The action is heating up inside the Mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden, as the 2013 Big East tournament reaches Day 3.
Only eight teams remain in the hunt for the conference crown as four quarterfinal matchups get set to tip off on Thursday. The Big East's top seeds, Georgetown and reigning champion Louisville, will finally begin their journey to cut down the nets on Thursday. Meanwhile, Wednesday's winners look to spoil the postseason party with a victory of their own.
With Saturday's Big East title clash fast approaching, it's time we take a look forward and predict Friday's two semifinal matchups.
Georgetown Will Cruise, Syracuse Poised to Return to Form
It won't be easy for the top-seeded Hoyas on Thursday, but based on the previous meeting between Georgetown and Cincinnati back in February, it's safe to say John Thompson III's squad will have a decisive edge over the Bearcats in New York.
Last month, Cincinnati outplayed Georgetown at home but still wound up on the wrong end of a 62-55 result. The Bearcats got to the free throw line five more times than the Hoyas, out-rebounded them 36-27 and recorded seven more blocked shots, but couldn't score consistently enough against Georgetown's stifling defense, which ranks second in the Big East in points allowed and opponents field-goal percentage.
In Thursday's other quarterfinal, look for Syracuse to return to form against fourth-seeded Pittsburgh. The Orange lost the only matchup between these two teams last month on the road, getting crushed 37-21 on the glass and shooting less than 37 percent from the field. It's hard to imagine Jim Boeheim's crew playing such a sloppy game on such a grand stage this time around.
Plus, Syracuse won't have to deal with a rabid Panthers crowd on Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, giving it a huge boost as it looks to avenge its 65-55 defeat to Pitt and advance to Friday's semifinals.
Louisville Will Stay Hot, Marquette Set to Quiet Irish Again
The Cardinals have won seven straight games since losing to Notre Dame on the road in five overtimes a month ago, leading many to believe they'll remain hot heading into Friday's semifinals. Louisville will take on seventh-seeded Villanova in a revenge game on Thursday night.
Jay Wright's Wildcats stunned Rick Pitino's bunch at home in January, winning their only matchup by nine points in Philadelphia. Expect fortunes to flip this March at Madison Square Garden as Peyton Siva and the Cardinals eye a second straight Big East tournament championship.
In Thursday's final quarterfinal, look for Marquette to do what it did less than two weeks ago in Milwaukee and jump out on Notre Dame early and knock off the Fighting Irish for the second straight time this March. Surprisingly, Marquette actually turned the ball over 15 times and was out-rebounded 30-22 in that game.
The Golden Eagles' star player, Vander Blue, only scored six points in his team's eight-point win. This leads me to believe that Marquette is primed for a semifinal berth, assuming Blue plays up to his potential and delivers a better effort in New York on Thursday night.
2013 Big East Tournament Bracket
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