Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Big East Conference Tournament Preview

Click here for a complete index of all the conference tournament previews.

The Big East Conference demonstrated over the course of the season that they were the best conference in the country. There are up to nine teams capable of grabbing a bid to the NCAA Tournament, and there was fierce competition for the final spots in the Big East Tournament. With only 12 spots in the conference tourney, four teams were left home--and those four teams have wins over: Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Creighton, UAB, California, etc. In other words, this conference is loaded, and the league tournament is going to be wide-open.


Connecticut has to come into the tournament as the favorite as they are probably the best team in the country right now. Their only losses this season have come on the road to Marquette and Villanova, and they have the most Top-50 wins in the country. However, at times, the Huskies look uninterested and don't focus unless they are playing very good teams. When they are on, though, they are unbeatable. Rudy Gay is the most talented player in the country and has great potential, while Marcus Williams might be the best point guard in the nation. Rashad Anderson is an outstanding shooter and the best sixth man around, and Denham Brown has played very well lately. Up front, Hilton Armstrong is an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker, while Josh Boone is capable of a double-double every night. Jeff Adrien is a beast off the bench.

Villanova is a close second to UConn when it comes to the best teams in the country right now. They have won 13 of 14 and might be the most confident team in the nation. Moreover, their backcourt is exceptional. Randy Foye is an All-American as he can do anything on the court, from rebounding to defending to scoring. Allan Ray is an excellent scorer that can be unstoppable when he is hot. Kyle Lowry does not get the same type of publicity as the aforementioned two, but he is just as important to the team. Mike Nardi is a very good shooter. Up front, Will Sheridan is a solid rebounder and defender who is the lone big man on the floor on most occasions.


West Virginia can beat anyone in the country given the way they shoot three-pointers, but because of how many threes they shoot, the Mountaineers can also lose to anyone on a given night. Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle form one of the best inside-outside combos in the Big East. Both are outstanding scorers and shooters who are both capable of 30-points games. Joe Herber is a versatile forward who can do nearly anything that is asked of him. Frank Young, at 6-5, is an undersized power forward who can shoot, rebound, and defend. Patrick Beilein is a very good three-point shooter off the bench, while J.D. Collins is a solid point guard that distributes and defends well.

Pittsburgh has struggled somewhat lately, but are still a potential Final Four sleeper due to their style of play. The Panthers are always physical and tough on defense, and they don't get blown out. Carl Krauser has improved this season by cutting down on his turnovers but still maintaining his ability to score. Aaron Gray is the most improved player in the country, and he can dominate the paint at times. Ronald Ramon and Antonio Graves are solid guards who can shoot and defend. Levance Fields is a crafty backcourt player that is a good scorer and passer. Up front, Sam Young is a versatile, athletic freshman who has been impressive, while Levon Kendall is an above-average forward that can rebound inside and then step out and shoot the jumper.

Georgetown is not coming into the Big East Tournament playing its best basketball, as they are coming off of a loss to South Florida--the only conference game that USF won all season. However, they have the ability to hang with anyone they play. Jeff Green is one of the most underrated players in the country, and is a versatile inside-outside player. Brandon Bowman is a very good all-around player who can score in a variety of ways. Roy Hibbert is a much-improved offensive player on the interior, and is still a solid defender and rebounder. Ashanti Cook is an athletic guard, while Jonathan Wallace is a good point guard and Darrel Owens is a good offensive player.

Teams that will be competitive:

Marquette is not the same team on the road as they are at home, but they have the potential to make a run in the Big East Tournament. Dominic James is the best freshman in the conference, and he has the ability to do anything on the floor. Steve Novak is one of the top shooters in the country, and is capable of having big games when he's hot. Jerel McNeal is a strong, athletic wing that scores and rebounds, while Wesley Matthews is another solid player on the perimeter. They don't get much production from the paint, but Ryan Amoroso provides decent defense and inside play.

Seton Hall seemed to be slipping two weeks ago, but they pulled off back-to-back wins over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to cement their at-large spot. They are very inconsistent, but they seem to be playing very well recently. Donald Copeland is one of the most improved players in the country, and is a very good scoring point guard who can also distribute and shoot. Kelly Whitney is a solid inside player who can score and rebound with anyone in the league. Jamar Nutter is an athletic wing player who loves to get out and run and score. Several role players also provide production for the Pirates, including Paul Gause, Brian Laing, and Grant Billmeier.

Cincinnati, like Seton Hall, boosted their at-large hopes with a win over the weekend. In the Bearcats' case, it was a victory over West Virginia. They are a hard-working team that is physical and plays great defense. Moreover, they will never quit and will play hard at all times. James White is a very good all-around player who has the potential to take over a game. Eric Hicks is one of the best post players in the country, even with his 6-6 size. He is an unbelievable shot-blocker and rebounder. Devan Downey is a diminutive freshman who is one of the best newcomers in the country, while Jihad Muhammed has picked up his scoring lately. Cedric McGowan is an underrated rebounder and scorer up front next to Hicks.


Discussed all season as the nation's unluckiest team, Notre Dame recently pulled off a road upset of Seton Hall, which could give them the necessary confidence to make a run. No higher-seeded team really wants to face the Irish when they are shooting the ball well. Chris Quinn is one of the best guards in the country, and Colin Falls is an outstanding three-point shooter. Torin Francis is a double-double threat in the post. Notre Dame has won four out of five after losing their previous five games by a combined 11 points. They took Pitt and Georgetown to overtime, and nearly upset Villanova, Marquette, and West Virginia. When their shots are falling, this team can beat anyone in the country. Could they be this season's West Virginia? Digger Phelps has said it about 125 times this past week, and I agree. Watch out for the Irish.

Prediction: This has the potential to be the best conference tournament in the country. There are several teams that are capable of winning it all in New York City. Moreover, there are clubs that have the ability to pull upsets and reach the semi-finals or even the finals. It will be a showcase of how deep and strong the Big East is. As far as predictions go, I'm going with Connecticut over Villanova in the final. In what will be a rubber match between the two, the Huskies superior size will get them the win and another Big East Tournament Championship. The only upset I foresee is Notre Dame defeating Georgetown in the first round. In terms of bubble match-ups, Cincinnati will defeat Syracuse, effectively locking up a bid for the Bearcats and ending the Orange's chances for a bid. There are plenty of storylines to follow this week at the Big East Tournament, but the main one will be UConn winning the title and getting the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Game-by-game predictions:
#8 Cincinnati 69, #9 Syracuse 65
#12 Notre Dame 72, #5 Georgetown 70
#6 Pittsburgh 66, #11 Louisville 59
#7 Seton Hall 73, #10 Rutgers 64

#1 Connecticut 77, #8 Cincinnati 65
#4 Marquette 74, #12 Notre Dame 71
#6 Pittsburgh 70, #3 West Virginia 66
#2 Villanova 75, #7 Seton Hall 61

#1 Connecticut 76, #4 Marquette 66
#2 Villanova 71, #6 Pittsburgh 65

#1 Connecticut 78, #2 Villanova 75


  1. OOPS!!! 1 out of 4 correct picks in the Big East 1st Round. Did the Big East lose a bid yesterday, gain 1 or stay even at 8 with the make-up different? Tough call for the Committee. A case can easily be made for 9 bids or 7 for that matter.

  2. I think they are going to get 8 bids, with Seton Hall the odd team out. They just have too many bad losses.

  3. You human butt plug! Guess the Orange aren't as bad as you thought.