Big East Conference Tournament
Madison Square Garden / New York, NY / Host: St. John’s
Favorite - #1 Syracuse
The Orange have been the class of the league from start to finish. On a neutral court, my power ratings have them three points better than the next closest Big East team (Marquette) which gives them the third highest differential of the six BCS conferences. They’re going to be difficult to beat in this tournament because of their ability to adapt to any style. They’re not a great half court offensive team but they’re good enough and their 2-3 zone defense is so long and active that it can win games for them. In a transition style they’re as fast and efficient as any conference team including Marquette. The best way to defeat them is to force them into playing half court offense, allow just one shot and then rebound and play aggressive transition offense. It’s easier said and very difficult to do, but slowing them down and getting easy baskets before their defense can set up is necessary. All that said, and as good as Syracuse is, they do enter this tournament on a poor 4-8 ATS run which shows they’ve been overpriced. They need to win three games to earn the title and those opponents will all likely give their best shot.
Top Contenders - #2 Marquette and #5 Georgetown
Marquette has a great path to the tournament final as their half of the bracket avoids Syracuse, Georgetown and Cincinnati who are responsible for three of the Golden Eagles four Big East losses this season. Their toughest opponent here is Notre Dame which held them to a season low 15.4% from beyond the arc en-route to a 76-59 blowout victory. The revenge angle figures to be strong if that matchup occurs in the semifinal round. In conference play this season, Marquette ranks #1 in scoring, #1 in field goal percentage, #2 in scoring margin, #2 in free throw percentage, #1 in assists and #2 in steals. They’ve got the veteran leadership, clutch end of game performers in Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, and their on court toughness is second to none.
Georgetown would obviously love another shot at Syracuse after barely losing to them 64-61 in the Carrier Dome back on February 8th. In that game they frustrated the Orange offense holding them to under 35% FG shooting Georgetown destroyed Syracuse on the boards 48-30! That pair of numbers indicate why the Hoyas are a top threat to win this tournament. They can control the pace, they can stifle any offense and they attack the glass. Not many teams have a legitimate answer for Syracuse C Fab Melo but Georgetown owns one in senior pivot Henry Sims. 6’8” freshman Otto Porter may be the league’s best all-around rookie averaging 13 ppg, 7 rpg, 52% FG shooting and they have upper-class three point shooters in Hollis Thompson (#1 in Big East) and Jason Clark who can carry the offense. This is the best defensive rebounding percentage team in the league and forcing one and outs is a major key to winning tournament games.
#9 Connecticut – Can it happen again? Last season the Huskies entered this tournament as the #9 seed with a matchup against DePaul. This year they enter as the #9 seed facing DePaul. In both instances, the Huskies had absolutely zero momentum prior to their first game. On paper they are capable of making a run and the late season surge of sophomore PF Roscoe Smith has been a positive.
Ice Cold - #7 seed Louisville comes into the tournament on a miserable 0-5 ATS streak due to an offense which has shot below 39% from the field in four straight contests. Their inability to push the pace has magnified just how bad of a half-court offense they are. They could get hot for a game but unless they throw caution to the wind and push the tempo via defensive rebounds and extended pressure defense, their stay in New York will be real short.
Darkhorse? - I know a #4 seed should not really be considered a dark horse but since very little is being said about Cincinnati, let’s throw this out there. They enter on a 5-1 ATS run and they are 6-2 ATS against the top eight seeds in this tournament.
Power Ratings Projected Lines For First Round Games
#9 Connecticut -9.5 vs. #16 DePaul
#13 Pittsburgh -1.5 @ #12 St. John’s
#10 Seton Hall -3.5 vs. #15 Providence
#14 Villanova -0.5 vs. Rutgers
Odds to win Tournament
Notre Dame +500
Seton Hall +3500
South Florida +1500
St. John's +3000
West Virginia +1500