The Big East Tournament is expected to be a showdown between Villanova and Xavier, but that’s anything but guaranteed as two teams have been beaten by conference foes during the regular season. The chances of an upset are possible even if sports books don’t think it is probable.
Play begins at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Wednesday, though the Wildcats and Musketeers don’t play until Thursday. Bovada has Villanova as the 5/6 favorite to take the title with Xavier next at 13/4. Seton Hall and Creighton are next at 17/2. The Westgate LV SuperBook has the Wildcats at 4/7 and the Musketeers at 3/1. Creighton is at 7/1 and Butler is 10/1. Seton Hall is 12/1.
Though Villanova is favored, Xavier is the No. 1 seed. They earned the top spot for the tournament by defeating DePaul on Sunday, 65-62. It’s the first regular season conference title for Xavier since joining the Big East five years ago.
“You know, we’re the only team in the conference to win the Big East regular season outside of Villanova,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said in a postgame press conference. “This league is a monster league, so to watch those kids come in on their unofficial visits with their parents and you sell them a dream, and to see that sort of culminate and be outright champs is special.”
More at Stake in Tournament
Villanova is ranked No. 2 in the country right now, and Xavier is No. 3. Unless either is knocked off in the early rounds of the tournament, both should get No. 1 seeds when the NCAA Tournament field is announced on Sunday. Where they play first, however, could be determined by how they finish in the conference event.
If the two reach the title game in the conference tournament, the winner would probably get the top seed in the East. The runner up would then most likely get shipped out to the West. So winning the Big East Tournament could be the difference between playing the first two rounds closer to home or traveling to San Diego or Boise, Idaho.
The two have played twice this season and Villanova swept the games in convincing fashion. The first was Jan. 10 at Villanova and the Wildcats were a 9.5 favorite. They defeated Xavier, 89-65. The rematch was held a month later at Xavier and Villanova was favored by only a point. The Wildcats covered easily, trouncing the Musketeers, 95-79.
Others Lurking for Take Down
Villanova, though, has been shaky the last month of the regular season. They finished with the same overall record as Xavier, but all four of their losses were to conference opponents. Three of the defeats were in February.
One embarrassing loss was Feb. 7 when they were 16-point favorites against St. John’s and went down, 79-75. Subsequent defeats to Providence a week later and Creighton on Feb. 24 allowed Xavier to capture the regular season title.
But the Musketeers are not upset proof. They also lost to Providence, making the Friars a dark horse to capture the Big East Tournament. They are 30/1.