On Tuesday, March 9, the Big East Tournament will tip off at noon at Madison Square Garden, "The World's Most Famous Arena."
The Big East Tournament is a collection of all the teams in the best conference going hard for 15 games in a single elimination format.
For five, action-packed days, anything is possible. Saturday capped an action packed finish to the regular season schedule. Notre Dame needed a buzzer beater to force overtime. They would go on to win. West Virginia was able to win down the stretch in overtime against Villanova. Louisville upset #1 Syracuse in the last game at Freedom Hall. South Flordia was able to clinch a #9 seed by beating UConn. And St. John's beat DePaul in triple overtime (on Friday).
Even teams like DePaul or Rutgers have to go in with their heads held high because, although they may have had down years in conference, they are just four wins away from the big dance.
The first matchups, which take place on Tuesday will be South Florida vs. DePaul, Seton Hall vs. Providence, Cincinnati vs. Rutgers, and Connecticut vs. St. John's.
South Florida vs. Depaul
In the first game, South Florida vs. DePaul, most people would pick the Bulls in a blowout.
However, it might be a little bit more complicated than that.
DePaul may only be 1-17, but they have kept teams close all season. They have good wins against Northern Iowa and Marquette and nearly beat this same South Florida team just a few days ago.
Also, after going 0-18 in conference action last year, they ended up winning their first-round game and nearly stealing the second-round matchup as well.
If Will Walker and Mac Koshwal are able to make shots and free throws, they can pull out a win. Keep in mind that they shoot just 58% from the charity stripe.
Prediction: South Florida 59-DePaul 56
Seton Hall vs. Providence
Seton Hall is coming off a road win against Providence on Saturday, and it really wasn't that hard.
Seton Hall is one of the best mid-level teams in this conference and have an uncanny ability to score the basketball. They have put up 134 points in a single game this year (against VMI) and have even come back from a 10 point margin with less than 50 seconds in a game this year against West Virginia.
If Jeremy Hazzel and Herb Pope can score the ball, this game won't even be close.
Seton Hall 74-Providence 59
Cincinnati vs. Rutgers
This is a pretty dull matchup in most respects.
Rutgers is doing better than expected and Cincy is doing worse than expected.
Although the crowd should heavily favor the Knights, I would like to favor the Bearcats, who could have had an amazing year if they were able to win key games down the stretch. The team is led by freshman Lance Stephenson who is coming back to his hometown for the tournament.
This shouldn't be too much of a problem for Cincy if they are prepared. Preparation is key, as Rutgers does have the ability to win games if you give them the chance.
Cincinnati 68-Rutgers 59
St. John's vs. Connecticut
This is the popcorn matchup of the first round.
St. John's has the home-court advantage, but a lot of the Huskie faithful will be in attendance with a campus just a few hours away.
Both of these teams had the potential to be good this season, but they couldn't pick up those big wins. UConn is 1-2 at the Garden this year with losses to Duke and Kentucky. St. John's is a good team all around, and Anthony Mason Junior is starting to pick things up for the Red Storm, who are coming off a 3OT win against DePaul.
Neither team has that much momentum coming in, but I like the Huskies in this game. They have the overall talent to beat a team like St. John's in desperation mode as they need two or three wins to be considered on selection Sunday.
Connecticut 74-St. John's 67
Check back for second-round predictions on Wednesday morning.