Last night Marquette slaughtered Louisville, while Cincinnati lost to Villanova.
The win for Marquette seals up its NCAA at-large bid, while the Cincinnati loss was a spoiled last opportunity for them to impress the selection committee. The Big East now has seven "locks" (Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Louisville, and Georgetown) and three teams (Connecticut, USF, and Notre Dame) fighting for one or two more bids.
Many fans have marked March 9th on their calendars as the beginning of the Big East Tournament, but for these three bubble teams, the Big East tournament starts today.
I say this because they are all playing each other to close out the regular season. Each bubble match-up loser is eliminated from the NCAA tournament discussion. Each winner of the bubble matchup continues onto the next round, instead of becoming a "in", or "lock" team for the NCAA's.
The reasoning behind this is that, these three bubble teams will all have impressive enough resumes to get an at large bid if they can win out vs. the other bubble teams they play.
However, let's say Connecticut beats Notre Dame tonight, then the Luke Harangody-less Notre Dame team that has won back-to-back games over "lock" teams, suddenly becomes the Luke Harangody-less Notre Dame team, and nothing else. This win would cause Connecticut's resume to stay unchanged for the most part because the win does not look impressive anymore, and the loss for Notre Dame eliminates them from bubble contention.
The same thing applies if Notre Dame beats Connecticut because right now everyone thinks Connecticut has just enough of a resume to get into the NCAA's, but if they lose to Notre Dame, they suddenly become a joke and Notre Dame's victory loses much credit. The same applies to USF's matchup with Connecticut this weekend.
Instead of these bubble matchups helping the bubble teams climb on top of each other and get into the tournament, they are really eliminating the losers and barely helping the winners.
This situation creates an earlier start to the Big East tournament for these bubble teams because a loss in one of these upcoming games would be just as bad if they were to lose in the Big East tournament.
Below are listed the first and second round of the extended Big East tournament for these bubble teams. The third round and beyond will continue on Tuesday, March 9th.
First Round, March 3rd, 2010
Connecticut 17-12 (7-9) at Notre Dame 19-10 (8-8), 7 pm, ESPN.
The Connecticut Huskies are healthier, more talented, bigger, and the team with the more impressive wins. However, Notre Dame is 16-3 at home with wins over Pitt, WVU, and fellow bubble team USF.
Prediction: Connecticut 64, Notre Dame 63
Second Round, March 6th, 2010
Connecticut 17-12 (7-9) at USF 18-11, (8-9), 2PM, ESPN360.com.
The reason USF was having such a successful run in the middle of the season was because of their star guard Dominique Jones. Their recent small surge has them back in the bubble discussion, but this time Jones' teammates are carrying the team while Jones' shooting has cooled off.
Connecticut's backcourt duo of Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson should cause problems for USF. Connecticut will find a way to fatigue Dominique Jones by implementing Stanley Robinson as a key player in their offensive attack.
I give the front court edge to USF for the return of second leading scorer Augustus Glichrist's solid play and his fellow fill in, now starter, Jarrid Famous' strong attack of the rim.
However, USF doesn't have much of a home court advantage and I think Connecticut will muster out the win with its physical play and guard penetration which will get the USF big men into foul trouble.
Prediction: Connecticut 67, USF 61
Notre Dame 19-10 (8-8) at Marquette 20-9 (11-6), 2 PM, ESPN360.com (Notre Dame's tougher second round opponent, which will only matter if they beat Connecticut.)
Marquette is tough at home, they are on fire, and clearly the much better team in this matchup. Even if Notre Dame beats Connecticut tonight, they will have to win this game in order to not be eliminated from the bubble consideration. I say Notre Dame will not have enough fire power in this game, and Marquette will be trying to claim the double-bye in the Big east tournament so they will be playing hard.
Prediction: Notre Dame 71, Marquette 79
Should either one of these bubble teams win out, their quest for an at-large bid will continue in their third round game on Tuesday, March 9th.