We all know the big guns of the Big East.
Monday night's clash between Connecticut (12-2) and Pittsburgh (11-2) ended up going Pitt's way, while Marquette (10-2) and Louisville (10-2) are right at their heels.
Pittsburgh definitely proved to be the team to beat with a huge road victory over a top-ranked UConn squad.
As I'm sure you've heard by now, the Big East reformatted its tournament schedule to include all 16 teams. Now the top four seeds get a double bye, while the next four seeds get a single bye. Teams 9-16 play in the first round.
While the aforementioned teams have a strong grip on the double bye, there is a ton of competition for fourth through 12th in the league.
So starting from the bottom going up, here's a breakdown of how the Big East is shaking up going into the last third of conference play.
These four teams will be the visiting squads in the first round of the tournament.
DePaul is an unheard of 0-13 for the season in the Big East. For a program as storied as it is, this is a downright travesty and is frankly bad for the league.
Just slightly ahead of them is Rutgers at 1-11. Normally known for their stingy defense (especially at home), the Knights have allowed a much higher 72 ppg than in previous years. Their lone victory came against lowly DePaul.
On a mediocre step higher sit two teams who are really trying to figure themselves out in the league. Saint John's (3-10) and South Florida (3-9) are average teams in a far above average league.
Both are very young, but both have marquee wins. Saint John's upset a top-10 ranked Notre Dame team earlier in the year, while South Florida took out a top-10 Marquette squad.
Holding on to Hope
Georgetown (4-8) has thus far edged out Notre Dame for most disappointing Big East team ever. OK, maybe not ever, but you get the point. Despite a road victory against UConn in the first game of conference play, the Hoyas find themselves squarely in no-man's land.
Barely north of Georgetown is Seton Hall (5-7) who really only has wins over the bottom feeders and, of course, the Hoyas.
I don't see either of these teams getting hot enough to sneak into the top half of the league, but technically it's still possible.
A Roll of the Dice
Notre Dame (5-7) probably should be in the previous category based on their record. The Irish losses, however, have come to five ranked opponents, St. John's, and a Cincinnati team that is fighting for the bye themselves.
Eight of their last 10 games have been against ranked squads, so I guess you could say that the last six games should be easy since they only see two ranked teams. However, three of the next four are going to be tough road contests.
The Irish need to go 4-2 down the stretch just to have a shot at the bye.
A slightly easier road lies ahead for West Virginia (6-6). After Wednesday night's home game against Notre Dame, the Mountaineers face tough contests against only Cincinnati (away) and Louisville (home).
While West Virginia only plays two teams that are ahead of them in the standings, Notre Dame can control their own destiny a little better with four games against higher teams in the conference.
The Mountaineers will need to go at least 5-1, including a victory over the Irish, to get a good shot at the bye.
Cincinnati and Syracuse are currently seventh and eighth with 7-6 conference records. The two teams face each other in a little over a week, and the loser could get knocked out of the bye round.
The Bearcats have two tough home games against Louisville and West Virginia before that big road game against the Orange. The final two games are must-wins against bottom feeders.
Cincy will need at least three victories, including Syracuse, to feel comfortable.
The Orange, on the other hand, have it just as difficult.
Their schedule features a home game against Villanova and an away game against St. John's before the Cincy game, followed by a home game against Rutgers and a road game against Marquette.
It's going to be tough to go 3-2 in that stretch if they give up one of the key home match-ups against 'Nova or Cincy. Those are virtual must-wins.
Don't Get Comfortable
Providence (8-5) has by far the toughest final stretch out of the eight teams vying for the bye round: at Louisville, followed by home games against Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, then two more road games against Rutgers and Villanova.
Absolutely none of these games are gimmes, although Rutgers is close.
Going 3-2 to finish the season should be enough as long as one of those victories is against Notre Dame. Losing to the Irish could give up a valuable tiebreaker.
The Road is Clear
Villanova (8-4) can all but coast to the finish line. Despite a few tough games (@ Syr, vs. GU, @ ND, and vs. Prov), I don't see them losing enough games to drop four spots into the lower half of the conference.
'Nova would probably have to lose at least four games for that to happen.
On the other hand, the Wildcats might still be eyeing a double bye. Although this is tough, it's very possible.
Unfortunately, they don't have any remaining games against the teams ahead of them and only hold the tiebreaker against Pittsburgh. If one of those top teams falls hard, look for Villanova to sneak in.
But that's a big "if."
How It Plays Out and Why
Double bye: UConn, Pitt, Louisville, Marquette
Single bye: Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia, Notre Dame
Final Eight: Cincinnati, Providence, Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John's, South Florida, Rutgers, DePaul
I see Notre Dame and West Virginia getting hot against a mediocre schedule, while Cincinnati and Providence lose a couple bad games. Anything can happen in the Big East, and it almost makes my predictions ignorant, but that's the point, isn't it?
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