Big East Tournament: Answers to Some Pressing Questions

Kelly CohenCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2011

Big East Tournament: Answers to Some Pressing Questions

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    The Big East has some of the country's best players and best teams.  Seven of them are ranked in the top 25, including four in the top 15.

    Many Big East players are being considered for the Player of the Year.

    The tournament has already started in New York City and will definitely be one to watch as some teams look to stay inside the bubble for March Madness while others look for a decent seed. 

    Statistics are always fun to look at, as are records and performances.  But sometimes, fans of college basketball have questions they want to know the answers to.

    Here are seven pressing questions and answers regarding the Big East Tournament.

Can West Virginia Defend Their Title?

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    Their 2010 title came with some help from an upsets by Notre Dame over Pittsburgh and Georgetown over Syracuse and Marquette.  The third-seeded Mountaineers beat the eighth-seeded Hoyas 60-58 with some last-second heroics.  Did anyone mention Da'Sean Butler?

    Now, West Virginia is seeded sixth, and is looking at playing a tough 11th-seeded Marquette team or a hopeful 14th-seeded Providence. 

    They beat Providence by 30 and lost to Marquette by five in each only season meeting with both teams.  They have the ability to get past either of these teams, but Casey Mitchell and John Flowers will have to be playing at their best level.  Marquette, however, will be looking to avoid a tournament snub.  Their high motivation may give them the upper-hand in this game.  

    If West Virginia wins though, they then would most likely meet Louisville in the quarterfinals. They lost to them by one in January, but avenged the loss by winning by two a few days ago.  In the first game, it was one by a trick-shot layup.  In the latest game in which the largest lead by either team was eight, it was decided by a last-second foul.

    While it seems as though the outcome of this game is fairly unpredictable, Louisville has the better players and will not let another close one result.  

    Unfortunately, West Virginia will not get far enough to repeat their 2010 title.

Will Notre Dame Finally Shine?

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    Although the Fighting Irish has never appeared in the conference finals game, this could possibly be their year. 

    They have had strong regular season showings against some of their best competition, including wins over Georgetown, Connecticut (twice), Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Villanova.  They are every effective scorers and rebounders, and their depth coupled with senior leadership gives them a great edge. 

    Their first game against Villanova does have upset potential.  They will have to be amazing from behind the arc again to prevent the Wildcats from avenging their late-season loss.  Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis will be able to lead the team offensively to the next round. 

    They will potentially play Louisville in the semifinals, who they beat in overtime in the beginning of February. 

    Riding momentum, Notre Dame has a very good shot at making it to the championship game and fulfilling many expectations.

Can Anyone Stop Kemba Walker?

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    The Big East’s second best scorer with an average 23.1 PPG has become a star and house-hold name this season.

    At only 6’1’’, he brings the whole team with him as he improves. His uncanny ability to run the floor coupled with his scoring abilities have been on display all year.

    However, the Huskies are 2-4 in their final six games of the season, with concerning losses to unranked Marquette and West Virginia.

    With the ninth seed in the tournament, UConn, who just beat DePaul in the first round, now faces Georgetown in the second round. 

    They beat the Hoyas last time they met, who are on a skid since losing Chris Wright.  In this game, Walker had 31 points, seven rebounds, two steals and one block.  

    Once beating Georgetown, Connecticut will most likely face top-seeded Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals, who they lost to in December.  Although in this game Walker had 31 points, four rebounds, two assists and five steals, it did not prove to be enough to carry the team.

    One has to look at the the wear-and-tear Walker has underneath his belt. Leading an entire team the whole season and putting in strong games in the first rounds of the tournament will turn detrimental.

    Despite being one of the country's best players, UConn will probably lose to a close game to Pittsburgh. 

    Although Connecticut is notorious for surprising performances, their end-of-season faltering will come back to haunt them.  No fear, because Walker will be back to help the Huskies go far in the tournament.

Will St. John's Continue to Surprise Us?

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    Although many believe that the fifth-seeded and 18th ranked Red Storm have already peaked, they still have a chance to prove to be a legitimate contender this postseason. 

    They are 6-4 against ranked opponents, including huge wins over Duke and Pittsburgh, who were ranked third and fourth in the country at the time.  Yet, they have also had very disappointing losses against Seton Hall, UCLA and Cincinnati.   

    Dwight Hardy, who has emerged as not only one of the top players in the Big East, but in the country as well, will need to continue to play at the level he has been playing at in order for his team to go far.

    In the second round, they face a rematch against Seton Hall, who is seeded 12th.  In the 84-70 loss, Hardy led the team with 23 points, but only two others players scored double-digits.  The team also shot just 40% from two-point range, while Seton hall shot 64.3%. 

    They will however be able to get past them and into the third round to probably face Syracuse.  They lost to the Orange in mid-January, 76-59, and will probably struggle again to them.  They will most likely be able to pull out a close and exciting victory, but will unfortunately lose to Pittsburgh in the semifinals. 

    They are a great and talented team however, and much of the country is rooting for another sweet success story.  They will ride this momentum and go far in the tournament.

Can Marshon Brooks Carry Providence?

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    Simply put, Providence is not good enough to be a contender in the Big East Tournament. 

    Despite leading the conference in average points per game (24.8), Brooks can only do so much. 

    With a 4-14 conference record and an overall record of 15-16, there is a very little chance they will be able to get past a very motivated and driven Marquette team.  Even if they do, they will probably have to face West Virginia in the second round, who they lost by 30 points to in January.

    Although he scored 43 against beasts Georgetown and 52 against Notre Dame, his performance wasn't enough to get his team a win. 

    Providence most likely won’t make it to the tournament, but Brooks will not end his career unnoticed, much to the excitement of those watching.

How Will Ben Hansbrough be Remembered?

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    This fifth year senior, who transferred from Mississippi State as a sophomore, was the only player unanimously named to the All-Big East team.  While averaging 18.5 PPG and shooting 45.1% from behind the arc, he has become a leader and force for the Fighting Irish. 

    His role will be key in his team making it to the championship game, as his second half play is what has caused his team to get important wins.

    He can be viewed as a "silent but deadly" force in the Big East, but many only recognize the name Hansbrough because of his relation to Tyler Hansbrough, former star. 

    Regardless, the ACC and Big East are two very different conferences and they are two different players.  There will always be comparisons of two star brothers, but Ben Hansbrough has already stepped out of any “shadow” he may have been in. 

    Having a successful conference tournament and leading Notre Dame far in the big tournament will also be paramount in determining his legacy.

Will Pittsburgh Fulfill Its No. 1 Seed Expectation?

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    The Panthers will do so by winning the Big East Championship game against either Louisville or Notre Dame. 

    Gary McGhee, Brad Wanamaker, and Ashton Gibbs are three of the conference’s best athletes.  They are extremely versatile and thrilling to watch.  Their success comes by being able to able to play off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses extremely well. 

    A conference victory will also secure them an overall number one seed in the tournament, something coveted by any elite basketball team.

    Defensively and offensively, this team has it all.  That, paired with their good schedule as the tournament's seed, will give them their first tournament championship since the 2007-08 season.