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Big East Tournament Preview
By E.P. Bignon
This time last year the Connecticut Huskies were hoping to win a few games in the Big East Tournament to bolster their resume and sneak into the NCAA Tournament. Instead they won five games in five days, won the Big East Tournament and earned the Big East automatic bid to the big dance. They continued their run in the NCAA Tournament winning the school’s 3rd National Championship. This year’s team is in a very similar position but without Kemba Walker on the floor I don’t see UCONN making that type of run this year. The Big East is not nearly as strong as it has been in the last few years, there is Syracuse and then there is everyone else.
This is by far one of Jim Boeheim’s best teams. They are deep, talented and get great guard play from Brandon Triche, Skoop Jardine and Dion Waiters, not to mention the most improved player in the conference at center in Fab Melo. Leading scorer Kris Joseph can get it to the rim anytime Syracuse needs a big basket. But it’s not always talent that wins so let’s take a look at who else may be able to cut down the nets on Saturday in the Garden.
Marquette and Georgetown are two teams that could easily win this tournament and it wouldn’t come as a surprise. Marquette has benefited from the exceptional play of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom one of the league’s best guards who can score from anywhere. Georgetown has been one of the most consistent teams in the league this year and always plays the Orange tough. John Thompson III has done one of his best jobs with a team that was picked bottom-half of the conference.
Notre Dame and South Florida have been the two biggest surprises this year but both have benefited from the conferences unbalanced schedule. Even with a 12-6 conference record the experts still have South Florida on the bubble which is mind boggling. Cincinnati and West Virginia are two teams that are also allegedly on the bubble and could use a win or two to guarantee their spot in the NCAA tourney. West Virginia’s duo of “Truck” Bryant and Kevin Jones are talented enough to make a run for the Mountaineers if they can get some bench help. The Louisville Cardinals much like Cincinnati have lived and died by the “3”. Louisville’s half-court offense has been horrible as of late and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
It’s hard to believe that UCONN, Pitt and Villanova are all playing on Day 1 of the tournament but of those three the defending champs have the best shot to make a run. Talent-wise with Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier UCONN should be able to hang with the best but I can’t see another five wins in five days for the Huskies this year.
Somewhere in the middle or back of the pack there will be a team that wins a few games it’s not supposed to, it always happens. St John’s on their home floor, Seton Hall or Providence?? But at the end of five days of grind it out Big East basketball Syracuse and Georgetown will meet in an old school Big East final on Saturday night with the depth and bench play of Syracuse being too much for the Hoyas. Boeheim and Syracuse will celebrate at least one more Big East title before bolting to the ACC.
Feel free to ask questions to E.P. about any March Madness dilemmas that are on your mind. An expert will answer them.
Stay tuned as there is plenty more to come.