Let's Dance!

Now that the regular season is over, the Big East Tournament is upon us. There are a couple bubble teams in the Big East heading into the tourney and this is their last shot to impress the committee and make it to the Big Dance. This blog is solely devoted to performances over this week at Madison Square Garden.

Player of the Week

Trevon Bluiett, G, Senior, Xavier Musketeers

Trevon BluiettTrevon BluiettBluiett was instrumental in helping Xavier get to the Elite Eight last year in the NCAA Tournament, providing an efficient scoring touch. The postseason is a familiar place for him and he showed it again on Thursday night.

Xavier, as the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament, thumped St. John’s in the second round 88-60. It was Bluiett who caught fire and led the way with 27 points on 8-18 shooting and knocking down four threes. Bluiett has been Xavier’s leader all season long, scoring wise and as a savvy veteran with experience. He took the most shots in the game by far on the Musketeers and took command. Bluiett is playing some great basketball at the end of the season when it matters most. He is showing not only why Xavier got the top seed in the Big East tourney, but why they are favorites to earn a top seed in the Big Dance come Sunday.

Who’s Hot

Kamar Baldwin, G, Sophomore, Butler Bulldogs

Butler was one of the Big East teams on the bubble of making the postseason heading into the week. They needed to show in this tournament they were real and deserving. They were pitted against the conference three seed Seton Hall, a team talented from top to bottom, but it was the Bulldogs who won on a tip in with four seconds remaining to defeat the Pirates 75-74.

Leading the way for Butler was Baldwin, who exploded for 32 points, more than double his season average, on 12-20 shooting. Baldwin’s efforts were every much needed as Butler struggled when star forward Kelan Martin had an off-night shooting 7-20 and just 1-8 from beyond the arc. Baldwin helped Butler just about punch their ticket to the Big Dance come Sunday regardless of the rest of this tourney. The win was also Butler’s first in the Big East Tournament.

Rodney Bullock, F, Senior, Providence Friars

Providence came up big on Wednesday against one of the top teams in the Big East, the Creighton Bluejays. Creighton, the four seed, was a favorite to top the five seed Friars, but veteran senior Bullock had other ideas.

Bullock was a consistent force all game long for Providence. He notched 13 points and eight rebounds to help pave the way for a Providence 72-68 overtime victory. Now, Bullock didn’t lead the way in scoring or rebounding on Providence, but he was consistent throughout and delivered in the clutch moments when it matter most. He also provided a force on the defensive end leading with three blocked shots. Bullock hasn’t been spectacular all season, never providing a game changing scoring or rebounding threat. However, he has been clutch all season and been the leader all along for Ed Cooley’s squad in helping them inch closer to the Big Dance.

Who’s Not

Shamorie Ponds, G, Sophomore, St. John’s Red Storm

Ponds was instrumental in helping St. John’s turn their season around near the halfway point of conference play after they started 0-11 in conference. They would go on to finish just four Big East wins, but Ponds was never the reason why they lost.

After winning their opening round game on Wednesday over Georgetown 88-77, thanks to 26 from Ponds, the Red Storm got smoked by Xavier Thursday night. Ponds struggled in what should be the Johnnies last game of the season. He only scored 15 points on 4-14 shooting and went 0-7 from beyond the arc. He was relied on all season as their clutch man, but the Musketeer defense did a number on him.

2018 Big East at the Big Dance

Everyone knows getting into the NCAA Tournament is special. It’s the Big Dance. Not literally, but it would be interesting if it was an actual high school themed dance. For this week’s final rankings, it’s going to be somewhat of a different approach.

Assuming now heading into selection weekend that there SHOULD be six teams selected into the NCAA Tournament: Xavier, Villanova, Seton Hall, Creighton, Butler and Providence.

If the tournament was like a dance, here are the roles at the dance that five of those teams would play.

Prom King: Xavier Musketeers

The most popular, best looking, last man standing at the dance who gets all the honors. In this case, it’s the Big East team who looks the best going into the final tournament, has maybe the best chances to win based of record and is complete. In this case, it’s Xavier. They finished first in the Big East at the end of the regular season and have hardly any weaknesses. Beating them will be extremely tough in the tourney. They should get a one seed ranking and be a popular pick to make it to the Final Four just because of their rank. Crown the king.

Popular Date: Villanova Wildcats

There was always that girl or guy, the most popular one who everyone coveted to take to prom as a dream date. The one everyone wanted and was the most popular. While Xavier is technically tops in the conference at the season’s end (and may even win the conference tournament), most college basketball followers around the country will tell you Villanova is the better team. Villanova, who has beat Xavier twice this season in two matchups, has more postseason experience in the last 10-15 years, a national title and an elite coach, will be favored to go further. They are not just the sexier name to pick, but the better team overall. They will be more popular on brackets to get to the end, essentially becoming more people’s date in the tournament.

The Nerd: Butler Bulldogs

It’s stereotypical and nothing wrong with it, but there should be the unpopular kid who attends prom and makes a big impact, garnering a lot of attention and gaining popularity out of nowhere. What does that mean for the NCAA Tournament?? THE UNDERDOG. Butler, who got off to a rocky start to the season and under first year head coach LaVall Jordan, have developed maybe the best chemistry in the Big East of all the teams. They just beat Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament and have some good upsets this season, including over Villanova earlier. They have postseason experience, find ways to win, and can have anyone in their starting lineup aside from star Kelan Martin go off to score enough to win. Watch out for these dancers come Big Dance time. They can show some flash.

Best Dressed: Providence Friars

There’s always a kid who comes to prom wearing an extravagant, nice attire. Someone who is prepared for prom, got the right clothes, looks good and ready to have a good time. Aside from Xavier and Villanova, who are coming in with heaps of postseason experience and winning in the last couple seasons, not many Big East teams have much experience in March. Except for Providence. Kind of quietly, the Friars have made the tournament (assuming they make it this season) for five straight seasons. They have beaten elite teams this season, Villanova and Xavier included on that list. They have a tournament win from two seasons ago. Ed Cooley knows how to win in tough times, in the clutch, do or die. He and Providence have a very impressive resume over the last five seasons. They come into the Big Dance looking slick, well dressed and ready to go.

Bad Dancer: Seton Hall Pirates

Nothing against the person, but there are the kids who just can’t dance at prom. Most of them don’t actual go out and dance in front of everyone, but the ones who do can’t dance and look funny in front of everyone. The teams in the NCAA Tournament who can’t dance are the ones who can’t play, don’t show up to play and get bounced by underdogs. That team from the Big East should be Seton Hall. Saying the Pirates are not playing well right now may be an understatement. Head coach Kevin Willard has some serious work to do before their first games next weekend after a shaky end to the regular season and a first-round loss to Butler in the Big East Tournament. Star center Angel Delgado is struggling all over the place and their free throw shooting has been poor all-season long. It looks more like Seton Hall should get an eight or nine seed in the tourney, but no matter where they are seeded, it looks tough to see this team going far in the Big Dance. Their dancing skills aren’t looking too sharp.

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