Kevin McSports

Big East Tourney Primer: Friars need to do some damage

Big East Tourney Primer: Friars need to do some damage

Ticket Gaines will get his first taste of the Big East Tournament this week at Madison Square Garden


It’s that time again, time for the annual Amtrak trip along the Rhode Island shoreline, through the line of ugly Connecticut cities and into the skyrise heaven of Manhattan.

It’s time for the Big East Tournament.

The teams, their fans and the media are all set to file into basketball’s Mecca – Madison Square Garden – beginning Wednesday afternoon. The Providence Friars play the second game of a tripleheader (all for one ticket!!) against Georgetown at 6:30 p.m.

Like any year, all 11 Big East teams own a different set of walking papers when they stride into the Garden. UConn is playing to retain its No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament but also to win its first BET since Kemba Walker began his run towards a national title in 2011. Creighton and Marquette can improve what look like top four seedings in the NCAA. Seton Hall? A 13-7 Big East finish should cash an NCAA ticket but a quarterfinal loss to St. John’s could send the Pirates to the First Four.

The Red Storm, Villanova and Providence are all in limbo. If they all lose their openers they’ll be fortunate to hear their names called Sunday night. The Friars (vs. Hoyas) and Wildcats (DePaul) certainly need to win their openers. Quarterfinal wins over Creighton and Marquette, respectively, would be mandatory as well in both cases.

What the NCAA’s men’s basketball selection committee prioritizes when it’s time to make its final half dozen picks is always cloaked in secrecy. The answer is every committee member will think differently, and that’s the beauty of a committee. Some will insist on the value of non-conference scheduling, another would want to see Quad 1 wins, a third may look at success in road games. Hopefully NO ONE pins such an important decision on metrics. The 12-member committee, this year chaired by Charles McClelland, the commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, literally votes on every team that gains admission to the field so what consensus forms among the group is what matters.

The committee includes a representative from the Big East in Butler athletic director Barry Collier, who is retiring at the end of this year. There are also AD’s from Santa Clara, Alabama, Minnesota, North Carolina, Temple, Samford, Iowa State and commissioners from the Big Sky and Sun Belt. That’s a disparate group with a tip to both the high and low-majors. Of course the vast majority of the at-large picks are going to come from the Big East and the Football Five, as per usual.

So what, exactly, is important to the teams like Providence that are either firmly on the Bubble or need to keep winning to improve their stock? Here is a info table for four Big East Bubble teams, plus Virginia:

Record: 19-1220-1119-1217-1422-9
NET: 6462393351
Road: 4-75-65-64-85-6
Quad 1: 5-85-73-94-102-6
Q1&2: 7-129-109-119-118-9
SofSked: 3835341580
KPOM: 6256322967

Of course you can follow the bouncing Bubble along throughout the week by clicking on ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Athletic’s excellent site and even a all-encompassing look of prognostications at BracketMatrix. Every game, every bucket, matters to teams like PC, St. John’s and Villanova. And make sure to look across the country and root for teams like Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and more to simply lose. Nothing clears up a messy Bubble like losses.

What do I value most? Wins against the field. There will be a heart-pulling push for the Sycamores of Indiana State to take a bid away from St. John’s, Colorado or some such Power Six team. I say no way. ISU had their chance and lost to Drake for the second time in the Missouri Valley title game. They had a precious few chances (like every other mid-to-low major) to improve on their 28-6 record but lost at Alabama and Michigan State.

That left Larry Bird’s alma mater with three Top 100 wins (NET) all season; one over Drake and two over Bradley. That’s just not enough. Not as long as the system that we have in place remains in place.

So what happens in New York? UConn, UConn, UConn.

The Huskies have that look, the look you need to keep things rolling and collect Chips. First comes the Big East Tournament and then a second straight National Championship. How about the fact that Dan Hurley’s guys can play their next five games in New York (3 at MSG, 2 in Brooklyn at Barclays Center in NCAA’s) and then two in Boston at TD Garden in the East Regional.

Can you say Huskies?



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