Live from New York, it's some great basketball.
The regular season is done. The seeds are set. The teams are heading back to Madison Square Garden for the most exciting and greatest conference postseason tournament. The bracket is all set, so dive in with me won't you?
First Round - Tuesday March 9th
Game 1: #9 South Florida v. #16 DePaul 12:00pm EST (ESPN 2)
Game 2: #12 Connecticut v. #13 St. John's 2:00pm EST (ESPN 2)
Game 3: #10 Seton Hall v. #15 Providence 7:00pm EST (ESPN U)
Game 4: #11 Cincinnati v. #14 Rutgers 9:00pm EST (ESPN U)
Second Round - Wednesday March 10th
Game 5: Winner of South Florida/DePaul v. #8 Georgetown 12:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 6: Winner of Connecticut/St. John's v. #5 Marquette 2:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 7: Winner of Seton Hall/Providence v. #7 Notre Dame 7:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 8: Winner of Cincinnati/ Rutgers v. #6 Louisville 9:00pm EST (ESPN)
Quarterfinals - Thursday March 11th
Game 9: Winner of Game 5 v. #1 Syracuse 12:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 10: Winner of Game 6 v. #4 Villanova 2:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 11: Winner of Game 7 v. #2 Pittsburgh 7:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 12: Winner of Game 8 v. #3 West Virginia 9:00pm (ESPN)
Semifinals - Friday March 12th
Game 13: Winner of Game 9 v. Winner of Game 10 7:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 14: Winner of Game 11 v. Winner of Game 12 9:00pm EST (ESPN)
Championship - Saturday March 13th
Championship: Winner of Game 13 v. Winner of Game 14 9:00pm EST (ESPN)
Best First Round Matchup: #10 Seton Hall v. #15 Providence
Seton Hall has surprisingly crept out of the bottom four slots in the league on the back of Jeremy Hazell and Herb Pope. Providence is by all accounts a decent team with good shooters but they have lost their last ten games. However it took a last second shot for Pittsburgh to beat them. If they can play smart and take good shots they have a chance to beat Seton hall. This is a rematch of the two team's last game of the season in which Seton Hall won by 12 points. Can Providence pull the upset and avenge their last loss to get some momentum to end their season? We'll find out.
Best Potential Second Round Matchup: #9 South Florida v. #8 Georgetown
South Florida shocked Georgetown in their only meeting this season in DC. USF won 72-64, right off of G'town's throttling of Duke in front of the President. USF is probably in the NCAA Tournament, but another win over Georgetown would solidify their chances, while Georgetown would like to avenge that earlier embarrassment on their home floor. Plus these two teams are pretty even, so it should be a good game regardless.
Best Potential Quarterfinal Matches: #8 Georgetown v. #1 Syracuse OR #5 Marquette v. #4 Villanova
Syracuse has the potential to sweep Georgetown for three games. They accomplished this back in 2004. One of the hardest things to do is beat a team three times during a season, and Syracuse has the potential to do it with Georgetown, their most hated rival. Georgetown almost made an epic comeback in DC to almost beat Syracuse, so you know they'd love another shot at them.
Marquette lost to Villanova twice this season, but each time it was only by two points. Although Marquette lost in overtime in their last game of the season to Notre Dame, they are still 8-2 in their last ten. They are playing well and could get over the Villanova hump. Meanwhile, Villanova got beat in their last game of the season so winning their first game in NY will be good for their confidence. Plus Villanova is always exciting in Madison Square Garden. This could be another great game between these two schools.
Best Potential Semifinial Matchup: #3 West Virginia v. #2 Pittsburgh
The Backyard Brawl produced two great and dramatic games this year. In their first meeting in Morgantown, Pittsburgh walked away with a big victory despite the rowdy hometown fans throwing things on the court and hitting a Pitt assistant with a quarter in his face. In Pittsburgh, West Virginia had a big lead, but Pittsburgh came roaring back to tie the game, sending it to overtime a total of three times before the game was decided. A third time could and should be another epic in the making.
Best Potential Championship Matchup: #1 Syracuse v. #2 Pittsburgh
Syracuse was the best team in the Big East. Pittsburgh was one of the two teams that beat them this season. Pittsburgh, much like Syracuse, came from obscurity this season and rose to the top of the conference. Syracuse is dying for a chance to beat a team that beat them earlier, while Pittsburgh wants to get another Big East Championship and some momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament. Plus these two teams have provided some great Big East Tournament games and Championships. If both these teams manage to make it to Saturday it should be a fun one to watch.
Players To Watch For:
#1 Syracuse - Andy Rautins and Wes Johnson
By now you know that Wes Johnson can be an absolute superstar on the floor. He is good for a couple massive slam dunks per game. But he can also shoot the ball if he is 100%. He'll draw much of the attention in the Garden. Andy Rautins is Syracuse's sharpshooter. He carried Syracuse through that magical 6 OT game last season, and if anyone has a chance to catch some MSG magic, it will be Rautins.
#2 Pittsburgh - Ashton Gibbs
He has been a spark and a vast improvement from last year to this year for Pittsburgh. He drilled a long three to win the game for Pitt against Providence and clinch the double bye for his team. This is a guy that can do damage behind the arc or in the lane for Pitt.
#3 West Virginia - Da'Sean Butler
He is the leading scorer on one of the toughest team in the league. He is a sharpshooter and has the ability to carry his team, and in crunch time he can certainly drain threes in a pressure situation.
#4 Villanova - Scottie Reynolds
The sure bet for Big East Player of the Year, Scottie can do it all. He can score, pass, shoot, and is dazzling to watch on occasion. He makes Villanova dangerous in any game they play.
#5 Marquette - Lazar Hayward
He scores 18 points a game in a Marquette team that could catch fire in New York, as they have a decent chance to get to Friday night.
#7 Notre Dame - Luke Harangody
He's been sidelined lately with an ankle injury, but he played limited minutes in their last game on Saturday. He could get back to form in the Big East and get back to scoring 23 plus points a game.
#8 Georgetown - Greg Monroe
He is probably the most talented big man in the league. He can score in the low post practically at will if not defended by an experienced center. He will keep Georgetown in a game or he can bury a team from the paint.
#9 South Florida - Dominique Jones
He is the second leading scorer in the conference and can score from anywhere on the floor. He has snuck under the radar because his team has been up and down, but they are poised to make it to the NCAA Tournament and he can do damage in this tournament as well.
I think the Championship will come down to Syracuse v. West Virginia on Saturday night, with Syracuse earning another tight win in a classic in New York City. I think Syracuse will win the Big East Championship by five points and the Most Valuable Player of the tournament will be Andy Rautins.
So there you have it, your complete guide and preview to the Big East Tournament. Stay tuned everyday right here at Orange::44 for total coverage of every game in the Garden. The Big East has a good chance of getting a record nine or ten teams in the NCAA Tournament this year, and there will probably be a few upsets along the way, so it should be pretty exciting. If you're interested in odds, Ken Pomeroy has crunched the numbers for you in a great article here. Tune in because every game should be entertaining. Well, maybe not if in involves DePaul.