With the Big East regular season coming to the end on Saturday, many programs will quickly turn their attention towards their NCAA Tournament hopes by trying to make a statement in the Big East Tournament.
As many as 10 Big East squads have legit aspirations of dancing in the NCAA Tournament. After what UConn did in last year’s tournament by winning five exhilarating games in five days to win the Big East Tournament and then win the NCAA Tournament a few weeks later, many Big East teams will look to seize that same type of momentum as they bolster their NCAA Tournament resumes.
As the 16 Big East teams converge to New York City to play at the “World’s Most Famous Arena” next week, the slate will be wiped clean for each team to do damage.
With that said, not all teams are created equal. In this slideshow I will rank the favorites from 16 to 1 with their corresponding odds.
Let the games begin!
While the Demons are a better team than in years past, it still has not translated into many wins, and DePaul is 2-15 in the conference for a reason.
DePaul’s coach Oliver Purnell loves to press, and this team might be too gassed to compete.
For a team boasting Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, the Blue Demons are no slouch, though.
Providence is another team running on fumes, as they are severely limited due to their lack of depth.
The Friars have a couple of playmakers in Vincent Council, Bryce Cotton and emerging freshman stud LaDontae Henton. Providence has looked good recently by winning their last two games.
The Friars should be over their head here, though.
The Scarlet Knights are making progress, but the team is extremely young, relying on mostly freshmen to make an impact.
That’s not to say that players such as Myles Mack, Jerome Seagears and Eli Carter are not talented. Quite the contrary. Rutgers may be just a year or two away from really challenging the heavyweights.
Although the Red Storm are the host team and have a better conference record than a few teams ahead of them on this ranking, you have to take into consideration that they are playing with only six scholarship players (five of which are freshmen) and are still under the helm of interim coach Mike Dunlap.
The combination of Moe Harkless and D’Angelo Harrison is an explosive duo to contend with, though.
With a coach that has already been to a Final Four in Jay Wright, you should not discount the Wildcats despite their troubles in the Big East this year.
With Maalik Wayns (seventh in the Big East in scoring with 17.2 points a game) and Dominic Cheek on the outside, and Mouphtaou Yarou and developing freshman JayVaughn Pinkston down low, the Wildcats have enough firepower to make a little run.
Most of the Panther’s troubles this year have been a result of the absence of Tray Woodall. Now that he is back and combining with the ever-so-dangerous Ashton Gibbs, Pitt could be a pesky team to face in the tournament.
Unless the Panthers run the table in the Big East Tournament, they will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001. However, with a good showing in New York, the Panthers could make a case for the NIT.
With Coach Jim Calhoun’s health a major concern, the reigning Big East and NCAA Tournament champions are limping into the tournament in desperate need of some mojo.
Well, last year at this time the Huskies were almost in the same position (last year as the Big East’s No. 9 seed), and we all know the rest.
With a team with players such as Shabazz Napier, Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi and stud freshman Andre Drummond, you know the talent is there. However, the Huskies have no take-charge leader like a Kemba Walker to carry them.
So, a repeat performance is unlikely.
After a five-year drought of not making the NCAA Tournament, the Pirates seem poised to make it this year. A couple of wins could enhance their seeding. So, the Pirates have a lot to gain in the Big East Tournament.
Seton Hall relies on a lethal inside-out duo in Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore. With those two seniors anchoring the team, a Connecticut-type run is conceivable.
The Bulls are legit.
After winning at Louisville on Wednesday, South Florida almost undoubtedly stamped their ticket to the Big Dance.
I realize that the Bulls are in fifth place at the moment, but they don’t possess the battle-tested experience some of the surrounding teams have. The Bulls boast a well-balanced unit that plays together, and they are one of the better defensive teams in the Big East.
When you have a senior duo in Kevin Jones (who leads the Big East in scoring and rebounding) and Truck Bryant as the Mountaineers do, that experience can go a long way.
These two studs, along with Coach Bob Huggins, have already been to a Final Four and have been tested in the crucible of battle. If Deniz Kilicli and the plethora of freshmen Huggins relies on can contribute, then the potential for a deep run in the Big East Tournament is there.
After reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year (losing to UConn, no less), Coach Mick Cronin has his Bearcats ready for even more greatness this year.
Regardless of what Cincinnati does in the Big East Tournament, they are in great shape for a good seed in the NCAA Tournament. But, if Sean Kilpatrick and company get hot, there is no telling how good of a showing the Bearcats can have in the Big Apple.
Never dismiss a Rick Pitino-coached team.
The Cardinals reached the Big East championship last year, and enough firepower is back for a possible return to the finals. If Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric, Russ Smith and Chris Smith are on top of their game, then the sky is the limit for Louisville.
Picking the next three teams to challenge for the Big East crown was difficult, and you could flip a coin on who has the edge.
Mike Brey has done another fabulous job in keeping the Irish afloat as one of the league’s best, despite losing Tim Abromaitis to a season-ending injury earlier in the year.
The Irish are a methodical team who play great defense and spread the ball around on offense. Take your pick on offense as Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, Ed Cooley and Scott Martin can all beat you on any given day.
John Thompson III is yet another Final Four-tested coach who has his team clicking on all cylinders. After easily disposing of the Irish 59-41 on Monday, the Hoyas get the edge here.
Jason Clark is one of the better all-around players in the Big East and has the moxie to carry the Hoyas to the title. Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson and Otto Porter provide great support.
A Saturday matchup with Marquette looms large before the Big East Tournament commences.
Speaking of Marquette, this may be the year that the Golden Eagles take the next step and return to the Final Four.
Led by the stellar duo of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, the Golden Eagles are one of the more complete teams in all the land.
If Marquette can claim the Big East title, then a No. 2 seed could be in the cards for the Golden Eagles.
Well, duh? Who else would be number one here and be the prohibitive favorites to claim not only the Big East Tournament but the NCAA title as well?
Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim might just have his best team ever. The proof is in the results.
At 29-1 and featuring probably the nation’s deepest team, Syracuse comes at you in waves and will drive teams crazy with its patented 2-3 zone.
Syracuse may be on a collision course with Kentucky for a rematch of the 1996 NCAA Championship.
Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon