2020 Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament Preview

New York Knicks, Myles Powell, Big East, Seton Hall Pirates
Feb 8, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Seton Hall Pirates guard Myles Powell (13) celebrates after defeating the Villanova Wildcats at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As the Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament descends upon Manhattan again, several upstart squads battle nationally-ranked groups.

The Big East is dead. Long live the Big East.

Left for dead after conference realignment took some major players, the Big East men’s basketball conference has gone on to provide stellar entertainment. The 2019-20 season proved to be no exception, as the conference routinely saw its top squads ranked, led by recent mainstays Villanova and Seton Hall.

Here’s what you need to know heading into the tournament’s proceedings as it gets underway on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

1. Creighton Bluejays (24-7, 13-5)

Head Coach: Greg McDermott (10th season, 231-116)
Key Players: G Ty-Shon Alexander (16.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.3 APG), G Mitch Ballock (11.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.1 APG), F Damien Jefferson (9.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG)
Last Big East Tournament Title: None (Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2018)

The Bluejays surged into the top seed with a dominant finale over Seton Hall but will have to through their Manhattan trip without breakout sophomore Marcus Zegarowski, who was lost to a knee injury in the big final win.

2. Villanova Wildcats (24-7, 13-5)

Head Coach: Jay Wright (19th season, 471-182)
Key Players: F Saddiq Bey (16.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG), G Collin Gillespie (15.1 PPG, 4.5 APG), F Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (10.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG)
Last Big East Tournament Title: 2019

Already armed with two of the last three national titles, the Wildcats enter this tournament defending unprecedented ground, having won the last three Big East get-togethers in New York.

3. Seton Hall Pirates (21-9, 13-5)

Head Coach: Kevin Willard (10th season, 191-134)
Key Players: G Myles Powell (21.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG), F Sandro Mamukelashvili (11.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG), G Quincy McKnight (11.9 PPG, 5.4 APG)
Last Big East Tournament Title: 2016

Resiliency has been key for the Pirates, who managed a stellar season despite injuries to stars Powell and Mamukelashvili, as they enter having suffered consecutive losses to Creighton and Villanova that cost them the top seed.

4. Providence Friars (19-12, 12-6)

Head Coach: Ed Cooley (9th season, 181-122)
Key Players: G Alpha Diallo (14.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG), G David Duke (12.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG), G Luwane Pipkins (10.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG)
Last Big East Tournament Title: 2014

Providence quickly became the one team no one wants to face on the Garden hardwood, having won each of their last six games (featuring wins over Seton Hall, Marquette, and Villanova) and building a stellar NCAA tournament case.

5. Butler Bulldogs (22-9, 10-8)

Head Coach: LaVall Jordan (3rd season, 59-40)
Key Players: G Kamar Baldwin (16.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG), F Sean McDermott (11.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG), F Bryce Nze (9.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG)
Last Big East Tournament Title: None (Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2018)

The Bulldogs never truly lived up to the potential of a 15-1 start, but are plenty dangerous thanks to the offensive prowess of the senior Baldwin (three games of at 30 points, including 36 in a finale win over Xavier).

6. Marquette Golden Eagles (18-12, 8-1)

Head Coach: Steve Wojciechowski (6th season, 115-81)
Key Players: G Markus Howard (27.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG), G Sacar Amin (13.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG)
Last Big East Tournament Title: None (Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2019)

The Markus Howard era, one that featured more points than any other player in Big East history, is set to end with a thud after the Eagles lost six of their final seven (all but one by single digits) entering the conference tournament.

7. Xavier Musketeers (19-12, 8-10)

Head Coach: Travis Steele (2nd season, 38-28)
Key Players: F Naji Marshall (16.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG), F Tyrique Jones (13.7 PPG, 11.2 APG)
Last Big East Tournament Title: None (Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2018)

The Musketeers’ situation, forced to play in Wednesday night’s first-round action, is more of an indication of just how powerful the conference was this year, as each of their last five losses came by a single digit.

8. Georgetown Hoyas (15-16, 5-13)

Head Coach: Patrick Ewing (3rd season, 49-45)
Key Players: G Jahvon Blair (10.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG), F Jamorko Pickett (10.PPG, 6.2 RPG)
Last Big East Tournament Title: 2007

After losing each of his top three scorers to injuries (Omer Yurtseven, Mac McClung, and James Akinjo), getting 15 wins (including one over top-seed Creighton) might’ve been enough of a win for Ewing and company.

9. St. John’s Red Storm (16-15, 5-13)

Head Coach: Mike Anderson (1st season)
Key Players: G LJ Figueroa (14.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG), G Mustapha Heron (13.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG)
Last Big East Tournament Title: 2000

The future certainly has a chance bright for Anderson in Queens, whose young team also boasts the services of conference All-Freshman nominee Julian Champagnie.

10. DePaul Blue Demons (15-16, 3-15)

Head Coach: Dave Leitao (8th season, 120-135)
Key Players: G Charlie Moore (15.5 PPG, 6.0 APG), F Jaylen Butz (10.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG)
Last Big East Tournament Title: None (Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2004)

A brilliant start for the perennial doormat Blue Demons (12-1, including a win over defending national finalist Texas Tech) went by the wayside once conference play began.


Wednesday, March 11
#8 Georgetown vs. #9 St. John’s (7:00 p.m. ET, FS1)
#7 Xavier vs. #10 DePaul (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

Thursday, March 12
#1 Creighton vs. Georgetown/St. John’s (12:00 p.m. ET, FS1)
#4 Providence vs. #5 Butler (2:30 p.m., FS1)
#2 Villanova vs. Xavier/DePaul (7:00 p.m., FS1)
#3 Seton Hall vs. #6 Marquette (9:30 p.m., FS1)

Friday, March 13
Semifinal #1 (6:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
Semifinal #2 (9:00 p.m. ET, FS1)

Saturday, March 14
Championship (6:30 p.m. ET, Fox)


St John’s over Georgetown
Xavier over DePaul

Creighton over St. John’s
Providence over Butler
Villanova over Xavier
Seton Hall over Marquette

Providence over Creighton
Seton Hall over Villanova

Seton Hall over Providence

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags