Big East Tournament 2013: Teams That Will Surprise at Madison Square Garden

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2013

Nov 11, 2012; Villanova, PA, USA; Villanova Wildcats forward JayVaughn Pinkston (22) and guard Ryan Arcidiacono (15) react during the second half against the Marshall Thundering Herd at The Pavilion. Villanova won the game 80-68. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville, Georgetown and Marquette will be the three teams under the microscope at Madison Square Garden in New York City this March, as the top-ranked trio is expected to make plenty of noise at the 2013 Big East men's basketball tournament.

Tournament action will tip off on Tuesday, March 12, with a pair of first-round matchups before the league's top eight teams come into the picture on Wednesday and Thursday. Following the Friday semifinals, the tournament will conclude on Saturday night with the much-anticipated championship game.

Here we'll highlight a trio of Big East underdogs that are set to surprise at this March's 2013 Big East Tournament.



Cincinnati Bearcats 

Cincinnati has lost six of its last eight coming into Saturday's regular-season finale against South Florida. But while the Bearcats have struggled mightily since the start of February, they have had some promising defeats, if there is such a thing. 

Mick Cronin's squad lost by just seven points at Georgetown last month, and took Connecticut to overtime on the road roughly a week later. 

If there's a reason to be encouraged about the Bearcats' chances in New York this coming week, it's definitely their prowess on the boards and their ability to defend the three-point line. Cincinnati ranks seventh in the country in rebounds per game (first in the Big East), reeling in over 40 per game, and holds its opponents to just 30 percent shooting from beyond the arc on average this season.

X-factor junior guard Sean Kilpatrick (17.5 points per game) is one of the standout superstars in college basketball. 


Providence Friars

While many NCAA tournament bubble teams spent the past few weeks playing their way out of the field, Providence is making a case for an at-large bid.

The Friars have won seven of their last nine games and are one of the hottest teams in the Big East entering the conference tournament.

Big East leading scorer Bryce Cotton had a poor showing in the overtime loss to Connecticut on the last game of the season, but he has the ability to put the team on his back and lead it to victory.

It is still unlikely that Providence reaches the NCAA tournament. However, the squad has nothing to lose and could surprise some people with a major run over the next week. 


Villanova Wildcats

Villanova has been a Giant Killer this season, knocking off three Big East foes ranked in the Top Five (Louisville, Syracuse and Georgetown). So, what's to say they can't do it again in New York?

The Wildcats are one of the better three-point shooting teams in the conference, hitting more than 34 percent of their long-range shots, and also rank first in the Big East in free throws attempted. Even better, Jay Wright's Wildcats rank third in the conference in free-throw percentage, knocking down nearly 72 percent of their freebies this year.

Nova is led by sophomores JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard along with freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who all combine for close to 37 points per game this season. If those three stars align for the Cats in New York this coming week, there's no telling how far they'll go.


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