The Big East tournament remains the best prelude to the Big Dance you'll find anywhere on the planet. With the deepest league in the country, the Big East's conference tournament is rife with upsets and surprising runs, courtesy of teams who struggled to make a mark in the regular season.
The flip side of those upsets, however, are the elite teams who head home early. There are always a couple of good teams who head home before they should for a variety of reasons. Who will it be this year? These three teams are a great place to start.
The Orange are officially reeling heading into the postseason. With an offense that mustered just 39 points in their loss against Georgetown, Jim Boeheim's squad have dropped four of their last five and seven of their last 12 overall. The defense is still stingy, but the offense is an absolute mess even with James Southerland back.
Couple that with several schools hungry to make a run in this tournament, and you have a recipe for disaster in the Big Apple. Syracuse are in the midst of a massive slump, and this team doesn't have the talent overall to pull themselves out of it against a school playing for their postseason fate. They might not lose their first clash, but don't be surprised if the Orange fall well before the conference championship game.
The Hoyas have been utterly fantastic this season, climbing to the top five in both polls thanks to the play of superstar swingman Otto Porter and a defense capable of clamping down on even the most explosive of offenses. So, why are they in trouble in this tournament?
To start with, Georgetown's offensive fortunes begin and end with the play of Porter. Shut him down, and the Hoyas will struggle to find the basket with any kind of consistency. They can't score consistently outside of the talented wing, and that will come back to haunt them. Sure, Markel Starks and Greg Wittington can score, but will they? That uncertainty is a dangerous thing, especially with the offenses they'll have to face to win the tournament.
Then there's the Hoyas' track record in the postseason. They've struggled to make any impact in the Big Dance under John Thompson III, and have only won one championship under their head coach in his tenure with the school. With their occasionally anemic offense and Thompson's history of postseason foibles the Hoyas have "early exit" written all over them.
The Golden Eagles were one of the biggest surprises of the year in the Big East, amassing a 14-4 conference record to split the regular-season title with Georgetown and Louisville. They're extremely efficient offensively, ranking 34th in field-goal percentage, despite averaging just 69 points per game (good for 132nd overall).
Which team will make the deepest run in the Big East tournament?
That said, Buzz Williams' squad struggles a bit on the defensive end at times, thanks in large part to their complete inability to consistently rebound. They rank 172nd in boards per game, and no one on the roster averages better than 4.8 rebounds per contest. Without a consistent, talented big man on the team, the undersized Golden Eagles can get powered out of the gym by bigger, stronger teams.
On top of that, they don't really run the floor, as evidenced by their low point-per-game totals. They're a grinding team, who are efficient offensively but don't have the kind of elite size needed to make a deep run in New York. In other words, don't be surprised to see the Golden Eagles heading home before many expect.