Over the last couple of days this blog has touched on the depth of quality teams in the Big East. An impressive seven of the ten teams in the conference have been identified as legitimate contenders to win the league championship, but with that it means a few will have rather mediocre conference records when it’s all said and done. And unless one of those teams wins the conference tournament at MSG in mid-March, they will more than likely miss out on the NCAA Tournament.
Unless, that is, they play a strong non-conference schedule and get some solid victories under their belt in the first half of the season. Unfortunately however, that’s not the case for a few of the Big East teams.
Butler, DePaul and Seton Hall were the three left off the contenders list. So their NCAA Tournament hopes are slim to none. “The goal for this year is the NCAA Tournament,” said DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell last week. Yeah, I’m not sure too many people took that statement very serious. Maybe in a couple years for the Blue Demons, but this year doesn’t seem realistic.
But there also seem to be three of the contenders that have done themselves a disservice with their non-conference scheduling (this blog evaluated each team’s schedule about two weeks ago). So it will be imperative that these squads win the games that need to be won, finish at or near the top of the conference, or make it simple and just win the Big East Tournament.
Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova and Xavier compiled well-rounded non-conference schedules that will be sure to provide a challenge. Like it or not, the tournament selection committee still refers to a team’s RPIs when making decisions. So a job well done to those four teams. However, there are three teams that could have put themselves in a vulnerable position. They are as follows:
It seems like a foregone conclusion that the Bluejays will be in the NCAA Tournament again this year after they reached each of the last two years with Doug McDermott leading the way. But this schedule is weak. Their best two guaranteed games are at Saint Joseph’s and home for California. Those are two teams that are expected to finish in the middle of the pack in the A-10 and PAC 12 respectively. They also play in the Wooden Legacy (Nov 28 – Dec 1), with the potential to play against a pretty good San Diego State team. That’d be their best game before January and it’s not a guarantee. McDermott makes Creighton a good team, and for his senior year they clearly could have scheduled better.
In fairness, PC is playing the best possible non-conference game a team could play – against the Kentucky Wildcats on a neutral floor (Barclays Center in Brooklyn) on December 1. I mean, this team is expecting to go 40-0 and cruise to a national championship. And Providence can make their tournament hopes easy on themselves by winning this game. The Friars also have a good game scheduled at the University of Massachusetts, as UMASS should compete for an A-10 championship this year. But if PC loses both of those games, then a middle of the ACC pack Boston College and a trip to the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam tournament is the extent of what the rest of this schedule holds. The teams on display at the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam include: Vanderbilt (their round 1 game), Northern Iowa, Loyola Marymount, Marist, Maryland, Morgan St. and LaSalle. It’s conceivable that PC could win this tournament and that would go a long way in their NCAA Tournament hopes.
St. John’s Red Storm
The problem with the Johnnies schedule is that they don’t play a single true road game. Yes, the neutral site game against Wisconsin and their home contest against Syracuse are high quality games, but that’s all they have to work with. The rest is fluff with a couple games at the Barclays Center against low-quality opponents. If St. John’s loses both of their noteworthy games, they’ll need to do work in the Big East to have any hope at making the NCAA Tournament.