Super Nova

Player of the Week

Jalen Brunson, G, Junior, Villanova Wildcats

Jalen BrunsonJalen BrunsonJalen Brunson just keeps further cementing his status as frontrunner for the Wooden Award to the best player in the country. While there are a couple other players in the running, Brunson enjoys the luxury and has the advantage of having his team near the top of the national rankings.

Brunson showed why he is player of the year Wednesday night on the road at Seton Hall in a very tough 69-68 overtime victory. Late in the game with everything on the line and each possession crucial, Brunson commanded the offense, posted up with ease and got into the lane comfortably making plays. He finished with just 14 points, but the bulk of his scoring came down the stretch in helping Villanova separate.

Brunson has earned Player of the Week honors for the second time this year on this blog. With Trevon Bluiett’s decreased play over the last couple games, it has almost solidified the Big East Player of the Year honors going to him. He has Villanova sitting pretty, coming into the end of the regular season and the Big East Tournament with incredibly high odds to clinch a one or two seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Who’s Hot

Mikal Bridges, F, Junior, Villanova Wildcats

Yet again, another Wildcat has an outstanding season and is in the running for Big East Player of the Year. If Mikal Bridges was on another team in the Big East, he could easily challenge Brunson and others for the best conference player. Bridges, averaging 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and shooting an impressive 50.7 percent from the field, is probably the most NBA ready player out of the Big East and has a very real chance to be a lottery pick. He is lengthy and athletic enough to play almost all five positions on the floor, he has great ball handling skills, his outside jumper has dramatically improved and he is a defensive headache for opposing teams. He is also playing some of his best basketball at the end of the season, scoring 23 or more in three of his last four games and getting three steals in two of his last three games.

Even though the Wildcats wont finish alone at the top of the conference when the season ends, Bridges is in small company in school history. Not many Wildcats have made it successfully in the NBA or been highly regarded coming out of college like Bridges is. Get ready for his last showcase to the professionals to be in the Big Dance.

Xavier Musketeers

Despite falling twice to Villanova this season, Xavier is sitting on top at the end. With a win over Providence Wednesday night, the Musketeers clinched at least a share of the Big East regular season title for the first time since the conference realigned in 2013. Villanova has won the conference regular season outright four years in a row, but the best they can finish is tied for first. This season has been historically the best in Xavier regular season history. Sitting at third in the nation, it is the highest ranking in team program history. The Musketeers, who made a run to the Elite Eight last season as an 11-seed, should receive at least a one or two seed if the season ended today.

Who’s Not

Angel Delgado, C, Senior, Seton Hall Pirates

Delgado, who is having another strong season and establishing himself as a force down low in the paint, has struggled recently. Against Villanova on Wednesday night at home in the Prudential Center, a place the Pirates have fared well when taking on the Wildcats, Delgado had one of his worst showings of the season. He only shot 2-7 from the floor for 7 points and eight rebounds and the Wildcats were able to neutralize him. In such a close game that Seton Hall was so close to winning on multiple occasions, his lack of production was a huge factor.

Butler Bulldogs

When the Bulldogs fell out of fourth place in the Big East earlier in the week, Wednesday was their chance to get back in it. With a Seton Hall loss to Villanova, as expected, Butler had to beat the Big East bottom feeder St. John’s. After two overtimes, they couldn’t get it done and fell to the Red Storm 75-68. Now Butler, still in fifth place and making their bubble even bigger to get into the NCAA Tournament, have one more matchup with those Pirates before the season ends. Who ever wins the matchup will take sole possession of fourth place in the Big East and almost punch their ticket to the Big Dance.

Top 5 “Cinderella” Candidates

Xavier as an 11-seed last year was the Big East Cinderella team last year. There are plenty of Big East teams this season that could do what Xavier did last season. Villanova is off limits since they should be a heavy favorite to go far. Here are the top five candidates to make a run in the Bid Dance come March and April.

1. Creighton Bluejays

Creighton was supposed to be in a rebuild year under head coach Greg McDermott, but under stars Marcus Foster (20.0 ppg) and Khyri Thomas (15.2 ppg) they have been a force to be reckoned with. Offensively, they are there and can catch fire at any time and that could carry them deep into the postseason.

2. Xavier Musketeers

When you have a perennial scorer in Trevon Bluiett, who knows how to make a deep run, they can do it again. Xavier, even though they will be a top three seed in the Big Dance, still aren’t getting enough respect or exposure to garner enough credit to make a big run. Don’t count the Musketeers out.

3. Butler Bulldogs

Butler in conference play has really taken off this season, in LaVall Jordan’s first season taking over at the helm in Indianapolis. Sitting in the top five of the conference basically all season, the Bulldogs have an efficient offense and that’s all you really need to get far in the tournament. Kelan Martin is fantastic and can run the show.

4. Seton Hall Pirates

With Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and company, their offense and leadership is plenty. They have a ton of experience down the line. They rank in the top 60 in the country in most offensive stats and rebounding.

5. Providence Friars

The Friars are the fifth best and really the last only team with Cinderella capabilities in the Big East. Their problem is they still need to earn they way into the NCAA Tournament. They don’t have an outright scorer, but they have veteran leadership and very good coaching under Ed Cooley. They also have good experience in the Big Dance.

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