The 2013 Big East Tournament will feature some of the best players in the country, and a small handful are going to shine bright this year. With the big dance fast approaching and this tourney having an effect on seeding, certain players are sure to go into overdrive and put on some of the most clutch performances in tournament history.
Fans are definitely getting excited about seeing Georgetown's Otto Porter suit up, as the sophomore took Georgetown from mere average status this season to top contender. He is a great finisher and even greater athlete, so he's definitely preparing to take the Hoyas on a run.
Similarly, Syracuse's explosive C.J. Fair will turn on the afterburners in hopes of shaking off a rough finish by the Orange.
The fact is that the Big East Tournament is the preview tourney that makes March Madness fanatics foam at the mouth, and the rowdy fans at Madison Square Garden will surely make the foundation shake after these players just go off and have great game after great game.
Tray Woodall, G, Pittsburgh
The Panthers finished second in the Big East this season and definitely have an uphill battle if they are to get to this tournament's championship game, but guard Tray Woodall could easily reach down inside and give them some much-needed momentum.
The senior posted 11.7 points and 5.3 assists per game this season, shooting 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from long range.
Regardless of who Pittsburgh plays, Woodall is going to be playing with an extra bounce in his step. He was born in Brooklyn and went to the legendary St. Anthony's High School in nearby Jersey City, NJ. Thus, he is surely going to have a great deal of friends, family and even HS coach Bob Hurley cheering him on in the stands.
Don't be fooled by his fairly small build at 6'0", 190 pounds. Woodall is a fine point guard who could easily go off and have a great Big East Tournament.
C.J. Fair, F, Syracuse
This junior has done a fine job of stepping up as Syracuse's main go-to guy this season, averaging 14.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while shooting 48 percent from the field. Fair also has solid size for his position at 6'8", 215 pounds.
The best thing about Fair, however, is that he never backs down from a battle on the court. He demands the ball on offense and is a solid rebounder. He also scored double figures in all but six games this season.
He drives the lane incredibly, has a good developing outside shot and is also an excellent dunker. Syracuse is going to be relying on him to carry them in this year's tournament, and opposing teams had better make sure that he doesn't get the hot hand and allowed to run with it.
Russ Smith, G, Louisville
The Cardinals are back to defend their Big East title, and Brooklyn native Russ Smith will be the man to lead them to that, should destiny be on their side. The junior guard played high school ball at Archbishop Molloy before heading to South Kent, Connecticut, so he's sure to have his own section of cheerleaders in the stands.
Though not the biggest of guards at 6'1", 165 pounds, he has averaged 17 points per game to go with 2.1 steals. His percentages are a bit low, with him shooting just 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from long range, but Smith still has the potential to go off and have a great night at the drop of a hat.
With the site of the tournament essentially being his home turf and a loud group of fans sure to be cheering him on in the stands, Smith could easily come up big and lead Louisville back to the title game.
Otto Porter, F, Georgetown
Simply put, Otto Porter is a beast. He has good size at 6'8", 205 pounds and has carried the Hoyas on his back from start to finish, turning them into a top contender after fans entered this season with low expectations.
The sophomore has averaged 16.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and two steals per game this season, and has shot a highly respectable 50 percent from the field. He has also shown marked improvement with his jumper and has made 44 percent of his threes.
Moreover, Porter has shown that he can be a fine finisher and put the team on his back in crunch time. This is incredible since the Hoyas' Princeton offense does not allow much in terms of scoring opportunities, and Porter's ability to get past that is a testament to how strong a player he is.
Thus, with Hoyas fans expecting a lengthy tournament run after a few years of disappointment, look for Porter to take control from start to finish and just torch the opposition. The fans want a title, but he himself may want it even more.