Bubble Watch: The Big East

Todd ParmeleeSenior Analyst IFebruary 26, 2008

The Big East has wrapped up its regular season and the conference tournament begins March 12th at the Madison Square Garden. 

Syracuse and Villanova, both 9-9 in conference play, are still in consideration for an at-large berth.  The two teams will square off on Wednesday.  During the regular season the two teams split.  Villanova won at Syracuse (81-71), while Syracuse won at Villanova (87-73).  The winner of the game will face #1 seeded Georgetown.  Both teams have been competitive against the Hoyas.  Syracuse lost to Georgetown 61-64, then avenged the loss by defeating Georgetown 77-70.  On the other hand, Villanova, the victim of a controversial call, lost to Georgetown 53-55 during the regular season.The Orange are a very talented team that has overcome injuries to Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins.  Paul Harris, Donte Green, and Jonny Flynn are one of the most dynamic threesomes in the Big East. Do the depleted Orange have what it takes to win 2 or 3 games in the Big East Tournament?


Pittsburgh (22-9 overall, 10-8 in Big East) #24 RPI

They need to start winning again on a consistent basis after losing three in a row. This team should get in, but at 7-7 in conference play they still have work to do. They have had some major injury setbacks (Levance Fields).
The good: Victories against Duke 66-64 at MSG, 75-74 at Washington, 69-60 Georgetown.
The bad: Currently they are on a three-game losing steak, but the losses are to Marquette, Notre Dame, and Louisville. Losses at Rutgers 65-77 and Dayton 55-80.
Outlook: Pitt is in if they can finish 2-2. Levance Fields is back from injury and, once he can get back into game shape, they should be a force to be reckoned with. They have tough road matchups at West Virginia and Syracuse. Home games vs. Depaul and Cinncinati are must wins. Right now they are looking like an eight or nine seed, a very dangerous prospect for a one seed to face in the second round. The committee does seem to take injuries into consideration. A strong finish could bump Pitt into a five or six seed.
Update: Pitt defeated Cincy 73-67 on Feb. 27th. to improve to 20-8 and 8-7 in the Big East.  The win also ended Pitt's 3-game losing streak.  Pitt defeated Syracuse 82-77 on March 1st.  Pitt followed the comeback victory over Syracuse with a 76-62 loss to West Virginia.

West Virginia (22-9, 11-7) #39

A tough matchup against UConn on Saturday in Hartford, Conn. West Virginia fell victim to Georgetown 57-58 earlier this year. It was a costly loss for the Moutaineers as they blew a six point lead with less than five minutes to play.
The good: 79-64 win vs. Marquette, 72-74 Loss to Tennessee, 57-58 Loss to Georgetown.
The bad: Three of last four games are on the road (UConn, Depaul, St. John's). Their one home game is against Pitt.
Outlook: Depaul and St. John's are very winnable games. A win vs. UConn or Pitt would be huge. Non-conference victories over Auburn and New Mexico State are not the quality wins the committee is looking for.
Update: West Virginia defeated Depaul 85-73 on Feb.27th.   The Mountaineers lost to the Huskies 71-79 on March 1st.  Joe Alexander scored 32 points (his 2nd straight game of 30 or more points) as West Virginia knocked-off Pitt 76-62 in Morgantown.  

II) NIT Bound

Syracuse (19-12, 9-9 in Big East) #46

They were snubbed last year and this year they are in big trouble.
The good
: 70-68 win on the road vs. Virginia, 91-85 win over Washington, 77-70 win over Georgetown, 72-69 win over St. Joseph’s.
The bad: 100-107 loss to UMass at home, 89-91 loss to University of Rhode Island at home, 78-89 loss at South Florida.
Outlook: Syracuse is NIT bound right now. They have home games vs. Pitt and Marquette. Their only road game is vs. Seton Hall. If they can win two out of three they are back in the mix.
Update: The Orange fell to Pitt 77-82 on March 1st.  They have lost 5 out of their last 6 games.  Syracuse's tournament stock is on the decline (Their RPI dropped eleven spots). The Orange got back on the winning-track by defeating the Seton Hall Pirates 85-73.

Villanova (19-11 overall, 9-9 in Big East) #56

It looked like they were about to turn the corner after they beat UConn last Saturday. A win over Marquette last night would have been big, but they lost. This team is full of question marks in the frontcourt. They also fell victim to Georgetown 53-55. This win would have made Villanova’s case much stronger. Let's face it, Georgetown has been the beneficiary of a lot of close calls this year.
The Good
: 67-65 win over UConn, 78-56 win over West Virginia, 64-63 win over Pitt. Wins in three of last four games.
The Bad: Lost five straight games earlier in the season. Included in that stretch are bad losses to Rutgers, 68-80, and 55-77 loss to St. Joseph's.
Outlook: The schedule is in Nova’s favor as they play South Florida and Providence. They have a tough matchup at Louisville. Even if they win two out of three, they will still have work to do in the Big East Tournament.
Update: Nova lost to Louisville 54-68 on March 2nd.    A win over Louisville would have been their 2nd in 8 days for a ranked a opponent.  Nova' defeated South Florida 72-59 on March 5th.  

Seton Hall (17-14 overall , 7-11 Big East) #87 RPI

The Good: A favorable conference schedule to finish the season (@ South Florida, @ St. Johns, Syracuse, and Rutgers). They could finish the regular season with at least a 19-12 overall record and 9-9 conference record. Notable wins: 74-60 over Virginia, 92-82 win over Louisville, 64-61 win over Cincinnati, 65-55 @ Princeton.
The Bad: Seton Hall has lost five of their last six games. Notable losses: 73-79 vs. NC State, 70-85 @ St Mary’s, 86-89, @ Penn State 86-89.
Outlook: As stated earlier, Seton Hall has a favorable schedule remaining. They could make a strong case for an at-large bid by winning three out of their last four.
Update: Seton Hall defeated South Florida 79-75 on Feb. 26th to improve to 17-11, 7-8 in conference. The best case scenario for the Pirates is that they finish the season 20-11, 10-8 in Big East.  They then win a game in the conference tournament and raise the eyebrows of the selection committe.  Right now they have  lot of work to do.  Seton Hall lost to St. Johns 62-65 on March 1st.    The Pirates lost to Syracuse on March 5th. 

Cincinnati (13-17 overall, 8-10 Big East) #112 RPI

A lousy record in non-conference play with losses against Belmont and Bowling Green. Cincy has compiled a good conference record of 8-6 and have drastically improved over the course of the season. A win over UConn and a win in the Big East Tournament may have Cincy in the Big Dance.
The Bad: 75-86 loss to Belmont, 67-69 loss to Bowling Green, 58-70 loss at St. John's.
The Good: 62-39 win over West Virginia, 62-59 win over Pitt, 58-57 win at Louisville.
Outlook: They struggled against non-conference teams, losing five straight at one point. At Pitt and at UConn. Home games vs. Depaul and Providence. Finishing 10-8 in conference will still have Cincy NIT bound.
Update: Cincy lost to Pitt 67-73.  The Bearcats are now 13-14 overall and 8-7 in Big East play.  The Bearcats will most likely need to win the Big East Tournament in order to get invited to the Big Dance.  Cincy lost to Depaul on March 6th 54-60.  

Terms: RPI=Rating Percentage Index

Things to Remember: There are only 34 teams that can receive at-large berthsCan it be justified that the Big East gets 7-8 bids (6-7 at large and 1 automatic)? 

Already In the Big Dance: Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, UConn, Notre Dame

For More in-depth information on the selection process go to: http://www.ncaasports.com/basketball/mens/story/9183455