One of the upshots of Xavier's transfer to the Big East was a new wave of conference allegiance. Whereas previously the Atlantic 10 was viewed as one other good team in Temple, one rival in Dayton, and then an anchor, the Big East has spurred some fun new rivalries and, with that, some genuine desire to see the "new" conference do well as a whole. It's hard to overstate the role ESPN has played in Big East camaraderie as well, because their persistent and nearly instantaneous dismissal of the conference as soon as it moved to FS1 led to a natural desire to demonstrate that these teams could still play.
The conference put four teams in the tournament in the 13-14 season, and six made the bracket for the 14-15 season. This year the Big East has a couple of teams that are locks, with a handful more on the bubble. As March finally begins, here's how the conference looks. (Teams will be listed with record, KenPom rank, RPI, and SOS. I know those last two numbers aren't good, but they will be used by the committee).
These guys have to win the Big East tournament to get in. That's just all there is to it.
St. John's (8-22, 235, 224, 20)- These guys were bad at the start of the year and then they went on a 1-19 stretch that started with a loss to Incarnate Word. The Mullinsites can swear up and down that their perpetually befuddled coach may actually take over the coaching and turn the team around, but this year is more than a lost cause.
DePaul (9-19, 195, 184, 61)- The Blue Demons were the worst team in the old Big East, and they have been pretty awful in the new iteration as well. While the Red Storm fans hope may appear misguided at the moment, at least they have some.
Marquette (18-11, 96, 111, 119)- There was a point when the Golden Eagles had a chance to arrive a season early and make the tournament this year. Unfortunately, Marquette dropped all of their games against RPI top 25 teams and only went 3-7 against the top 50. Toss in a bad loss to DePaul and these guys just can't do it.
Georgetown- (14-15, 76, 102, 17)- It's not the norm to have the Hoyas here, but they just don't have much of a resume. Their one good win you may remember, but they've lost to UNC Asheville and Radford. They have Villanova left on the schedule, but even if they win that they'd need two more good wins. Do that though, and they have won the Big East Tournament and are in anyway.
Need a miracle:
This one is possible but, as the header states, it would take a miracle.
Creighton (18-11, 46, 97, 123)- The way that Bluejays get in requires them to get to at least the final of the Big East tournament without a loss on the way. To get there they'd have beat Providence and Xavier to close out the regular season and then tack on two wins in the Big East tournament. Right now that means either Providence or Butler in the first round and then a win over Villanova in the semifinal. That would give the Bluejays four top 50 and two top 25 wins in the last 10 days of the season. Would it be enough? Maybe not, but it would give them a chance.
On the bubble:
Here's why the regular season of college basketball matters. NBA blowhards conveniently ignore teams with losing records sneaking into their all inclusive playoffs and badly sunburned and perpetually half drunk college football fans love to talk about every game mattering right until almost every team loses. Both fanbases run down the NCAA regular season and miss that what happens in every week has a massive impact on who gets in come March. In increasing order of likelihood of making it, here's three teams who will rue some missed opportunities.
Butler (19-9, 39, 55, 90)- There are no really bad losses on the Butler resume (Marquette is the worst), but there's not a great deal of good wins either. The win over Purdue is a big one, but it's the only top 50 scalp the Bulldogs can claim. Wins over Temple and UC aren't bad, but another win over Seton Hall and then at least one in the conference tournament are absolute musts. Only a complete dearth of mid-major bid stealing would keep Butler out of the same category as Creighton. They are on the bubble by a thread.
Providence (20-9, 59, 43, 54)- That's a bubble resume if there ever was one. The Friars came out of the gates on fire but have found themselves all at sixes and sevens recently. The country's most overrated player, Kris Dunn, has posted an offensive efficiency under 100 in conference play and against top tier competition, Ben Bentil looks exactly like a guy who has been carrying a team on his back for the last 20 games, and Ed Cooley seems increasingly unlikely to figure anything out. Currently only 2-6 against the top 50, Providence gets no regular season help by playing Creighton and St. John's. If they crash out in the first round of the Big East tournament, they could be looking at a one seed in the NIT.
Seton Hall (21-7, 30, 33, 76)- Only a total collapse would keep the Pirates out of the tournament but, if there ever was a team that could get way too far into their own heads and do it, it's these guys. Conference play Isaiah Whitehead has been quite good, The Hall just obliterates the offensive glass, and they play stifling defense. The win over Xavier this weekend basically punched a ticket unless Kevin Willard's guys lose out. They shouldn't, and they should guarantee the Big East at least three bids.
Xavier (25-4, 12, 6, 48)- The Musketeers are in. Unless the NCAA suddenly decides to skip right to the Final Four, Xavier has absolutely nothing to worry about. Even if that happens, Xavier is on the bubble with a great argument to be in. This is a bit more relaxing way to approach March, isn't it?
Villanova (26-4, 4, 2, 8)- Is Jay Wright the new Bo Ryan? He's been at his post since 2001, his teams are always good, he's sartorially excellent, and no one seems to talk about him much. He's just there and he's consistently great. Nothing changed this year.