Big East Tournament: Previewing Each 2nd-Round Game
It's "win or go home" for the eight teams playing in the second-round games of the Big East tournament.
These contests are meaningful for both this competition and NCAA tournament implications.
Let's take a quick look at each matchup and predict who will advance to play another day in the third round.
No. 9 UConn vs. No. 8 West Virginia at 12:00 p.m. ET
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Every game UConn (19-12) plays in the Big East tournament will either make or break its NCAA tournament hopes.
Because the Huskies finished the 2011-12 regular season by going 4-9, they need to make a strong showing at MSG if they are going to grab an at-large bid on Selection Sunday.
West Virginia is in the same situation as UConn.
Because the Mountaineers (also 19-12) went 4-7 to close out their 2011-12 schedule, they are in a must-win position to secure a ticket for the Dance.
UConn beat West Virginia, 64-57, in Hartford on January 9.
The Huskies had to overcome a 10-point second-half deficit to beat the Mountaineers.
UConn's Key Player
Jeremy Lamb (pictured) is catching fire at just the right time. Over his last five games, the 6'5" wing is averaging 20 ppg and shooting 47.4 percent.
West Virginia's Key Player
Kevin Jones was the Big East regular-season scoring (20 ppg) and rebounding (11.2 rpg) leader. Jones had 22 points but only five rebounds against the Huskies in January.
Whoever wins the battle of the paint will win the game.
Both of these teams are strong on the glass. The Mountaineers average 14.7 offensive rebounds per game (No. 8 in the nation). The Huskies block 6.8 shots per game (No. 4 in the nation).
Prediction: UConn wins by three
No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 13 Pitt at 2:00 p.m. ET
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This has been a surprising season for both of these teams.
But the Panthers have struggled, and the Hoyas have jelled.
Unless Jamie Dixon's squad pulls off a miracle run and wins this tournament (not likely), it will miss March Madness for the first time since Dixon took over in the 2003-04 season.
Pitt beat Georgetown, 72-60, in Pittsburgh on January 28.
The Panthers went ahead early and never looked back.
Georgetown's Key Player
Henry Sims (pictured) may be the only 6'10", 245-pound player in the nation who leads his team in assists (3.4 apg). The senior does a little of everything (11 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.4 bpg).
Pitt's Key Player
Ashton Gibbs (the Panthers' leading scorer with 15.4 ppg) has had a subpar shooting season, hitting only 33 percent (compared to 49 percent last year) of his attempts from beyond the arc. He needs to get hot if Pitt has a shot.
If it's a close one, Pitt may be in trouble.
The Panthers scuffled this season in pulling out games decided by six points or fewer (3-5). The Hoyas did a decent job by winning five of eight games decided by the same margin.
Prediction: Georgetown by five
No. 10 Seton Hall vs. No. 7 Louisville at 7:00 p.m. ET
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This is a crucial game for both of these teams.
Seton Hall (20-11) stumbled down the stretch, losing three of its last four games in the regular season. Louisville (22-9) staggered to close out its schedule, dropping four of its last six games.
The Pirates will improve their chances of dancing with a W here.
Louisville downed the Hall, 60-51, in Newark on January 28.
The Cardinals had a 17-point lead early in the second half, only to see the Pirates close to within four points in the last minute. Louisville hit 5-of-6 free throws to ice the game.
Seton Hall's Key Player
Jordan Theodore (pictured) had 13 points and 13 assists in yesterday's blowout win over Providence. Whether he's scoring or distributing, the Hall is in good hands when the ball is in Theodore's hands.
Louisville's Key Player
Gorgui Dieng has the big job of checking Seton Hall's big man, Herb Pope. Dieng put up 11 points, pulled down 14 rebounds and swatted five shots when these two teams met in January.
Turnovers are key in this one. Both teams apply pressure from start to finish. Louisville has been sloppy with the ball this season, giving it away almost 15 times per game.
Prediction: Seton Hall by one
No. 6 South Florida vs. No. 14 Villanova at 9:00 p.m. ET
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Talk about a matchup between two programs going in different directions.
Last year, South Florida went 10-23, only winning three of its 18 Big East games. This season, the Bulls are 19-12, with 12 league victories under their belt after winning six of their last eight games.
A year ago, Villanova went 21-11. This year, the Wildcats have dropped to 13-18 without a single victory against a Top 25 team and dropping eight of their last 11 contests.
South Florida's Key Player
Augustus Gilchrist (pictured) has the size (6'10", 241 pounds) and skill (9.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg) to dominate this or any other game.
Villanova's Key Player
Maalik Wayns leads the Cats in both scoring (17.9 ppg) and assists (4.6 apg). The junior guard has scored 72 points in his last three games, including 28 against Rutgers yesterday.
Keep your eye on USF's bench production. No one on the Bulls averages double figures, but seven players put up between 6.7 and 9.9 points per game.
Prediction: South Florida by two