Big East Tournament 2013: Surprise Squads That Could Go on Run to Championship

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2013

January 9, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Villanova Wildcats head coach Jay Wright talks with forward JayVaughn Pinkston (22) against the South Florida Bulls during the first half at the Sun Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Big East Tournament is probably the most popular of the conference tournaments, and proved to be full of surprises last season. In a situation nobody could have predicted, No. 4 seed Cincinnati faced No. 7 seed Louisville in the championship game, with giants in No. 2 seed Marquette and top-ranked Syracuse being stunned in losses.

This year's tournament could feature shocking wins of the same caliber. Yes, the tournament has its favorites in Georgetown, Louisville and others, but the teams fans are quick to write off could prove to be feisty enough to go on a run on the floors of Madison Square Garden and take home the trophy.

Take Villanova, for example. The Wildcats did not have that strong a season, but managed to defeat almost every team that sits above them in the conference standings. Head coach Jay Wright's players are doing something correctly, and could definitely be in line for a strong performance in the conference tournament.

Similarly, the Providence Friars could come out guns blazing on offense and shock the world with some key wins, which they didn't achieve during the regular season.

The fact of the matter is that the Big East is one of the deepest conferences in the NCAA—and while some teams may have better records than others, seeding is essentially meaningless. Thus, do not be surprised if these teams manage to get hot and charge into the championship game in their bid for a spot in the big dance.



The Bearcats went 21-10 on the year and just 9-9 in conference play, but are a better team than their record may indicate. Head coach Mick Cronin's squad is seventh in the nation in rebounding and looking to build off of last year's trip to the Sweet 16, and a strong performance in the Big East Tournament would be a giant step in the right direction.

The team is led by guard Sean Kilpatrick, who averaged 17.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game his junior season. His percentages are a bit low at 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from long range, but he may have an extra bounce in his step during the tournament, and for one reason.

This is because Kilpatrick is from nearby Yonkers, N.Y. and could have plenty of friends and family in the crowd. Combined with strong interior defense from Titus Rubles, both men could carry the Bearcats to a lengthy tournament run.

It also helps that Cincinnati beat Marquette on Jan. 19, so this team can clearly pull off upsets when in full swing.

Don't let their weak offense fool you. The Bearcats are definitely going to be a team to watch as they look to get back to the championship game.



Like Cincinnati, the Friars are not a strong scoring team. They rank 160th in points scored and 261st in field-goal percentage.

Just the same, the team has shown marked improvement under second-year head coach Ed Cooley, who has led the team to a 17-13 record and 9-9 conference mark this season, up from last year's records of 15-17 and 4-14.

This year's team doesn't have much in terms of signature wins, save for defeating Cincinnati on Feb. 6 and Notre Dame on Feb. 16, but they definitely have a balanced attack that not many other college teams have.

The offense is led by junior Bryce Cotton, who has proven to be a decent shooter in averaging 20 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from long range. Not far behind him is forward Kadeem Batts, with 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Throw in 13.5 points and 8.3 boards from LaDontae Henton and 10.2 points and 7.1 assists from Brooklyn's own Vincent Council, and the Friars are definitely a team that could come together to make some noise during the Big East Tournament.



The Wildcats may not be very high on the totem pole, but definitely have what it takes to grasp control of the Big East Tournament and just run with it to a spot in the championship game.

Villanova went 19-12 on the year and 10-8 in conference play and has some signature wins that make them a hard squad to count out this year. Not only did head coach Jay Wright's team win against Louisville on Jan. 22 and an overtime thriller against Syracuse on Jan. 26, but they also took down Marquette on Feb. 23 and ever-dangerous Georgetown on Mar. 6.

Needless to say, this team is anything but a lock for an early exit. Brooklyn's own JayVaughn Pinkston is going to want to put on a show for his hometown fans, and senior big man Mouphtaou Yarou is more than capable of providing solid defense in the paint.

Don't let its spot in the standings fool you. Villanova can definitely come out of nowhere to make some noise this year, so teams had better prepare for the Wildcats accordingly.