Time for another magical week from the City.
Another great season of Big East basketball is in the books, maybe the toughest of all time. The bracket is set for another huge and amazing tournament of top talent converging on the Mecca of Basketball. New York City is ready. Are you?
First Round - Tuesday March 8th
Game 1: #9 Connecticut v. #16 DePaul 12:00pm EST (ESPN 2)
Game 2: #12 Seton Hall v. #13 Rutgers 2:00pm EST (ESPN 2)
Game 3: #10 Villanova v. #15 South Florida 7:00pm EST (ESPN U)
Game 4: #11 Marquette v. #14 Providence 9:00pm EST (ESPN U)
Second Round - Wednesday March 9th
Game 5: Winner of Connecticut/DePaul v. #8 Georgetown 12:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 6: Winner of Seton Hall/Rutgers v. #5 St. John’s 2:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 7: Winner of Villanova/South Florida v. #7 Cincinnati 7:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 8: Winner of Marquette/Providence v. #6 West Virginia 9:00pm EST (ESPN)
Quarterfinals - Thursday March 10th
Game 9: Winner of Game 5 v. #1 Pittsburgh12:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 10: Winner of Game 6 v. #4 Syracuse 2:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 11: Winner of Game 7 v. #2 Notre Dame 7:00pm EST (ESPN)
Game 12: Winner of Game 8 v. #3 Louisville 9:00pm (ESPN)
Semifinals - Friday March 11th
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 12th
Championship: Winner of Game 13 v. Winner of Game 14 9:00pm EST (ESPN)
Best First Round Matchup: #12 Seton Hall v. #13 Rutgers
The “biggest rivalry in the Big East”, the battle for New Jersey is renewed in the first round of the BET. Winner takes on St. John’s and then Syracuse in the bracket that is the battle of the greater New York area. But Seton Hall and Rutgers are pretty even on paper and both are trying to come back from the dregs of the league to a modicum of respectability. Seton Hall is on a nice little win streak, winning against St. John’s and Marquette to finish the year. But Rutgers and the Hall split their games this season, so this is the decider, and the Hall has something to play for, as a few wins in New York could send this team to the NCAA or NIT.
Best Potential Second Round Matchup: #12 Seton Hall v. #5 St. John’s OR #10 Villanova v. #7 Cincinnati
Seton Hall beat St. John’s in the second to last game of the year to knock the Johnnies out of a double bye in the BET. St. John’s would love some payback on their own home court. For the Hall, a win over the Red Storm would go a long way in helping them get a postseason bid somewhere. Peaking at the right time in March does wonders for your resume.
Villanova will look familiar to Syracuse fans. SU had a four game skid in the middle of the season. Villanova is having it at the end. Having lost four in a row, starting with then #20 Syracuse in Philadelphia, Villanova has lost to the last four teams they have faced, all of whom are ranked. Cincinnati is in a different direction, having been 5-1 in their last six including wins over Louisville and two wins over Georgetown. Both teams want to advance. Villanova has more talent but is not playing well. Cincinnati is playing well but without much talent. Something has to give.
Best Potential Quarterfinal Matches: #5 St. John’s v. #4 Syracuse
It’s no secret that Syracuse has owned St. John’s in the last decade, including in Madison Square Garden, Syracuse’s other home court. That includes earlier this season. However, St. John’s has played very well at home, only losing to Syracuse and Cincinnati at home. Syracuse was the only ranked team they lost to in the Garden. St. John’s is yearning to regain home court advantage over Syracuse, while Syracuse wants to continue their dominance over the Red Storm, and get back their reputation as unbeatable in New York.
Best Potential Semifinial Matchup: #1 Pittsburgh v. #4 Syracuse
While Louisville versus Notre Dame would be a great game, Pittsburgh versus Syracuse has a little more luster, especially in New York. Pittsburgh and Syracuse area always dangerous to advance in New York. In their one meeting this season Pittsburgh won a eight point loss in Pittsburgh, while Syracuse’s Kris Joseph was sidelined with a head injury. Despite jumping to a huge lead, Syracuse came back and the game was tied in the second half. And these teams always have epic games in the Garden.
Best Potential Championship Matchup: #1 Pittsburgh v. #2 Notre Dame
Pittsburgh has been the best team in the league all season. Notre Dame has been the second best, but Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh in the Pete in their one meeting. These teams have big stars as Ben Hansborough versus Ashton Gibbs will again be wildly entertaining. These two teams are definitely in the NCAA Tournament, but winning the Conference comes with a lot of prestige and a lot of momentum heading into the Big Dance.
Players To Watch For:
#1 Pittsburgh – Ashton Gibbs
He is a shooter and has greatly improved every year to leading the beat team in the conference with 16.4ppg and hitting 46.6% from long range. The best player on the best team has quietly put together a great season and he will lead the Panthers into another BET run, where this team is always dangerous.
#2 Notre Dame – Ben Hansborough
My vote for league player of the year, he has helped Notre Dame become one of the top teams in the conference. He is a deadly outside shooter, hitting 45.1% from behind the arc, and can drive and slash when he needs to. He’s also an excellent passer and can create opportunities for his teammates.
#3 Louisville – Preston Knowles
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Knowles is the leading scorer for the very dangerous Cardinals. They have managed to consistently win in a very tough league, and Knowles leads scorers on that team. He can shoot well and can find the open man for an easier shot.
#4 Syracuse – Rick Jackson
The Big East defensive player of the year leads the conference in rebounding, field goal percentage, and blocks. He also averages 10.7ppg and is the best center in the Big East. He will be tough to battle down low and gives the Orange a distinct advantage in the low post.
#5 St. John’s – Dwight Hardy
The biggest surprise on the most surprising team, Hardy is a crafty player who is the guy to take the last shot on this team full of seniors. A leader among seniors is a tough thing to do and Hardy does it well, averaging 17.9ppg. He will do some damage on his home court.
#6 West Virginia – Kevin Jones
A key player for WVU a year ago, Jones is second on the team in scoring and first in rebounding for the Mountaineers. A nice post player, Jones is crafty and can find various ways to score. He is a scrappy player and could make the tournament team if WVU gets far enough.
#7 Cincinnati – Yancy Gates
Gates leads the Bearcats in both scoring and rebounding. He has gotten Cincinnati into a position to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament, and his low post play is some of the best in the league. He can body up on players and get some tough buckets for his squad.
#8 Georgetown – Austin Freeman
Chris Wright is out until further notice, which means even more responsibility is on Freeman to score. And he is plenty capable from inside and outside the arc. He is the leading scorer for Georgetown with 17.8ppg, and can create opportunities for himself and his teammates.
#9 Connecticut – Kemba Walker
At one time the best player in the league if not the nation. Now, he may not be the best, but he is still pretty damn good. After the rigors of the Big East slate got him down he is still a very good player in the league and can win a BET game or two just on his own.
I think Pittsburgh will probably win the Big East Tournament as they have been the best team in the league all season. They also have a good track record in NYC. But they are certainly not unbeatable. Notre Dame has a chance to steal the title, but I’m not convinced they will last in the pressure packed environment that is the Big East Tournament. St. John’s or Louisville cannot be counted out either. And yes, Syracuse has another chance to make a good run in the city with a team that is peaking at the right time of the season. Again, Pittsburgh is clearly the favorite, and I think it will probably shake out that way. But Syracuse should at least make it to Friday. Sorry St. John’s (most likely).
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 11 teams in the NCAA Tournament this year, and there will probably be a few upsets along the way, so it should be pretty exciting Be sure you check out John’s preview of the BET via Coaches’ wives right here. And congratulations to Connecticut for facing DePaul. Maybe that means they will finally win one game in New York.