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NCAA Bubble Watch: Big East & Big 12

Marshall Cherrington |
March 5, 2015 | 12:50 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

Darrun Hilliard and Villanova are in a good spot, along with most of the Big East (theScore/Twitter)
Darrun Hilliard and Villanova are in a good spot, along with most of the Big East (theScore/Twitter)
We’re now 10 days away from Selection Sunday and the race for the 68 spots in the NCAA Tournament field is heating up. Kentucky, Virginia, Duke and Villanova are looking like the four number one seeds, although conference tournaments could change things. It’s all about peaking at the right time, as we saw with Connecticut last year, and conference tournaments are the time to prove your worth. Take a look at which teams are locks and which teams are on the bubble in the Big East and Big 12.

Big East

After a tumultuous past couple of years full of teams leaving and entering the conference, the Big East is looking strong again headed into the NCAA Tournament. Villanova has dominated conference play this year and boasts six players who average 23 minutes per game or more. Lefty Darrun Hilliard can beat you off the dribble or behind the arc and is a top five player in the conference. Villanova is locked in as a one or two seed and will look to do damage in March under coach Jay Wright’s direction.

After Villanova, it’s looking like the Big East will get five other teams into the tournament. The league is very strong this year considering the fact that only four teams from the Big East made it into the tournament last year. Butler, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s and Xavier will all be dancing this year and seeded well, according to Joe Lunardi’s bracketology

Butler isn’t a very deep team at all, as the five starters are the only players on the team that receive major minutes. The Bulldogs boast a solid frontcourt as Kameron Woods averages nearly a double-double, Roosevelt Jones provides a veteran presence and Andrew Chrabascz is now healthy after a nagging hand injury. We all know the kind of magic Butler pulls off in March, so don’t ever count out the Bulldogs. 

Next up is Georgetown, a team that is led by do-it-all guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The junior guard is averaging 16 points per game for the Hoyas and is a big part of why this team has been successful this year. Former UCLA big man Joshua Smith provides a huge presence in the paint for the Hoyas as well.

Providence hasn't made the Sweet 16 in almost 20 years. Can LaDontae Henton and Co. change that? (becbn_sn/Twitter)
Providence hasn't made the Sweet 16 in almost 20 years. Can LaDontae Henton and Co. change that? (becbn_sn/Twitter)
Providence has been a streaky team this year, but the Friars can always count on the play of forward LaDontae Henton. The Friars’ leading scorer is a Big East Player of the Year candidate and really anchors this team in the frontcourt as he averages over 20 points per game. Throw in Kris Dunn and you have one of the best backcourt-frontcourt duos in the nation.

Although they’ve been on the bubble for the past couple of weeks, St. John’s has won seven of their last eight games. They boast an all-around attack led by D’Angelo Harrison and the man with the best name in college basketball, Sir’Dominic Pointer. Want to attack the Red Storm inside? No can do. Chris Obekpa is one of the best shot blockers in the nation and locks down the paint for the Johnnies.

No one player on Xavier’s roster jumps out at you and although you won’t be amazed by watching them, but the Musketeers just get the job done. Although two straight losses to St. John’s and Villanova have put the Musketeers in a wary position, they finish out their season against Creighton on March 7 in a very winnable game. Joe Lunardi projects the Musketeers to earn a nine seed if the field was picked today. 

Although it looked like Seton Hall would be dancing earlier in the year, the Pirates’ season has fallen off the ledge ever since the Sterling Gibbs-Ryan Arcidiacono incident. The rest of the Big East should be worried about Seton Hall next year though, as the Pirates are still a young team. Look for the Big East to have two, maybe three teams in the Sweet Sixteen this year 

Big 12

At the top of the conference, we have the now 11-time conference champions, the Kansas Jayhawks. They’ve played the toughest schedule in the nation this year and although they have their fair share of losses, Bill Self and Co. came out on top once again.

It's been a bumpy ride for Isaiah Taylor and the Longhorns (BON_SBNation/Twitter).
It's been a bumpy ride for Isaiah Taylor and the Longhorns (BON_SBNation/Twitter).
The Big 12 is arguably a top two conference in college basketball this year, and it shows as up to seven teams could make it into this year’s tournament. Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Baylor and West Virginia? Well, they’re all locks. A team that has a very high chance of getting in is Oklahoma State and Lunardi currently projects that the Cowboys will receive a nine seed.

The big question mark in the Big 12 is Texas. The Longhorns have battled all year and they looked good heading into their February 17 matchup against Oklahoma. However, they fell to the Sooners and went on to lose three more games in a row, all to ranked teams. The Longhorns stopped their losing streak as they picked up a huge win against Baylor on March 2, and finish the year against an upset minded Kansas State team. They’re currently projected as the first team out of the tournament field.

Can a team from the Big 12 do some serious damage in the tournament? Well, no teams really did last year as Iowa State and Baylor were the only teams from the conference that made it past the Round of 32. Kansas has potential to so some damage, but the Jayhawks are a young squad. Could Iowa State pull off a streak of wins under Fred Hoiberg? They’ve done it before. Also, look out for West Virginia as Juwan Staten can come alive at anytime. When he does, he’s one of the best players in the nation.

Reach Staff Writer Marshall Cherrington here or follow him on Twitter



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