tournament Predictions

Who claims the Big East crown?

WhatIfSports.com
March 10, 2014

WhatIfSports.com utilized its NCAA basketball simulation engine to present the Big East Tournament preview. We simulated each matchup 1,001 times to learn each team's win percentage and average score. Simulations are based on updated rosters and the statistical makeup of each team during the 2013-14 season.

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The 2012-2013 campaign served as a fitting farewell to the original construction of the Big East. The conference sent eight schools dancing; two from this contingent reached the Final Four, with the Louisville Cardinals ascending the throne as kings of college hoops. Players like Otto Porter, Russ Smith and Michael Carter-Williams littered individual award lists. Even in defeat, the conference made headlines, evident in Georgetown’s fall to 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast. Truly a collective effort deserving of the "BEAST" moniker.

This year? Not so much. Diluted by the exits of Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati and Connecticut, the league enters its tournament with just two locks for Madness invites. An Elite Eight participant last spring, Marquette finished the regular season with a 17-14 mark. Without Brad Stevens, the bark of the Butler Bulldogs has lost its bite. The Georgetown Hoyas need to drastically improve their resume to continue their season. How bad has the Big East fallen? Its leading scorer is a walk-on. THAT bad.

Even in this mitigated state, there are few venues in the world of sport that flaunt the gravitas of the Big East Conference tournament, set in the beautiful backdrop of Madison Square Garden. Utilizing the award-winning WhatIfSports.com college basketball simulation engine, we were able to project who would claim the crown of this vaunted competition. We simulated each tournament game 1,001 times and generated each team's chances of winning (W %) and average score. Here are the results:

Big East Opening Round
MatchupWin %Avg. Score
9) Butler Bulldogs36.068.5
vs. 8) Seton Hall Pirates64.072.2
10) DePaul Blue Demons24.562.1
vs. 7) Georgetown Hoyas75.569.5

With a 3-15 conference mark, little was expected from the Blue Demons. DePaul put forth a better fight than imagined, but Georgetown took care of business behind strong showings from Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The win itself won’t be enough to vault the Hoyas off the bubble and into the field of 68. However, the victory gives John Thompson’s crew a chance at knocking off Creighton, a platform that undoubtedly presents NCAA Tournament implications.

On the other side of the bracket, Seton Hall delivered the coup de grace to Butler’s inaugural season in the Big East. The Pirates avenged their two regular-season losses to the Bulldogs with the win, and move on to face the conference-champion Villanova Wildcats.

Big East Quarterfinals
MatchupWin %Avg. Score
8) Seton Hall Pirates24.470.6
vs. 1) Villanova Wildcats75.678.1
5) St. John's Red Storm42.468.2
vs. 4) Providence Friars57.669.9
7) Georgetown Hoyas33.569.5
vs. 2) Creighton Bluejays66.574.3
6) Marquette Golden Eagles47.467.6
vs. 3) Xavier Musketeers52.668.5

Check out our Best of the Big East tournament featuring every Final Four squad in the conference from 1979-2013

The top-seeded Wildcats and Bluejays each took care of business in the quarterfinals, sending the Pirates and Hoyas packing. The defeat puts Georgetown in an unnerving position on Selection Sunday, one which will likely leave the boys in blue on the outside looking in.

The Musketeers have been on a roller coaster ride this winter. Xavier brandishes impressive Ws over Creighton and hometown rival Cincinnati but bare the stains of a season-series loss to Seton Hall and a defeat to 11-20 Southern Cal. Nevertheless, a lone win in the conference tournament should give the Muskies enough juice for an at-large berth. Despite missing the services of center Matt Stainbrook, who is sidelined with an MCL sprain, this conquest is attained thanks to a close victory over Marquette.

Also strengthening its tournament case is Providence, as the Friars get a notch in their belt from the Red Storm. Providence was spurred by Bryce Cotton, who ranks ninth in Division I with 21.7 points per game.

Big East Semifinals
MatchupWin %Avg. Score
4) Providence Friars27.371.1
vs. 1) Villanova Wildcats72.777.2
3) Xavier Musketeers29.171.3
vs. 2) Creighton Bluejays70.977.8

The Creighton – Xavier matchups were one of the highlights of the conference season. The Bluejays emerged on top in a high-scoring affair in Omaha on January 12 by the count 95-89. The rematch went X’s way on March 1, with six points once again serving as the difference between the two teams. The WhatIfSports engines predict another nail-biter, with Creighton winning the rubber match and advancing to the conference championship. Doug McDermott lit up the scoreboard with his usual fireworks display, extinguishing the red-hot output of Xavier’s Semaj Christon.

Meeting the Bluejays will be Jay Wright’s Wildcats. Providence proved no match for the firepower of Villanova, whose quartet of JayVaughn Pinkston, Darrun Hilliard II, James Bell and Ryan Arcidiacono paved the way to victory. With a win in the conference championship, Villanova should secure a No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Big East Championship Game
MatchupWin %Avg. Score
2) Creighton Bluejays44.777.1
vs. 1) Villanova Wildcats55.378.4

Two of Villanova’s three losses in the 2013-2014 season came at the hands of Creighton. The Wildcats escaped a third shortcoming to the Bluejays, eking out a W thanks to a second-half barrage from Pinkston and Bell. The championship gives Villanova 31 wins on the year, a new record for the vaunted program, and makes Coach Wright’s team one to watch when the Madness begins.

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Joel Beall is the Assistant Content Manager for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

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