NCAA Conference Tournament Preview: Big East

Place: Madison Square Garden, New York City

Format: 10 teams, bottom four seeds play in first round, top two seeds meet the teams that have already played one game

Top Seed: Villanova Wildcats – The defending national champions did not rest on their laurels. The Wildcats have won the regular season title in each of the four seasons since the Big East reformed to a 10-team league. They have only won the Big East tournament title once in that span and were knocked off by Seton Hall in 2014 and 2016. Nova would face the Pirates in the semifinals if the Seton Hall can beat Marquette. Josh Hart has had a National Player of the Year-type season with 18.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists with excellent efficiency. The Wildcats only go seven players deep since forward Darryl Reynolds returned in the regular season finale. With a short bench, the tournament format could be tough for Villanova.

Dark Horse: Marquette Golden Eagles – It may be tempting to call Providence the dark horse in the Big East because the Friars have won six straight games, but I have been impressed by the Golden Eagles in the late season. Coach Steve Wojciechowski tinkered with the lineup in the late season and helped Marquette win four of its last five games. The Golden Eagles have the deepest backcourt in the Big East with six guards averaging between 8.7 and 13.1 points. Freshman Markus Howard is the leading scorer and has canned 55.1 percent of his 3-pointers. Center Luke Fischer provides a modicum of balance to the Golden Eagle lineup, but has been limited by fouls. The Indiana transfer has accrued four fouls in each of his last five games and fouled out three times. He will need to stay away from the whistle against Seton Hall in the quarterfinals because of…

Player to Watch: Angel Delgado, forward, Seton Hall – Through his first two seasons, Delgado appeared to be a dependable rebounder who was limited offensively. In his junior season, the 6-10 forward has jumped in production. He leads the country with 13.1 rebounds and has bumped his scoring from the high nines to 15.6 points. Delgado produced 25 double-doubles and helped the Pirates win their last four games of the season. The Pirates play Marquette in the quarterfinals on Thursday and Delgado provided 16.0 points and 15.5 rebounds in the season split with the Golden Eagles.

Click here for Perry’s full breakdown of ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, SEC & Pac-12 conference tournaments.