Stew Milne/Associated Press
The Providence Friars enter the final week of the Big East regular season with the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament already locked up.
Providence secured that position with a win over the Creighton Bluejays on Saturday, but even though it is the top dog in the conference, it still has plenty to prove.
The Friars have benefited from luck in certain situations, such as the Dunkin’ Donuts Center roof causing a delay just as the momentum swung in favor of the Xavier Musketeers on Wednesday. Providence went on to win that game in triple overtime.
Ed Cooley’s team is one of the toughest to beat in the country because of how well it performed in close games. The Friars have seven wins by five points or fewer and three overtime triumphs in Big East play.
The Villanova Wildcats and Connecticut Huskies are the main threats to Providence doubling up its Big East titles. Villanova beat Providence once already, and it gets a chance to complete the sweep in its home arena Tuesday. UConn, meanwhile, defeated Villanova in late February and is on a five-game winning streak with one week left of regular-season action.
Villanova and UConn will likely land on the bottom half of the Big East tournament bracket. Providence could face some tests from the unranked squads in the conference in what will be perceived as the easier half of the bracket.
Big East Tournament TV Schedule
Wednesday, March 9
No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed (4:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
No. 7 seed vs. No. 10 seed (7 p.m. ET, FS1)
No. 6 seed vs. No. 11 seed (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
Thursday, March 10
No. 1 seed vs. #8 vs. No. 9 winner (Noon ET, FS1)
No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
No. 2 seed vs. #7 vs. No. 10 winner (7 p.m. ET, FS1)
No. 3 seed vs. #6vs. No. 11 winner (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
Friday, March 11
Semifinal No. 1 (6:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
Semifinal No. 2 (9 p.m. ET, FS1)
Saturday, March 12
Championship Game (6 p.m. ET, Fox)
7. St. John’s
The Big East is more top-heavy than it has been in previous seasons, and that likely takes out the possibility of a program winning four games in four days, like the Georgetown Hoyas did in 2021.
In fact, Georgetown’s most recent victory against Big East competition came in the 2021 tournament final over Creighton. The Hoyas are 0-17 in conference action and will likely be headed for a first-round exit in New York.
The bottom five teams in the conference standings have sub-.500 records in league play and have all shown significant flaws.
The Butler Bulldogs and DePaul Blue Demons have not been able to dig themselves out of the conference basement all season, the Xavier Musketeers have lost six of their past seven games and the St. John’s Red Storm have two wins in their past six.
The Seton Hall Pirates are the best long-shot team to back no matter how the bracket shakes out. Seton Hall should hope to stay in the No. 6 spot in the conference standings so it can be aligned with UConn.
Seton Hall beat UConn in overtime and lost by five points in their other head-to-head meeting. The Pirates could be the toughest quarterfinal foe for any of the top three programs.
The Marquette Golden Eagles could pose a threat to Providence in the top half of the bracket. Shaka Smart’s team produced seven straight victories in January, a run that included wins over Providence and Villanova. The same consistency has not been there recently for Marquette, which has not won consecutive games since late January.
Creighton could be viewed as less of a threat as Marquette to Providence’s chances at Madison Square Garden because its top guard, Ryan Nembhard, is out for the season with a wrist injury.
The Bluejays’ NCAA men’s basketball tournament hopes are safe, but they may not have enough on offense to win a game in New York as the No. 4 seed.
Tuesday’s regular-season clash between Providence and Villanova will go a long way in telling us how the Friars can compete with the top Big East program over the past decade.
Villanova won four of the past six Big East tournaments, and it carries a ton of experience with Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore at guard. If the Wildcats beat Providence on Tuesday, we could be talking about the Villanova-UConn semifinal in New York determining the favorite for the Big East tournament final.
UConn beat Villanova on its home court recently, and its pair of RJ Cole and Adama Sanogo leveled up the matchup with Villanova.
Providence can certainly go on to win the Big East tournament final, but it will have its doubters if it goes into New York with two losses to Villanova and only one game played against UConn.