Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Big East Conference Tournament Preview

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

The Big East Conference didn’t have the same type of season as last year, when both Connecticut and Villanova were #1 seeds and national title contenders. This year, no team is likely to get a top-seed, but there is good depth in the middle-of-the-pack. Georgetown won the conference with a 13-3 record, while Louisville made a great run in the second half of the season to finish 12-4. Pittsburgh also finished 12-4. Surprisingly, perennial power Connecticut only finished 6-10.

Favorite: Georgetown struggled in the non-conference portion of the year, but the Hoyas turned it around during Big East play and grabbed the regular-season title. They run a tough offense to defend, and are also very good rebounding the basketball. The Hoyas are led by one of the best frontcourt tandems in the country in forward Jeff Green and center Roy Hibbert. Green is an excellent all-around player, while Hibbert has developed into a terrific big man. Dajuan Summers is another solid performer up front. Their perimeter is their weakness, but Jonathan Wallace has been a good point guard this year, and Jessie Sapp has been a do-it-all type of player for the Hoyas.

Contenders: Louisville is one of the hottest teams in the country, and is capable of making a run in New York. They pressure the ball and force turnovers, and are tough to beat when they got hot from the perimeter. They are led by one of the most underrated frontcourts in the country. Terrence Williams can do everything on the wing, while Juan Palacios, when healthy, is a versatile forward. Down low, David Padgett and Derrick Caracter have turned into a dynamite duo in the post. Freshman Edgar Sosa and Brandon Jenkins are solid in the backcourt. Pittsburgh was the preseason favorite, but they had a rough stretch in February and fell to the #3 seed. The Panthers are deep and balanced, and might be the most complete team in the conference. Aaron Gray is one of the best big men in the country, and can dominate inside. Levon Kendall is a solid role player in the frontcourt. On the perimeter, Levance Fields is one of the better point guards in the Big East, while Mike Cook provides scoring from the wing. Antonio Graves and Ronald Ramon are experienced guards who can knock down shots. Marquette was in line to make a move at the league title, but they were up and down late in the year. They did sweep Pittsburgh, though. The Golden Eagles rely primarily on their terrific perimeter group. Dominic James is one of the best point guards in the country. He is tough and strong, and is explosive in the lane. Jerel McNeal is a very good two-way player, and is one of the better defenders in the conference. If he is healthy, he gives Marquette a great perimeter option. Wesley Matthews can do a variety of things on the wing. Ousmane Barro is a developing big man down low. Notre Dame and their wing duo of Russell Carter and Colin Falls can beat any team if their perimeter shots are falling. Rob Kurz gives them a good big man down low.

Sleepers: Syracuse has ten league wins, but is on the bubble heading into the conference tournament. Last year, they were on the bubble as well, and we all know what happened there. The Orange are experienced and have size. Demetris Nichols is one of the best players in the Big East, and Terrence Roberts and Darryl Watkins provide rebounding and defense. Eric Devendorf leads the way in the backcourt. Villanova has played well enough to essentially lock down an NCAA Tournament bid, but still only have the 9 seed in the tourney. Scottie Reynolds is developing into a terrific guard, while Curtis Sumpter anchors the frontcourt. Mike Nardi can shoot the three, and Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark are providing good production. DePaul is playing well down the stretch, and will be playing for their NCAA Tournament life. Wilson Chandler is a very good inside-outside forward, and has loads of potential. Sammy Mejia is one of the better all-around guards in the league, and Draelon Burns can fill it up from the backcourt. Providence isn’t likely to get a bid, but they have arguably the best frontcourt duo in the Big East in Geoff McDermott, one of the best all-around player around, and Herbert Hill, who has developed into a terrific big man. Sharaud Curry and Weyinmi Efejuku can score in the backcourt.

Prediction: There are several teams capable of making a run through New York to win the Big East’s automatic bid. I didn’t even talk about West Virginia, who was 9-7 in the conference. In this year’s tournament, I think that it is going to come down to the top two teams in the preseason—Georgetown and Pittsburgh. The Hoyas are playing terrific basketball right now, and the Panthers always play well in New York. Louisville is playing well lately, but I think that Pittsburgh’s experience and inside-outside balance will get them to the finals. In the title game, I like the Panthers’ guards better than Georgetown’s, and I think that their frontcourt depth will stifle Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert.

First Round
#9 Villanova 67, #8 DePaul 64
#5 Syracuse 73, #12 Connecticut 69
#7 West Virginia 77, #10 Providence 70
#6 Marquette 65, St. John's 58

#1 Georgetown 70, #9 Villanova 66
#5 Syracuse 72, #4 Notre Dame 69
#3 Pittsburgh 73, #6 Marquette 70
#2 Louisville 72, #7 West Virginia 59

#1 Georgetown 73, #5 Syracuse 64
#3 Pittsburgh 74, #2 Louisville 69

#3 Pittsburgh 66, #1 Georgetown 64

1 comment:

  1. I'm hoping for a Marquette v Georgetown final, but I'm not holding my breath. Just wanted to let you know I've enjoyed reading your blog over the last few days.