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How many Big East bids in the NCAA Tournament? Dan Hurley says six

According to Hurley, six teams have ‘proven themselves worthy’ of an NCAA Tournament bid.

Dan Hurley Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The Big East is ranked as the fifth-best league in college men’s basketball by KenPom – behind only the Big 10, Big 12, SEC and ACC. There are only two programs in the conference outside of KenPom’s top-100 teams in the nation and four inside the top-50.

UConn men’s basketball head coach Dan Hurley said that he believes six teams have “proven themselves to be NCAA [Tournament] caliber” during his press conference Friday.

With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, the postseason picture is becoming clearer by the day. UConn (11-6, 8-6 Big East) has three games left on its schedule, including Saturday’s game against Marquette. Since there’s so little time left in the season, let’s look at who those six teams could be.

Big East in March? The playoff picture

School NET Rankings AP Top 25 USA Today Coaches Poll Top 16 Committee Ranking
School NET Rankings AP Top 25 USA Today Coaches Poll Top 16 Committee Ranking
Villanova No. 8 No. 8 No. 6 No. 6
Creighton No. 20 No. 13 No. 11 NR
UConn No. 43 NR NR (3 votes) NR
Seton Hall No. 53 NR NR (1 vote) NR
Xavier No. 58 NR NR NR
St. John's No. 76 NR NR NR
Providence No. 79 NR NR NR
Marquette No. 85 NR NR NR
Georgetown No. 99 NR NR NR
Butler No. 130 NR NR NR
DePaul No. 164 NR NR NR
(Data courtesy of the NCAA)

There are currently five Big East teams comfortably within the top-68 in the NET rankings and two or three that could leak back into the bubble with a hot streak to end the season. They are used to determine who makes the NCAA Tournament in March. The full selecting process was outlined by the NCAA in January.

Sure things

First, let’s take the obvious ones off the table. No. 8 Villanova and No. 20 Creighton are the most likely to win an automatic bid by winning the Big East tournament, but anyone could get hot and rip off a tournament run. Either way, they will both nearly assuredly get an automatic bid.

No. 8 Villanova

Villanova (15-3, 10-2 Big East) has won four of the last five Big East Tournaments. Since the 2020 tournament was canceled it has only lost one, in 2016, since 2015. The Wildcats have made the NCAA Tournament every season it has been played since 2013.

Jay Wright’s team has been comfortably inside the AP Top 25 all season, spending much of it within the top-10. The Wildcats have taken just three losses all season and they rank as the No. 5 offensive team in the nation according to KenPom. The program is projected to win each of its final three games in the regular season by KenPom. Villanova is a shoe-in.

No. 20 Creighton

Creighton is one of just three teams to beat Villanova this season, alongside Virginia Tech and St. John’s. The two top teams face off against one another for a second time on March 3 at 8:30 p.m. in Philadelphia — a must watch game that likely has the Big East regular season title on the line. The Bluejays have won four in a row and seven of its last eight in-conference games.

Guard Marcus Zegarowski and team are projected to win two of their last three games, losing to Villanova but beating Xavier and Butler.

Likely

UConn

The Huskies have seen a tale of two seasons — with James Bouknight and without him.

With its star the program has been near unstoppable, winning seven of its nine games. It was once a ranked program and the two games it lost were to Creighton in overtime, during a Bouknight 40-piece, and to Villanova in his first start since requiring elbow surgery. Without, UConn went 4-4, taking losses to Creighton, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Providence. The Huskies are projected to win two out of its final three, losing to Seton Hall on March 3.

As it stands UConn has a good shot to make the tournament now that it has Bouknight back on the floor and everyone fully healthy, as Hurley said everyone is available against Marquette Saturday. A win over Seton Hall would all but seal its appearance in the Big Dance.

Seton Hall

The Pirates have has a strong showing throughout the season, but have been a bit streaky at times. Hurley’s alma mater has lost each of its last two games to Georgetown and Butler. The program also hit a rough patch in a three-game set back in mid-January, losing to Villanova, Creighton and then Villanova again – but that can likely be chalked up to those programs simply being better as they were all close games.

Beating two tough Big East teams in UConn and St. John’s to end its season would put Seton Hall in a great spot heading into the conference tournament.

Bubble teams

Xavier

The Musketeers have had a tough season. After going a perfect 7-0 in non-conference play, they have lost a bunch of games to COVID-19 pauses during conference play. Between Jan. 13 and Feb. 13, Xavier was able to play just two of its nine scheduled games because of two separate pauses. Since its last pause, the program has won just one of the four games its played – a 63-51 home win over Butler.

While it has one of the most dynamic players in the conference in Paul Scruggs, Xavier hasn’t been afforded the opportunity to have its season take off due to the virus. Considering it has not won a game against an opponent inside the top-50 in KenPom, the Musketeers have to impress in its final three games to cement a tournament nod.

St. John’s

The Red Storm have one of the most interesting cases to make the tournament out of the bubble teams in the conference. St. John’s is another streaky team with some losses to worse competition, but they also beat Villanova handily.

The program is also the No. 39 ranked offensive program in the nation, led by conference-leading scorer Julian Champagnie’s 20 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

St. John’s has two games left this season. Its next opponent is Providence, who they beat 92-81 earlier this month. Then the Red Storm close out the season against Seton Hall, who beat them 77-68 in December.

Providence

Ed Cooley’s Friars have an uphill climb to get into the bubble conversation. Providence has just two games left, both against teams that have beaten them already this season. Wins over UConn and Creighton might not be enough to overlook its under .500 conference record.

The Friars have only beaten one team twice this season, DePaul, taking stinging losses to Butler and Georgetown. It would take a wonder-performance against Villanova, who beat them 71-56, or a beat-down of St. John’s to make the difference.

Marquette

The Golden Eagles are an enigma. The program beat Wisconsin early in the season and followed it up with a win over Creighton 10 days later. It has also lost three consecutive games on three occasions this season.

Marquette is coming off a convincing win over Roy Williams’ North Carolina and has three games remaining in its schedule. Wins over UConn, DePaul and Xavier could be just enough to prove them worthy, but all three of those teams have beaten them this season. They are 17 spots out of the last bubble spot, so it would be very difficult task without demolishing the rest of their schedule.

No shot

Sorry, Georgetown, Butler and DePaul – maybe next year.