Big East Tournament: Three Dark Horses To Keep an Eye On

Sam BlumCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2010

NEW YORK - JANUARY 13: Justin Burrell #24 of the St. John's Red Storm handles the ball against Yancy Gates #34 of the Cincinnati Bearcats at Madison Square Garden on January 13, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

For many teams, the Big East tournament isn't just a way to solidify a high seed. In fact, for most of them, it is to gain a spot in the Big Dance—a spot they wouldn't otherwise have gotten. 

Teams not in the eight will all have to fight just to get into consideration. To win the tournament, they will have to win five games in five days—a near insane request. 

However, this year, the field is wide open—and anybody still has a shot.



Teams to watch


Seton Hall


Seton Hall, probably the best sleeper team in the field, has an uncanny ability to make shots. The Pirates have the most clutch player in the Big East with Jeremy Hazell.

In fact, just a few close games separate them from a first-round bye. They have kept games close, losing only four games by double digits—only one of those by more than 20.

They have beaten great teams like Pittsburgh and Cornell—on the road.

The Pirates will have a local advantage, playing just a short 20 minutes away from their home court. They have a first-round match-up against Providence—a team they beat three days ago. A second-round game would be against Notre Dame—a team they beat, as well. A third-round game would be against Pittsburgh—a team they beat, too.

A win in all three of those games would be 100 percent a tournament bid. It is unlikely, but you can throw out odds come March Madness. 



South Florida


Everyone has seemed to become a South Florida fan during the course of this season. The Bulls have seemingly beat all odds and now find themselves just a step away from an NCAA tournament bid.

They have beaten the likes of Virginia, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, and UConn. They started off conference play 0-4, but they fought back in to the standings, thanks to team leader Dominique Jones.

They have DePaul as their first-round match-up—a team not to be taken lightly. They will then have a date with Georgetown—a team they bested once before. A win Wednesday vs. Georgetown would probably be what decides if the Bulls are dancing or not.

If they somehow get to that quarterfinal game, they will have to fight Syracuse—the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Look for South Florida to be a factor—the Bulls have come on of late after dropping a few tough games. 



St. John's


It has been a tough year for St. John's. Tough probably wouldn't even describe it. After starting off the year red hot, the Red Storm have cooled down significantly, going just 6-12 in conference play.

However, never rule out home court advantage. St. John's plays on the Garden floor for half of its regular-season conference games—and usually does well.

St. John's has a pretty decent resumé, with wins over Temple, Siena, Louisville, and Notre Dame. They have good shooters with Malik Boothe, D.J. Kennedy, Dwight Hardy, and Paris Horne. They have extreme size and athleticism with Sean Evans and Anthony Mason Jr.

They mostly struggle with free throw shooting and playing well down the late parts of the second half.

If they can top UConn—and get the best of a very tough Marquette team—the Red Storm will at least be looking at a good NIT seed. They would need an additional win over Villanova—a team they nearly topped earlier in the year—to be able to get an NCAA bid.