Obviously, when you have as many good programs as the Big East has, the potential is there for a wide-open conference tournament. There have been a lot of chills and thrills through the years in this event, and upsets have become commonplace. Louisville is the defending champion, but Georgetown is the highest-rated team in this year's tourney, standing fifth in both major national polls.
Here is the setup:
Big East Conference Championship
Madison Square Garden, New York
Defending Champion: Louisville
The thing about the Big East basketball tournament is that you can be a nationally-ranked team, with a ticket already punched to the Big Dance, and you may still have to play four games in four days to win the title. Of course, that is the kind of situation that can have a team dog-tired when the NCAA Tournament starts, so there is some ambivalence about it, which can't be lost on BetAnySports customers.
Right now there are two teams that are rather hot as the event kicks off at Madison Square Garden. Georgetown has won 12 out of its last 13 games, slipping only against Villanova last Wednesday, but that only made the Hoyas mad, as they produced one of their best results of the year in Saturday action, holding Syracuse (off to the ACC next season) to its lowest point total since 1962, as the Orange shot just 32% in the 61-39 embarrassment. And G-Town didn't even need major contributions from Otto Porter, the only unanimous selection for the All-Big East team. Porter did not have a field goal until the second half, and wound up with ten points, but they didn't need it from him.
Georgetown, which plays with a seven-man rotation for the most part, relies on Porter for the most part, but they have a few people who can stroke the three, as well as a defense that has allowed just 37.9% shooting and 56.7 points a game, which puts them in the top ten nationally in both categories. The Syracuse game was an example of how they can completely flummox an opponent.
Perhaps the stiffest competition for Georgetown is going to come from Louisville, which, of course, is well-known for its pressure on the defensive end. The Cardinals chalk up 10.8 steals a game, which places them second in the nation, and they are loaded with returnees from last year's team that not only won this conference tournament, but went to the Final Four as well. Point guard Peyton Siva was the MVP of the 2012 Big East tournament; he and Russ Smith (17.9 ppg) provide some of the outside element, while Senegalese import Gorgui Dieng, who pulls down 10.1 rebounds per contest and has averaged 2.6 blocks, is someone opponents have to take into account before driving down the lane.
Pitino, who has reached the Final Four with Providence, Kentucky and Louisville, is one of those coaches who designs a schedule so that when the post-season comes around, his team is ready, and this year, the Cards played the likes of Missouri, Duke, Memphis and defending national champion Kentucky before Big East play even began. They come into the Garden with seven straight wins, with the last defeat coming at the hands of Notre Dame in the classic five-overtime game on February 9.
Of course, Notre Dame, which lost the rematch 73-57 this past weekend to Louisville, and was ranked 25th before doing so, is one of the other teams that is going to get an invite to the Big Dance, along with Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Connecticut. But there are three teams for whom this Big East tournament could mean the difference between getting in the NCAA's and being relegated to the NIT.
One of them is Villanova, which needs to beat St. John's in opening-round action on Wednesday to reach the 20-win plateau, and even though the Wildcats lost several early games (including one to Columbia), they have greatly bolstered their credentials by defeating three different teams who were in the Top 5 at the time - Louisville, Syracuse and Georgetown - and that will count for something.
Cincinnati could be in line for an NCAA bid, but Mick Cronin's team, which looked so good in destroying Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout and getting off to a 12-0 start, has lost six of its last nine games and will leave matters in the NCAA Committee's hands if it doesn't get past the first round in the conference. Providence won seven of its last nine games, scoring victories over Notre Dame and Cincinnati, and they will have a chance to knock off the Bearcats on Wednesday, but a weak non-conference schedule won't do them any favors.
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