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Big East Tournament takes over Madison Square Garden once again

Xavier, Villanova and Seton Hall are favored to emerge with the conference’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid.

Trevon Bluiett leads top seed Xavier with 19.4

Trevon Bluiett leads top seed Xavier with 19.4 points per game this season. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andy Lyons

This year’s Big East Conference Tournament brings together an enticing combination of top teams and a season-long track record of improbable upsets.

The 10-team tournament features two possible NCAA top seeds who have also dropped games to lower-standing teams. Here is a look at the matchups happening between Wednesday’s first tip and the championship Saturday at Madison Square Garden.


Xavier claims the first spot, edging out second-seeded Villanova by a game in the standings. That’s all those numbers count for. Villanova topped Xavier twice in the regular season, each time by sizable margins. That doesn’t dismiss the Musketeers’ potential. They average 84.5 points and are led by Trevon Bluiett (19.4 ppg), who dropped 37 against Seton Hall three weeks ago.

But the Wildcats were the top team in the country for most of the season before they were upended by St. John’s, Providence — the only team to beat them and Xavier — and Creighton in February. Jalen Brunson (19 ppg) and Mikal Bridges (17 ppg) lead a well-rounded group that includes talented redshirt freshman Omari Spellman (7.9 rpg) in the paint.

Seton Hall is a formidable third seed. The Pirates fell to Villanova, 69-68, last week and defeated Butler to close the regular season. They’re peaking at the right time. Angel Delgado, who could end up playing in the NBA, is dominating the inside game (13.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg). A potential matchup between the Hall and Villanova in the semifinals would be must-see action.

Dark horses

Butler was the first team the knock off Nova this season, and they have just the playmaker to make a run. Kelan Martin (21.2 ppg) has had huge days even in losses. Tournaments like this can come down to one player’s ability to take over a game, and Martin has it.

St. John’s lost 11 games in a row to open conference play but also beat top five schools Duke and Villanova in consecutive games. The ninth-seeded Johnnies a long long shot. Still, the Red Storm have already pulled off the unlikely once this season.


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