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NCAA Basketball

NCAA Tournament Previews: Big East


For more NCAA Conference Tournament previews check out the RotoExperts guide to March Madness.

BIG EAST CONFERENCE

Madison Square Garden

Mar. 12-16

GEORGETOWN
Record: 24-5, 14-4
Best conference wins: Louisville
Worst conf. losses: at South Florida
Non-conference: Win – UCLA (neutral), Loss – Indiana (neutral)
Current run: Won 12 of last 13
NCAA Outlook: 1-seed if they win tourney, 2-seed otherwise
Quick note: After two consecutive losses to start off Big East play, Georgetown has been scorching hot throughout the last two months, accumulating both easy and nail-biting wins. Otto Porter Jr. has gotten much of the attention during this stretch – he single-handedly downed the Orange in the Carrier Dome, and has positioned himself nicely for Big East Player of the Year – but his teammates, such as Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, also deserve praise for aiding Georgetown’s ascent. However, the Hoyas have slipped up against inferior opponents, like Villanova and South Florida, with turnovers (15 against USF, 22 against Villanova) and a lack of getting to the free-throw line (only 10 attempts against USF, 8 against Nova) to blame.

LOUISVILLE
Record: 26-5, 14-4
Best conference wins: at Syracuse
Worst conf. losses: at Villanova
Non-conference: Win – Missouri, Loss – none
Current run: Won seven straight
NCAA Outlook: 1-seed if they win tourney, 2-seed otherwise
Quick note: Since a midseason swoon resulting in three straight losses and a five-overtime game that resulted in an upset, Louisville has been on a tear of late, rattling off seven straight wins. The key has been big man Gorgui Dieng, whose averaged 15 points and nine rebounds over Louisville’s last five games. If he can stay healthy – and if the ever-inconsistent Peyton Siva can bring his A-game to MSG this week – Louisville can make some noise in the final Big East Tournament.

MARQUETTE
Record: 23-7, 14-4
Best conference wins: Georgetown
Worst conf. losses: at Cincinnati
Non-conference: Win – Wisconsin, Loss – at Green Bay
Current run: Won four straight
NCAA Outlook: 2/3-seed if they win tourney, 4-seed if they win one game
Quick note: Marquette doesn’t have many losses, but its most glaring ones are an early season close defeat to Green Bay and an absolute stomping at the hands of the Florida Gators. However, Marquette has been hot recently, beating Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Notre Dame over the past few weeks and squeaking out an overtime win against St. John’s last weekend at Madison Square Garden, where the Big East Tournament is being held.

PITTSBURGH
Record: 24-7, 12-6
Best conference wins: Syracuse
Worst conf. losses: at Rutgers
Non-conference: Win – Lehigh, Loss – none
Current run: Won four straight
NCAA Outlook: 3-seed if they win tourney, 4-seed if they win one game
Quick note: Since losing at home to Notre Dame, Pitt has been playing better with four victories in a row to end the regular season. However, those wins came against the Big East’s cellar teams (St. John’s, USF, Depaul). Pittsburgh has proven it can play on the road with their big win at Georgetown. They rank eighth in the nation in assists per game, thanks in part to point guard Tray Woodall who is also their leading scorer. If they force opponents into their slow pace, it will prove the difference during Championship Week.

SYRACUSE
Record: 23-8, 11-7
Best conference wins: at Louisville
Worst conf. losses: at Uconn
Non-conference: Win – San Diego State, Loss – Temple
Current run: Lost four of last five
NCAA Outlook: 3-seed if they win tourney, 5-seed if they win one game
Quick note: Syracuse has been absolutely dreadful recently – apart from a win on Senior Night against DePaul, they’ve dropped four out of their last five. Sure, these defeats came at the hands of mostly ranked opponents – Georgetown (twice), Louisville and Marquette – but their inability to beat good teams is definitely worrisome. They should regain their footing in front of an NY-friendly crowd this week at MSG, but their lack of a physical presence inside and inconsistent guard play from Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams will spell their demise earlier rather than later in the NCAA tournament.

NOTRE DAME
Record: 23-8, 11-7
Best conference wins: Louisville
Worst conf. losses: at St. John’s, at Providence
Non-conference: Win – Kentucky, Loss – St. Joe’s
Current run: Lost two of last three
NCAA Outlook: 4/5-seed if they win tourney, 7-seed if they win one game
Quick note: Apart from wins against then-No. 8 Kentucky in November and then-No. 21 Cincinnati in January (oh, and their 5-OT epic win against Louisville), Notre Dame’s “good” wins are actually few and far between. The Fighting Irish also have some bad losses at St. John’s and Providence which hurts their overall résumé. All eyes will be on Jack Cooley’s last Big East games this week, but junior guard Jerian Grant (13.4 PPG, 5.7 APG) will be the key to Notre Dame’s success.

VILLANOVA
Record: 19-12, 10-8
Best conference wins: Georgetown
Worst conf. losses: at Seton Hall
Non-conference: Win – St. Joseph’s, Loss – Columbia
Current run: Lost two of last three
NCAA Outlook: 10/11-seed if they win one game
Quick note: Nova cannot lose in their first game against St. John’s, simple enough. If they do, they could easily be knocked off the bubble and out of the NCAA Tournament. This is a team that excelled at home (wins vs. Louisville, Georgetown), but struggled mightily on the road (Seton Hall). They can cause problems against Louisville, but it’s still undetermined how the Wildcats will play on a neutral court.

CINCINNATI
Record: 21-10, 9-9
Best conference wins: at Pittsburgh
Worst conf. losses: St. John’s
Non-conference: Win – Oregon, Loss – none
Current run: Lost three of last five
NCAA Outlook: 10-seed if they win one game
Quick note: Somehow, the Bearcats still find themselves as a No. 10 seed in many bracket projections. This is a team that has lost six of their last nine games. They don’t have a decent win since beating Marquette at home in overtime back in January. They get Providence in the first round and will be on the edge of the bubble if they can’t win that game.

PROVIDENCE
Record: 17-13, 9-9
Best conference wins: Notre Dame
Worst conf. losses: DePaul
Non-conference: Win – none, Loss – Brown
Current run: Won three of last four
NCAA Outlook: Last four in if they win two games
Quick note: The Friars need a couple of wins to make the Big Dance and that starts with Cincy in their first game. They already beat the Bearcats by four points a month ago at home. They have won seven of their last nine games which is almost the opposite of Cincinnati. The problem for them is that if they do win this game, they’ll have to face Georgetown in the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Although Otto Porter might have had Syracuse’s number back in the Carrier Dome a few weeks ago, I believe the Orange would enact their revenge if they met the Hoyas in the semifinals, getting the last laugh in their Big East rivalry. I say would, though, because I also envision Georgetown getting upset in their first game against a Cincy team hungry to prove themselves and regain their early-season form. On the other side of the bracket, look for Marquette and Louisville to meet in the semifinals, with Pitino’s Cardinals advancing to the Championship game against Boeheim’s Orange. Louisville vs. Syracuse, one last time in the Big East until the ACC steals them both away. The victor? Louisville, who goes into the NCAA tournament on a 10-game winning streak and primed for a No.1 seed.

Conference tournaments are starting to pick up, make sure to check back for Pac 12 and Big 10 previews later this week.


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