Big East Tournament Preview
THE END OF AN ERA BEGINS TUESDAY AS BIG EAST TIPS OFF ITS FINAL"CLASSIC" TOURNAMENT
Yes, we know that the name"Big East" will still be in use in the future. But...that name isn't going to properly represent what the league has come to mean in the minds of basketball fans and sports gamblers across the country.
For one thing...Syracuse and Pittsburgh are moving to the ACC! You can't have a REAL Big East tournament without Syracuse...and Pittsburgh has certainly provided its share of drama as well over the years as well.
The so-called Catholic 7 will surely provide thrills in the future with whoever ultimately joins them in a new, reshaped Big East. It won't be the same. Not even close.
Let's take a look at how this final version of the"classic" Big East tournament is likely to shape up. There are 14 teams to discuss (the worst four of whom take the floor Tuesday Night at Madison Square Garden for the right to qualify for a more manageable 12 team bracket). We'll start in the half of the draw that features #1 seed Georgetown.
GEORGETOWN'S HALF OF THE DRAW
Even though many pundits and computer assessments believe Louisville is the best team in the Big East right now...Georgetown has a relatively friendly path for reaching the finals here...and possibly earning a second straight up win against the Cardinals. The Hoyas earned the #1 seed in a tie-breaker because they won the only regular season meeting.
Which if these teams can take out the Hoyas?
PITTSBURGH: inconsistent, unreliable on offense, and continually underachieving against computer expectations.
SYRACUSE: faded horribly down the stretch, including TWO losses to the Hoyas. At least that old"it's hard to beat the same team three times in a season" truism could play into their hands were they to advance to face Georgetown in the semifinals.
PROVIDENCE: capable of hot games, but probably not capable of sustaining heat over a series of games
CINCINNATI: faded badly throughout the season, as the wear and tear of a physical league took its toll. They can play with anybody over 40 minutes. Can they play 80 minutes of great basketball to push deep into the brackets? The Bearcats face Providence in the 8-9 game for a shot at Georgetown. Hey...if Georgetown comes in overconfident...either Cincy or Providence could give them a shock.
SETON HALL: Irrelevant, though they could play spoiler if they survive tonight's game with South Florida and find that Syracuse is disinterested and demoralized. JIM HURLEY will be working with his sources regarding the mindset of the Orange. Don't forget that NETWORK'S sources in New York are the best in the business!
SOUTH FLORIDA: A bad team that's ill-suited to thriving in New York anyway because of limited crowd support after a long trip. Never a real threat in this event...and never the right fit for this conference anyway!
You know who can beat the Hoyas? The Hoyas!!
If Georgetown spent too much time celebrating their regular season crown...and wondering about whether they'll get a #1 seed in the Dance...then they could be in for a rude awakening here. There's no greater letdown spot for a #1 seed than having to play in a half-interested arena away from home a few days after doing something really important. Georgetown finished a sweep of hated Syracuse last Saturday to clinch a share of the crown. They are in serious danger of being flat vs. the Providence/Cincinnati winner...and, if they win that, not quite back to peak intensity against the survivor of the Syracuse-Pitt quarter.
LOUISVILLE'S HALF OF THE DRAW
To us, this is a very favorable draw for Louisville. Their toughest contenders are teams who are known for playing their best basketball at home while playing inconsistently on the road. Louisville can win anywhere. And, they know that their strong resume still gives them a shot at a #1 seed in the Big Dance if they win this tournament. The media is already starting that drumroll. Computer assessments were there first!
Louisville has the best"defense and rebounding" combination heading into the part of the season where that matters more than anything. They have a coach who knows how to win tournament games. And, they've stubbed their toe just often enough to have learned the importance of staying focused every time they take the floor. Given the revenge card they would hold over Georgetown in the projected final, that makes them the favorites to cut down the nets at the Garden Saturday Night.
MARQUETTE: a true threat, but they're really scary at home and just kind of there on the road. They are capable of a hot shooting game that could take out the Cardinals. They would need a few breaks.
NOTRE DAME: the Irish have played horribly on offense away from home this year...and established they were worse than Louisville with a large road loss and an OT decision at home. Home court value means something. Louisville would project to a comfortable neutral court victory. The Irish will obviously be favored over the Rutgers/DePaul winner...which would give them a shot at Marquette.
VILLANOVA: beat Louisville at home during the Cards mini-swoon several weeks ago. That would just bring more focus to a Cardinals team to get revenge against a Villanova team that's shaky away from its home floor. The Wildcats open against St. John's for the right to face Louisville in their second game.
ST. JOHN'S/RUTGERS/DEPAUL: we can lump them together because they're very unlikely to matter in the championship chase. St. John's and Rutgers will have local crowd support...but that's only good enough for one good game at the most. And, historically, St. John's doesn't even garner home court advantage in the Garden even though this is where they play during the regular season!
The math favors Louisville. The intangibles favor Louisville. And, the market has been pricing Louisville as the best team in the Big East all season even when they trailed Georgetown in the standings. Your task a handicapper will be to determine of the Cards have become overpriced in the market because so many pundits are picking them! Your second task is to try to isolate the team most likely to take out Georgetown if the Hoyas enter the tournament a bit flat.
JIM HURLEY loves this tournament...and hates to see the classic version of it coming to an end. He may or may not be playing Seton Hall/South Florida and Rutgers/DePaul on Tuesday Night. You can be certain he'll have some selections...including at least one MONSTER through the course of the week. Having on-site sources always pays off at this event!
You can purchase daily tournament selections from the whole college schedule right here at the website with your credit card. We're also looking Tuesday at the Horizon League Championship game matching Wright State and Valparaiso, and the opening night of action from the Mountain West tournament out in Las Vegas. If you have any questions about Championship Week or the rest of college hoops, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. The schedule is really about to get crazy with all the split day-night sessions coming up. TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS NOW!
Back with you Wednesday to talk about the Big 12 tournament. Thursday brings opening day action in the much anticipated Big 10 tournament. Friday through the weekend we'll follow developing stories to make sure you're prepared for the handicapping challenges at hand.
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