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The Big East tourney is like none other

Other than the Ivy League, every Division I men’s college basketball conference holds a tournament to determine the league champion. There are some terrific ones, like the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. and the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Mo., but none are the Big East Tournament.

Since 1983, the Big East has held its season-ending tourney at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden in New York. The tournament becomes more than a collection of basketball contests but rather an event for alumni and fans to get together and go nuts for four solid days.

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On Wednesday, the 2015 Big East Tournament kicked off with a pair of preludes to the main event, with the 10th-seeded Creighton Bluejays knocking off the No. 7 seed DePaul Blue Demons and the ninth-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles hammering the No. 8 Seton Hall Pirates.

Here are Thursday’s matchups, with plenty of March Madness implications on the line:

No. 1 Villanova Wildcats vs. No. 9 Marquette Golden Eagles (12:00 p.m. ET)

Villanova is basically playing this tournament to be on the No. 1 line come Selection Sunday night. The Wildcats would ensure that with a conference title after rolling through the regular season with a 29-2 record, finishing No. 4 in the Associated Press poll. Marquette is playing for pride, barring a miracle run to an automatic bid. The Golden Eagles ended any hopes of Seton Hall making a bid for an at-large spot. Can they pull another upset, albeit a massive one?

No. 2 Georgetown Hoyas vs. No. 10 Creighton Bluejays (7:00 p.m. ET)

Georgetown is a lock to make the NCAA Tournament after posting a 20-9 mark and finishing No. 23 in the country. The Hoyas have been strong in recent weeks, winning five of their past six Big East games including victories over St. John’s and Butler. According to Joe Lunardi of ESPN, Georgetown is currently a No. 6 seed. Creighton has actually improved down the stretch but is playing out the string. The Bluejays struggle to shoot and against Georgetown, are outgunned on the perimeter.

No. 3 Butler Bulldogs vs. No. 6 Xavier Musketeers (9:30 p.m. ET)

Butler is also projected by Lunardi to be a sixth seed in March Madness, and can pick up a quality win against Xavier on Thursday. The Bulldogs have played well against top competition this year, chalking up wins over St. John’s twice, Xavier, Providence, North Carolina and Georgetown. The Musketeers have likely punched their ticket to the dance, but a win here would really solidify things. Xavier has not played well lately, barely escaping with a one-point win over Creighton in its regular-season finale.

No. 4 Providence Friars vs. No. 5 St. John’s Red Storm (2:30 p.m. ET)

St. John’s has won both meetings this year, beating Providence fairly comfortably in both contests. Both of these teams are in the NCAA Tournament but could gain momentum and perhaps jump a line or two in seeding with a few wins this week. The Red Storm are one of the most athletic teams in college basketball, and face a Friars team which can really shoot from the outside. Look for this matchup to be highly entertaining.

Odds on winning the Big East Tournament, according to Bovada:

Villanova – 2/3
Georgetown – 5/1
Butler – 11/2St. John’s – 8/1
Providence – 9/1
Xavier – 9/1
Creighton – 50/1
Marquette – 75/1

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