The Big East Volleyball Tournament kicks off Friday afternoon with the two semifinal matches. The event is being hosted by Creighton, as D.J. Sokol Arena is the second best volleyball facility in the Big East. (You didn't expect me to say that it was better than the McGuire Center, did you?) Both matches will be broadcast on the Big East Digital Network, while Saturday's title game will be aired on FS2 at 1pm Central.
Semifinal #1: #1 Creighton vs #4 Marquette
This right here is why Marquette losing to St. John's two weeks ago was a bad deal. Yes, even with that win, Marquette was going to finish fourth in the Big East at 13-5. They were still going to end up playing the Jays, who have beaten Marquette in eight of their 11 all time meetings, including each of the last four contests. The issue is with Marquette's NCAA tournament picture. The Golden Eagles are sitting at #34 in the current RPI standings, and with a 64 team field, that has them on the edge of being left out. St. John's is down at #124, meaning it's a massive anchor on Marquette right now. With a win there, MU is probably cleanly in regardless of what happens in this semifinal. Instead, MU probably really can't afford to lose here, even though it would officially be a road game against a top 25 opponent.
With that said, it should be a hell of a game. It's the two best offenses in the Big East, both in terms of hitting percentage and kills per set. It's also the two best teams in the league when it comes to recording digs by a wide, wide margin, and on top of that, the Golden Eagles are the second best blocking team in the conference. You'll see four of the most accurate hitters in the conference, two on each side, and the two best individual attackers in Marquette's Taylor Louis and Creighton's Jaali Winters.
Semifinal #2: #2 Villanova vs #3 Xavier
While Creighton's cleanly in the tournament and Marquette is fighting for their at large lives, both Villanova and Xavier are likely on the outside looking in right now. Villanova has an RPI of of 43, while Xavier's at #62. Maaaaaaybe Villanova can end up sneaking in with a loss to Creighton in the title game, but they're likely going to be sitting at home unless they win the Big East tournament, and that's definitely the case for the Musketeers.
While I'm predicting a good match between Marquette and Creighton based on what the two teams bring into the contest, Creighton picked up two 3-0 wins this season. Villanova beat the Musketeers 3-1 in Pennsylvania this season, while Xavier downed the Wildcats 3-2 in the match down in southwest Ohio. These two teams are super close in skill and talent, and that was evidenced by both their close matches this season as well as their identical 14-4 league records.
This will be the first match for Xavier since Abbey Bessler was named Big East Player of the Year, and they'll need a big game from the junior to advance to Saturday's title game. Both teams have three all-Big East players, with two each on the First Team. Emma Pettit has the 20th best assists average in the country right now, and the Wildcats will need her to be at her passing best to earn a shot at the league title on Saturday.