Big East Basketball Tournament 2011 Game-by-Game Schedule and Predictions

Brandon CroceAnalyst IMarch 9, 2011

Big East Basketball Tournament 2011 Game-by-Game Schedule and Predictions

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    We are now into day two of the Big East Tournament taking place at Madison Square Garden. The Big East is arguably the toughest conference tournament in college basketball, considering they have nine teams currently in the AP Top 25.

    Yesterday was an interesting day of basketball, as UConn and Marquette cruised to victory, Rutgers snuck by Seton Hall and South Florida pulled off the first upset by beating Villanova. Here is a look at how I see the rest of the Big East Tournament going this week.

Second Round, Part 1

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    UConn vs. Georgetown, March 9th, Noon

    Two Big East powerhouses will get things started for day two as UConn and Georgetown meet. These two teams met only once in the season, with UConn getting the win at home 78-70 back in February.

    It will be interesting to see how Georgetown plays as they have lost three straight heading into the tournament. They also will be without starting point guard Chris Wright, who most likely will not be back until the NCAA tournament.

    Prediction: UConn will win their second against Georgetown, as the loss of Chris Wright will be too much for the Hoyas to overcome.

    St. John's vs. Rutgers, March 9th, 2 PM

    The second game of the day will feature the hometown favorite and 18th ranked St. John's taking on Rutgers. These two teams also only met once this season, with St. John's just barely getting by with a 58-56 win back in the beginning of February.

    St. John's is playing some pretty good basketball right now, finishing the year 7-1 which includes wins over ranked opponents UConn, Pittsburgh and Villanova.

    Prediction: St. John's should get their first win in the tournament as they continue to play really good basketball. Rutgers just doesn't have the talent to keep up.

Second Round, Part 2

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    South Florida vs. Cincinnati, March 9th, 7PM

    South Florida came up with the big upset so far in this tournament, beating Villanova yesterday, and they will look to continue the magic against 25th ranked Cincinnati. These two teams met back on January 12 with Cincinnati walking away with a 74-66 win.

    Cincinnati has been playing pretty well as of late, going 3-1 against ranked opponents since the middle of February.

    Prediction: It was nice to see South Florida get a win in the tournament, but I don't think that magic will continue against the Bearcats. South Florida is ranked 309th in the NCAA in points scored per game and Cincinnati should put this game away early.

    West Virginia vs. Marquette, March 9th, 9PM

    In the final game of the day, the Mountaineers of West Virginia will take on the Golden Eagles of Marquette. Marquette had a strong opening game, running away from Providence with a 87-66 win.

    These two teams met up once early in the season on New Year's Day when the Golden Eagles came away with a 79-74 win. However, West Virginia is entering the tournament hot, winning their last three games with two of those wins coming against UConn and Louisville.

    Prediction: I think the duo of Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom, who are both averaging about 16 points a game, will be able to carry Marquette into the quarterfinals.

Quarterfinals, Part 1

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    Pittsburgh vs. UConn, March 10th Noon

    Pittsburgh has played well this season and secured the top seed of the Big East Tournament. This allowed them to get two byes and should be well rested for the UConn Huskies. These two teams played once; with Pittsburgh getting a 15 point win over UConn all the way back at the end of December.

    One of the key matchups to watch in this game will be Kemba Walker vs. Aston Gibbs.

    Prediction: UConn is still a young team and will be dangerous in the future, but they will not be able to get by Gibbs, the inside presence of Gary McGhee and the rest of the Panthers in this game. Go with Pittsburgh.

    Syracuse vs. St. John's, March 10th 2PM

    Syracuse had a rough stretch from the middle of January through the middle of February, where they only won two of eight after starting the season 18-0. However, it looks like they have righted the ship, winning their last five games and finishing the season with a 107-59 win over DePaul. This allowed them to secure the fourth spot in the tournament and secure the two byes.

    Prediction: Rick Jackson and the 2-3 zone of Syracuse should be too much for St. John's to overcome. If they want a chance, they will need to shoot better than their season average of 33 percent from the three point line.

Quarterfinals, Part 2

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    Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati, March 10th 7PM

    In the first game of the evening session, the two seed, Notre Dame, will take on the Cincinnati Bearcats. These two teams met on January 19th with Notre Dame getting the win 66-58, and Notre Dame may be playing even better now than back then.

    Ben Hansbrough who is averaging 18.5 points and 4.2 assists per game is arguably playing the best basketball in the Big East right now.

    Prediction: This should be a great game and will most likely come down to the wire. If this does happen you have to go with the guy who is playing the best right now, and that is Hansbrough so I see the Fighting Irish advancing to the semifinals.

    Louisville vs. Marquette, March 10th 9PM

    Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals were able to secure the three seed and will take on Marquette in the night cap of day three. Louisville is one of the top scoring team in the NCAA, averaging about 75 points per game. These two teams met once this season with Louisville just getting by with a 71-70 win.

    Prediction: This should be an interesting game and will be close. However, Coach Pitino will have his Cardinals team ready to go and should put his team in a position to get the win over the Golden Eagles.

Semi-Finals

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    Pittsburgh vs. Syracuse, March 11th, 7PM

    Pittsburgh handed Syracuse their first loss of the season and started the Orange's losing streak. The game was defined by runs. Pittsburgh opened the game by scoring 19 straight points, Syracuse responded by scoring 17 straight and at one point the game was tied at 41. However, the Orange could not overcome playing without starting forward Kris Joseph and lost the game 74-66.

    Prediction: This should be a great game, and one key matchup will be the battle down low between the Orange's Rick Jackson and Pittsburgh's Gary McGhee. However, the difference will be that Kris Joseph will be back for this game and the Orange should revenge their first loss of the season.

    Notre Dame vs. Louisville, March 11th, 9PM

    This game should be a high scoring affair, as the two schools are in the Top 40 for points scored per game. These two teams met once before where they needed an extra period to decide the winner, with Notre Dame pulling out the 89-79 win in OT.

    This game will feature a great matchup between guards Preston Knowles and Ben Hansbrough.

    Prediction: This will be an interesting matchup between two evenly matched teams. The last time they met the game needed bonus basketball, and this one may come down the wire as well. However, I think the Cardinals have just a little bit more talent and a better coach, and that will get Louisville to the Championship game.

Championship Game

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    Syracuse vs. Louisville, March 12th, 9PM

    The high powered offense of Louisville vs. the 2-3 zone of Syracuse will be the deciding factor in this game.

    Last time they met the Cardinals offense got the better of them, winning 73-69 in Louisville. The Orange were down to the Cardinals by 20 points with about 15 minutes remaining, and fought back to get with three points. However, Louisville hung tough and made some key free throws down the stretch to hold on for the win.

    Prediction: The Louisville Cardinals shot 48 percent from the three point line in that game and will need to come close to that again if they want to have a chance to win. If the Cardinals do struggle to hit their shot, this will fuel the Orange's fast break game and the Cardinals will not be able to keep up.

    With that said, the team that I believe will be standing tall on Saturday night in MSG is the Orange, because it is tough to expect them to shoot almost 50 percent from the three point line and the Syracuse defense should keep the Cardinals out of the paint.