It’s the final year of the Big East Conference as we know it. This week will bring a lot of excitement with some legendary basketball programs competing for the Big East Tournament Championship. The Big East showed a lot of parity in the regular season and the tournament will have plenty of hard fought, challenging games. For Big East and college basketball fans, this is the best time of the year and will be the last time we see familiar foes with Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, and UCONN go at it before they depart to other conferences.
Favorites to win
Georgetown is the co-winner of the regular season Big East crown and are the number one seed for the Tournament. On Saturday, Georgetown stomped their rival Syracuse 61-39. The Hoyas come into the Big East Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country winning 14 out of their last 15 games. Georgetown gets it done defensively as they rank second in the Big East in scoring defense (56.1) and FG pct. defense (.377). Hoyas have a double-bye and won’t play until Thursday, March 14.
Who to watch: Sophomore Forward Otto Porter Jr– 16.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.96 spg, Junior Guard Marcel Starks– 12.4 ppg, .415 3pt%, 1.86 3ptM
Louisville also shares the Big East regular season title. Louisville defeated Cincinnati in last year’s Big East Tournament final and then went on to the Final Four. The Cardinals have the second seed in the tournament and have a double-bye and will play the winner of St. John’s and Villanova on Thursday, March 14. The Cardinals enter the Big East Tournament on fire winning their last 7 games. During this stretch Louisville is holding opponents to 36% from the field and 54 points per game and they are forcing 17 turnovers per game. The Cardinals are second in the nation in turnover margin (+6.0) and steals (10.8).
Who to watch: Junior guard Russ Smith- 17.9 ppg, 2.1 spg, .826 ft pct., Junior center Gorgui Dieng– 10.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.6 bpg, Senior guard Peyton Siva– 9.9 ppg, 5.9 apg, 2.0 spg
Marquette, with their win on Saturday against St. John’s are the third team to share the Big East regular season crown. The Golden Eagles won on a game winning lay-up at the buzzer by Vander Blue to defeat the Johnnies. Marquette plays a deep roster that shares their minutes. They have the best bench play in the Big East sparked by sixth-man Davante Gardner.
Who to watch: Vander Blue– 14.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 46 FG%, Davante Gardner– 11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 58 FG%
Syracuse– Hard to imagine the Orange as a sleeper, but they are limping into the Big East Tournament especially after suffering one of their worst losses in program history against Georgetown on Saturday (61-39). After starting 18-1, Syracuse has lost seven games in conference play which is very unusual. The Orange have been shooting terribly from the field especially from the 3-point line. But Syracuse has a lot of fans come to the Garden and support them and historically they play very well in the Big East Tournament and at MSG. They have a first round bye and will play the winner of USF and Seton Hall on Wednesday.
Who to watch: Sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams- 12.5 ppg, 7.6 apg, 4.7 rpg, Junior forward C.J. Fair– 14.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 48 FG%, Senior guard Brandon Triche– 13.9 ppg, 3.6 apg, 3.5 rpg
Villanova– Two months ago no one would ever believe that Villanova could make a postseason run. The team has improved immensely and finished with 10 wins in conference play including three wins versus top-5 opponents. Nova defeated #5 Louisville, #3 Syracuse, and #5 Georgetown this season. A very young team has improved every step of the way this season. On Wednesday, Villanova takes on St. John’s who they beat earlier in this season. Nova is a team, if it advances, will be in an ‘Upset Alert’ game.
Who to watch: Sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston- 12.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.2 FTA, Freshman guard Ryan Archidiacono- 12.2 ppg, 2.16 3ptM, 3.52 apg
Pittsburgh heads to NYC on a 4-game winning streak and winning 11 of their last 14 games. Pitt is a 4th seed which has a double-bye and will play Thursday. Pitt is very good in the Big East Tournament reaching the final in seven out of the last 12 seasons. As Pitt heads to the ACC next season, Head Coach Jaime Dixon will finish his Big East career as the all-time winning coach in Big East play. Over the last 12 years, Pitt has won 20 Big East Tournament games and is the Big East leader in winning percentage (.772). The Panthers are 5th in the nation allowing just 54.9 points per game. They also share the ball and are ranked 10th in the nation in assists per game. Pitt is one of the toughest teams every year and they always seem to put a good run in the Big East tourney.
Who to watch: Senior guard Trey Woodall- 11.7 ppg, 5.2 apg, .380 3pt%, Senior forward Talib Zanna– 9.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, .502 FG%, Freshman center Steven Adams– 7.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, .578 FG%
The Big East Tournament will start on Tuesday and conclude on Saturday with the Championship game being held at 8:30 pm Saturday night. Saturday night will conclude one of the best basketball conferences in college basketball. While it is unfortunate that most of these great programs will not be in the Big East next season, it has been a great ride and they gave us some amazing basketball to watch.
John Cavaliere is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball and covers the Big East.