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Big East tournament: Preview, prediction, TV info

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer

Doug McDermott will look to make yet another statement at Madison Square Garden. (USATSI)
Doug McDermott will look to make yet another senior statement at Madison Square Garden. (USATSI)

Latest in hoops: Top 25 (and one) | Bracketology | Bubble Watch

What: Big East championship.

When: March 12-15.

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City.

Bracket: View tournament field here.

TV: All games on FOX Sports 1. (Championship game on March 15, 8:30 p.m. ET).

Last year's champ: Louisville (35-5, No. 1 seed).

What matters: The Big East tournament looks different than in the past, with Louisville, Connecticut, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and others no longer in the league. It does lose a little bit of its luster, but with two top-15 teams and a host of bubble teams, there will still be plenty of intriguing matchups in New York City.

Villanova and Creighton are the favorites, with the Wildcats sitting as the No. 1 seed. They rolled the regular season with only two losses -- with both coming in blowouts at the hands of Creighton. The Bluejays won the two meetings by a combined 49 points, and Villanova would love to get revenge in the title game. The Wildcats might need to win the conference tournament to get a No. 1 seed, though.

Many eyes will be on the quartet of bubble teams, though. Xavier is in the best shape of the group, as the Musketeers currently sit in most projected brackets. Georgetown has five top-50 wins, which is best among the Big East bubblers, but the Hoyas also have a trio of bad losses and went just 8-10 in the league. Providence could have punched its ticket with a win over Creighton last weekend, but the Friars fell and likely need two wins.

St. John's could be the most interesting of the group. The Red Storm are squarely on the bubble, and need at least a run to the title game. More importantly, they are playing on their home court at Madison Square Garden. They have already defeated Creighton there, and will have the edge in fan support.

Who matters: This category has to start with the easy choice for National Player of the Year: Creighton's Doug McDermott. The star forward hit the 3,000-point mark for his career over the weekend against Providence, just another milestone in what has been a tremendous career for the coach's son. He is capable of carrying Creighton to a Big East tournament championship -- and a potential Final Four run in the NCAA Tournament.

Villanova doesn't have the star power of Creighton, but the Wildcats are extremely balanced and can beat teams in a variety of ways. James Bell and Jayvaughn Pinkston create matchup issues for most teams, and Ryan Arcidiacono is a playmaker at the point guard spot. Darrun Hilliard is also coming on strong late in the season.

Xavier, Providence, Georgetown and St. John's all have star guards. Providence's Bryce Cotton is one of the more underappreciated players in the country, playing nearly every minute of every game, while also being one of the more difficult players to guard in the Big East. Xavier has Semaj Christon, an aggressive, attacking scorer at the point guard spot.

Georgetown is carried by the backcourt duo of Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. If those two aren't scoring, the Hoyas can struggle on the offensive end. St. John's is the most talented bubble team in the Big East, but the Red Storm need consistent production from guards D'Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan. Both are dynamic players who can get their own shot in a half-court setting.

Fun fact: 1. Creighton has the nation's best offense according to KenPom. The Bluejays have the most efficient offense, the most effective offense, and are the country's best 3-point shooting team in the country. In the past, the Big East was known for its physicality and rivalries. Creighton has turned it on its head, making a statement in its first season in the conference. Will the Bluejays continue to shoot their way to wins at Madison Square Garden?

Prediction: Creighton wins the automatic bid in its first season in the Big East, taking down home team St. John's in the championship game. The Bluejays have proven to be a difficult matchup for most of the Big East this season, and a third game against St. John's should be interesting. The Red Storm will make a run to the title game by taking down Providence in a huge quarterfinal bubble game, and then knock off Villanova in the semifinals. Those wins could propel St. John's into the NCAA Tournament -- but Creighton will emerge on top in the championship game.

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