Seven weeks from today, 68 teams from around the country will tip off in the greatest annual competition in American sports. As March Madness looms, is the Big East poised to have one of their best seasons in a decade? Find out today, while also getting some insight into the top bubble games this week.
What to make of the Big East
What a wild Monday for St. John's. As the new Top 25 polls were released, and pundits around the country were updating their various bracketologies, it seemed like everyone was ready to write off the Red Storm, myself included. Their rotation problems, cold shooting, and recently uninspired defense had convinced everyone that this team would probably take it's biggest step backwards since Mike Anderson took the helm in 2019.
Then, Monday night rolled around, and the Johnnies stunned Seton Hall, a consensus 8 seed, 84-63 for their biggest win in conference play so far. I hate to be the guy to detract from a win, as it has clearly galvanized the Red Storm and their fans for the time being, but I do have to echo the sentiment of guys like the NY Post's Zach Braziller in asking; where has this intensity been for the last month and a half? While Aaron Wheeler's 17 point, 10 rebound double-double helped lift the Johnnies offensively, it was their defense that really set the standard for this win, as they forced 20 turnovers on the Pirates. Joel Soriano, finally back in the starting lineup, recorded 4 blocks.
As someone who follows a lot of mid-major basketball, I would normally look at a performance like this and call it a bid-killer. However, this is the Big East we're talking about, a conference whose bids will pretty much be floating around the 6-7 range until Selection Sunday, so now the focus shifts towards who will be claiming those final few spots. For St. John's to get there, they'll really have to make a big run in February, but could play a major spoiler for teams like Prov (who they play again on February 1st), and Marquette (March 5th).
Bubble games you don't wanna miss this week
Tuesday-Wyoming at Boise State: Could the Mountain West become a two-bid league this season? Probably not, but we've got two frontier teams ready to to duke it out for the top spot in the conference tonight in Idaho!
Wednesday-Creighton at Butler: This is a tough one to predict, as Coach Greg McDermott will not be present at Hinkle due to Covid-19 protocols. Butler has been a tough team at home this season, but Chuck Harris, who is coming off of a 21 point performance over Providence, will be looking to carry his team into the proper tourney conversation.
Thursday-Colorado at Washington: A bit of a down year for the PAC-12 in both football and basketball, but if Colorado can right the ship starting with a win over Washington, we may see 5 bids for this West Coast based league.
Friday-Rhode Island at Dayton- It's hard to call this this one an actual bubble game regarding the A-10's bid situation, but if Dayton can knock down another top team in the conference, they could will themselves back into the conversation.
Saturday-Wake Forest at Syracuse: The Deacons are on a four game tear in the ACC, including a win over North Carolina, as well as a thirty point blowout over Boston College. If they can extend their streak to five over the Orange, Forest can pretty much punch their ticket to the Tourney.