March Madness: Predicting Where Pitt, UConn and Other Big East Teams Finish

Eric CaspersonCorrespondent IIFebruary 3, 2011

March Madness: Predicting Where Pitt, UConn and Other Big East Teams Finish

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    Down year for the Big East? Yea...right.

    Fact is at the beginning of the season people were predicting the Big East to take a step backwards this year and let some of the other conferences fill up the Top 25.

    We are now into February and the Big East has eight teams in the Top 25 and three more receiving votes.

    Just last week they had four in the Top 10.

    Yes the Big East is top heavy with some pretty bad teams at the bottom. However, teams like Rutgers and Seton Hall are proving that their games aren't pushovers.

    These Big East teams beat themselves up day in and day out against one another, and it affects their rankings. If They didn't have to play the schedule they had, you could make a case for all these ranked teams to be in the Top 10.

    Don't believe me? The ranked teams at the top of the Big East are 27-18 against AP Top 25 teams this year. And a lot of those losses come from in conference games.

    The Big East, if anything, has taken a step up this year and looks to improve on representing the conference better that it did in last year's dismal NCAA Tournament.

    Here are season ending predictions for each team and how far they will go in this year's NCAA Tournament.

16. DePaul Blue Demons

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    Current Record: 6-14 (0-8)

    Predicted Finish: 8-22 (2-16)

    NCAA Tournament: No

    OK, bear with these first couple teams out of the Big East. Usually the conference isn't this top and bottom heavy. Usually any team from the Big East can be any other team on any given night.

    DePaul is the exception. I do however see them getting a win or two in conference play. They won't go "defeated" in conference.

15. South Florida Bulls

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    Current Record: 8-15 (2-8)

    Predicted Finish: 9-22 (3-15)

    NCAA Tournament: No

    South Florida's outlook looks bleak, not only for this year, but for next year as well. Unlike DePaul, USF has no freshmen that are getting many significant minutes. Their top freshman is getting just over five minutes per game.

14. Providence Friars

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    Current Record: 14-9 (3-7)

    Predicted Finish: 16-15 (5-13)

    NCAA Tournament: No

    Marshon Brooks has been one of the few bright spots for the Friars, along with freshman G Gerard Coleman. Providence's big win of the year came in a 15 point rout over #7 Villanova.

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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    Current Record: 12-9 (3-7)

    Predicted Finish: 17-15 (5-13)

    NCAA Tournament: Would need to make a cinderella run in the Big East Tourney

    Rutgers' biggest win of the season was against 8-12 Seton Hall. That pretty much sums up their season so far.

    They did play Pitt down to the last second at the RAC in a thrilling loss last week. Mike Rice and Rutgers do have a bright future though.

    They have seven recruits signed for next year. Two are four star recruits and the other five are three. Not bad for Rice's first true recruiting class.

12. Seton Hall Pirates

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    Current Record: 10-13 (4-7)

    Predicted Finish: 12-18 (6-12)

    NCAA Tournament: see Rutgers comment

    New coach Kevin Willard and the Pirates have been struggling to find their identity all season long. Just when you thought they found something, they don't even show up at WVU and get smoked.

    The Pirates are in deep trouble. Seven of their top eight players won't be back next year. This is going to be a very young team next year. To make matters worse, they don't even have a legit C or PF next year. That is including the incoming class as well.

11. Marquette Golden Eagles

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    Current Record: 14-9 (5-5)

    Predicted Finish: 17-14 (8-10)

    NCAA Tournament: Would need to get to 20 wins through the Big East Tournament

    A very young Marquette team is doing some damage this year. They have beaten Notre Dame and Syracuse, and throw in West Virginia who wasn't ranked at the time.

    Marquette is a very young team with only one senior with significant playing time (Jimmy Butler) departing next season.

10. St. Johns Red Storm

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    Current Record: 12-8 (4-5)

    Predicted Finish: 16-13 (8-10)

    NCAA Tournament: On the Bubble

    St. Johns' resume is looking better and better as the year goes on. They have multiple big wins including West Virginia, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Duke.

    The only problem is that they lack consistent effort and production night in and night out. It will all depend on whether or not SJU and get another big win or two in their final nine games.

9. Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Current Record: 18-4 (5-4)

    Predicted Finish: 21-10 (8-10)

    NCAA Tournament: Will have to advance a couple rounds in Big East Tournament

     Don't get too excited about the Bearcats now. Their 18-4 record is very deceiving. Their out of conference schedule is horrendous.

    Their best win of the year is either Xavier or Oklahoma.

    I expect Cincinnati to come back down to earth as they finish out the rest of their Big East schedule. They play five out of nine against Top 25 teams.

8. West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Current Record: 15-6 (6-3)

    Predicted Finish: 18-12 (9-9)

    NCAA Tournament: On the Bubble; needs another marquee win

    Right now, West Virginia is tied for second in the Big East. That is about to change.

    WVU probably has the hardest Big East schedule left. They play seven of their final nine against Top 25 opponents.

    I can see them getting an at-large bid if they win a game or two in the Big East Tournament.

7. Georgetown Hoyas

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    Current Record: 17-5 (6-4)

    Predicted Finish: 21-9 (10-8)

    NCAA Tournament: No. 8 seed; Second Round

    If you finish above .500 in the Big East, you are making the NCAA Tournament in March.

    The Hoyas should be a dangerous team going into the Tournament as they look to avenge their first round exit last year.

    They are a very seasoned and veteran team so they should know what it takes to get the job done.

6. Syracuse Orange

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    Current Record: 19-4 (6-4)

    Predicted Finish: 23-8 (10-8)

    NCAA Tournament:  No. 6 seed; First Round

    Just when you thought the Orange were spiraling down, they got right back up and got a huge victory this week against UCONN after four straight losses.

    The season will lie on the shoulders of two positions for the Orange. Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine must be more consistent at PG and Rick Jackson has to stay out of foul trouble in big games.

    Their four game losing streak and terrible loss to Seton Hall at home scares me. I'm picking an upset for them in the 1st round.

5. Louisville Cardinals

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Current Record: 17-5 (6-3)

    Predicted Finish: 22-9 (11-7)

    NCAA Tournament: No. 5 seed; Sweet Sixteen

    Louisville is a team that can play with any team on any given night. They always have a shot of advancing in the Tournament because of their balanced attack.

    The Cardinals have a good out of conference schedule that should help them.

    They are going to kick themselves though if their bad loss to Providence hurts their seeding.

4. Villanova Wildcats

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Current Record: 18-4 (6-3)

    Predicted Finish: 23-8 (11-7)

    NCAA Tournament: No. 4 seed; Second Round

    Villanova is a very tough team to predict. They rely so much on the 3 pointer that one day they can be a top 5 team, the next day they can't hit a basket.

    They lack depth and size up front and I see that being a problem for them heading into the Big East Tournament where I think they'll get knocked out early.

3. Connecticut Huskies

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    Current Record: 17-4 (5-4)

    Predicted Finish: 23-7 (11-7)

    NCAA Tournament: No. 3 seed; Elite Eight

    UCONN will shoot up the Big East rankings the next two weeks as they have games against Seton Hall, St. Johns, and Providence coming up.

    The one thing that I don't like about the Huskies is that I think they are too reliant on Kemba Walker. If a team shuts him down, who else are they going to go to?

2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Current Record: 17-4 (6-3)

    Predicted Finish: 23-7 (12-6)

    NCAA Tournament: No. 2 Seed; Sweet Sixteen

    Ben Hansbrough has turned into a star in the Big East. He, alongside Tim Abromaitis, provide the Irish with a good 1-2 punch.

    Looking at the rest of their schedule, Notre Dame has one of the easier schedules coming down the stretch. As long as they don't play into any trap games, they should be good for a 2 seed.

1. Pittsburgh Panthers

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    Current Record: 20-2 (8-1)

    Predicted Finish: 26-5 (14-4)

    NCAA Tournament: No. 1 Seed; Final Four

    If my predictions are right, 26-5 coming out of the Big East...that is pretty damn good. They deserve a No. 1 seed in my opinion.

    The Panthers are another very balanced team who has a lot of depth. Although I don't foresee them winning the Big East Tournament, they are bound to go far in the NCAAs.

    Pitt and UCONN are the only two legit National Championship contenders in my mind coming out of the Big East. So goes Kemba, goes UCONN.

    Pitt doesn't have that problem. They don't rely on only one guy. They have multiple players like Wanamaker, Gibbs, Brown and Robinson.

    That is why I see Pitt advancing the furthest. They have the best shot at getting to Houston and possibly to a National Title.