Big East Tournament Preview and Predictions

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15 games in five days.  Ladies and gentlemen, that is the Big East Tournament.  Some think it is more difficult to win the BET than it is the NCAA Tournament.  With ten, possibly eleven tourney teams from the conference, that theory could actually be true this season.  Here is a preview and my predictions for the 2011 Big East Tournament which tips-off Tuesday morning.

By: David Kay

FIRST ROUND (Tuesday):
#9 UConn vs. #16 DePaul, 11:00 am, ESPN2
The Blue Demons upset Cincinnati in the opening round last season, but are coming off the worst loss in Big East history when they were defeated by Syracuse, 107-59.

Prediction: UConn 187, DePaul 13

#12 Seton Hall vs. #13 Rutgers, 1:30, ESPN2
I don’t want to go as far as to say that The Hall is the hottest team in the Big East, but the Pirates are 24-39 from three in their last two games which were victories against St. John’s and Marquette.  If the Pirates can continue to stroke it from deep like that at Madison Square Garden, they could make some noise.

Prediction: Seton Hall 67, Rutgers 62

#10 Villanova vs. #15 South Florida, 6:00, ESPNU
In the past two seasons, Nova is 7-11 in the second half of Big East play.  That includes four straight losses this year although they all came against ranked opponents.  Corey Stokes missed Saturday’s game against Pitt due to a pulled hamstring and if he is ruled out for this game, do not be shocked if USF pulls off the upset.

Prediction: Villanova 65, South Florida 64

#11 Marquette vs. #14 Providence, 8:30, ESPNU
I know I have said this about ten different times this season, but the Golden Eagles NEED to win this game.  A one-and-done in the BET would give them an 18-14 record and likely burst their bubble.  Contain Marshon Brooks like they did last weekend and Marquette should be okay.

Prediction: Marquette 84, Providence 71

marquette cheerleaders

SECOND ROUND (Wednesday):
#8 Georgetown vs. #9 UConn, 11:00 am, ESPN2
The Hoyas are reeling without starting point guard Chris Wright who is out with a wrist injury.  G-town is limping into the post-season having lost three in a row as Austin Freeman has been asked to and is trying to do too much.

Prediction: UConn 71, Georgetown 55

#5 St. John’s vs. #12 Seton Hall, 1:30, ESPN2
The Hall’s hot shooting has to cool off at some point and I think the Storm will be out for revenge after losing on the Pirates’ home floor last week.  Plus, this tournament is pretty much a home court advantage for Steve Lavin’s crew so that should provide them with an extra boost.

Prediction: St. John’s 73, Seton Hall 52

#7 Cincinnati vs. #10 Villanova, 6:00, ESPN2
Cincy has won five of their last six against solid competition.  They do not have a superstar but really get after it on the defensive end and offensive glass.  With that being said, I think the Wildcats win this one if they have Stokes back in the line-up.

Prediction: Villanova 61, Cincinnati 57

#6 West Virginia vs. #11 Marquette, 8:30, ESPN2
Maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part, but I am hoping the Golden Eagles play with an insane amount of passion (something they have been lacking too often this season) in this game, realizing their NCAA Tournament hopes hang in the balance.  Jae Crowder scored 29 points in their lone meeting with the Mountaineers this season but Crowder has been a ghost, scoring just four points in his last two games.  This is a totally bias pick, but screw it…

Prediction: Marquette 66, West Virginia 63

pitt big east champs

QUARTERFINALS (Thursday)
#1 Pitt vs. #9 UConn, 11:00, ESPN
It is so tough to ask a team like the Huskies who will be playing their third game in as many nights, to take on the conference champs who also happen to be the most physical team in the league.  I think UConn runs out of steam in a big way.

Prediction: Pitt 66, UConn 48

#4 Syracuse vs. #5 St. John’s, 1:30, ESPN
I know the tourney schedule is set in stone, but the battle of New York teams should be the main event at MSG.  The atmosphere should be insane and I am guessing the outcome will be much closer than the 17-point pounding Cuse put on the Johnnies at MSG earlier this year.  The concern for St. John’s will be whether or not they can shoot the ball effectively enough against the Orange 2-3 zone.

Prediction: Syracuse 78, St. John’s 71

#2 Notre Dame vs. #10 Villanova, 6:00 ESPN
The Irish took it to the ‘Cats a week ago when Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis combined to hit 16-23 three points tries in a 21-point victory.  I am rolling the dice enough to think that Nova can pull things together and win two games in the BET and would be incredibly ballsy if I picked them to beat Notre Dame.

Prediction: Notre Dame 74, Villanova 64

#3 Louisville vs. #11 Marquette, 8:30, ESPN
Remember when Marquette pissed away an 18-point lead with 5:30 to play at Louisville earlier this season and ended up losing by one.  You realize that if the Golden Eagles would have won that game, there would be no stressing about their tourney hopes.  (Groan.)  With that being said and all homering aside, the Golden Eagles owned the Cards for 34-and-a-half minutes and could easily win this game.  As tempted as I am to pick my boys in this game, I think MU struggles handling Louisville’s full-court pressure.

Prediction: Louisville 76, Marquette 69

syracuse big east tournament

SEMIFINALS (Friday):
#1 Pitt vs. #4 Syracuse, 6:00, ESPN
Rewind to the match-up between these two teams earlier this season which is one of the craziest college basketball games I have ever seen.  Pitt scored the first 19 points of the game and Cuse answered with a 17-0 run.  The Orange were without Kris Joseph because he was recovering from a concussion so I will say he makes the difference this time around.

Prediction: Syracuse 62, Pitt 60

#2 Notre Dame vs. #3 Louisville, 8:30, ESPN
We will ignore the fact that I was way off in picking these teams to finish 8th and 11th respectively in the conference during my pre-season picks.  This game will come down to three-point shooting and I give the edge to Hansbrough and Abromaitis.  And since I have not picked an overtime finish yet…

Prediction: Notre Dame 83, Louisville 77 OT

CHAMPIONSHIP (Saturday):
#4 Syracuse vs. #2 Notre Dame, 8:00, ESPN
I am not sure why but I am feeling like this BET will mark more Jim Boeheim magic.  The Irish’s ability to shoot the three may be a problem for the Cuse 2-3 zone but I’ll say Notre Dame has an off night from distance and the Orange end up hoisting the Big East Tournament Title and earning a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Prediction: Syracuse 68, Notre Dame 61

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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and former contributor for The Washington Times Communities.  You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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