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2019 Conference Tournament Primer: Big East

Unlike previous years, Denver probably has to win the conference tournament to ensure a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Tom McCaffrey

Welcome to conference championship week.

There’s 10 conferences and 10 conference tournaments. Nine of them get started next weekend, with the ACC holding their championship on Saturday. The Patriot League got their conference tournament started on Tuesday. We’ve also previewed the Big Ten, MAAC, America East, CAA, NEC, and SoCon Tournaments.

Four teams makes the conference tournament at a predetermined site (this year it’s Denver). Nothing special with the format of this tourney.

Below is the conference tournament bracket, followed by short previews of the teams.

No. 1: Denver Pioneers

It’s not a surprise to see Denver on top of the Big East entering the conference tournament. It is a surprise to not only see the Pioneers fall in Big East regular season play, but also on the outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble. They’ll need to win the conference tournament to keep their season going into May.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: With an offense a little down, Ethan Walker is still the go-to guy for the Pioneers with 35 goals and 46 points. Seniors Austin French and Colton Jackson have recorded over 20 points each, but for the most part, this is a young Denver offense.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: The early season injury to Dylan Johnson didn’t help Denver on defense, but grad transfer Matt Neufeldt has fit in well as an LSM and at times a close defenseman. His 24 CTs and years at Maryland provide some Championship Weekend experience that will be helpful to the Pio defense.
  • DENVER WINS IF: The entire team plays with some urgency and knowing that it could be their last game with a loss. Bill Tierney made a goalie change late in the season by inserting Cole French over Alex Ready. Will that help the Pios in the long run?

No. 2: Georgetown Hoyas

The Hoyas come into the Big East Tournament with Daniel Bucaro healthy. That’s big for their offense even though he wasn’t healthy when they won the Big East title last season. Bucaro and Jake Carraway consist of one of the best one-two attack duos in college lacrosse.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Bucaro is still the guy to watch. He’s scored a hat-trick in every game he’s played in but the Denver game where he had two. A goal scoring machine will help the Hoyas in this year’s Big East tourney run.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: The Hoyas have two players with over 20 caused turnovers, SSDM Patrick Aslanian and defenseman Gibson Smith, who has a team-high 25 caused turnovers. He’ll be assigned the opposition’s top attackman.
  • GEORGETOWN WINS IF: Bucaro and Carraway keep clicking, while sophomore goalie Owen McElroy finds his groove as the starting netminder.

No. 3: Providence Friars

Providence isn’t the shiniest team in the tournament, but they do have one of the best goalies in the country in Tate Boyce. The Friars nearly won the conference tournament a couple years ago when they fell to Marquette, so they know how to get to Saturday.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: The Friars have two seniors that feel like they’ve been there for longer than four years. Brendan Kearns and Nick Hatzipetrakos each have 43 points on the year, but the latter has a team-high 37 goals.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Emmett Jennings leads the team with 22 caused turnovers, nearly triple than anyone else. But Boyce has been the key to the Friars being a part of the Big East Tournament. The senior has an under-10 goals against average in his final year in Rhode Island.
  • PROVIDENCE WINS IF: More offense comes from others such as Matt Grillo and Tim Hinrichs, while the defense stands tall and allows Boyce to do his job.

No. 4: Villanova Wildcats

Last week, the Wildcats were looking like the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament. Now, they’re the final seed. It shows how one loss matters. There isn’t a top team in the conference, but it probably is Villanova based on their season.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: A fairly young offense for the Wildcats has plenty of weapons. One of their key players is attackman Keegan Khan who has a team-leading 26 points and one of two players with at least 45 points. Corey McManus is the other with 46.
  • DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: In my opinion, TJ Comizio has been the best short stick defensive midfielder in the country this season. The senior has 23 caused turnovers with 58 ground balls, but has also contributed on offense with a goal and eight assists. He’s actually gotten some defensive starts as well.
  • VILLANOVA WINS IF: The Wildcats’ youth movement plays like seniors, including goalie Will Vitton who has a 10.81 goals against average.

Attack Player of the Year: Daniel Bucaro, Georgetown, Sr., A
Midfielder of the Year: Connor Kirst, Villanova, Jr., M
Defensive Player of the Year: Noah Richard, Marquette, Sr., LSM
Goalkeeper of the Year: Tate Boyce, Providence, Sr., G
Freshman of the Year: Brett Boos, Denver, Fr., FOS
Coaching Staff of the Year: Villanova (Michael Corrado, Head Coach)

All-BIG EAST First Team
Tate Boyce, Providence, Sr., GK
Daniel Bucaro, Georgetown, Sr., A
Jake Carraway, Georgetown, Jr., A
Ethan Walker, Denver, Jr., A
Connor Kirst, Villanova, Jr., M
Lucas Wittenberg, Georgetown, Sr., M
Tanner Thomson, Marquette, So., M
Gibson Smith, Georgetown, So., D
Dylan Gaines, Denver, Sr., D
Nick Grill, Marquette, Jr., D
Noah Richard, Marquette, Sr., LSM
Danny Logan, Denver, Jr., SSDM
Brett Boos, Denver, Fr., FOS

All-BIG EAST Second Team
Matt Campbell, Villanova, Fr., M
T.J. Comizio, Villanova, Sr., SSDM
Nick Hatzipetrakos, Providence, Sr., A
Tim Hinrichs, Providence, Jr., M
Colton Jackson, Denver, Sr., M
Keegan Khan, Villanova, So., A
Patrick Kennedy, Villanova, RS-So., D
Corey McManus, Villanova, So., A
Joe Madsen, St. John’s, Jr., A
Mike Madsen, St. John’s, Jr., M
Aidan Marron, St. John’s, Sr., D
Matt Neufeldt, Denver, RS-Sr., LSM
Colin Squires, Denver, Jr., D
Will Vitton, Villanova, Fr., GK
John Wagner, Marquette, Sr., A