Big East Basketball Tournament 2011: Who Needs To Win To Make the Big Dance?
Championship week is now under way, as no-name teams attempt to make statements, the big boys hope to further underline their dominance and "down to the wire" games are anything but scarce.
Last year's Big East Tournament final had the West Virginia Mountaineers holding up the trophy, as they went down in school history as the first team to win the NCAA men's Big East Tournament.
The tournament is only one day in the books, and already there have been upsets.
Rutgers edged out Seton Hall and Jeremy Hazell in an overtime thriller, 76-70. On the other side of the bracket, the University of South Florida overcame a double-digit halftime deficit to come back and beat the struggling Villanova Wildcats, handing them their fifth consecutive loss.
Join B/R and myself in ranking the three teams that need the 2011 Big East tourney title the most.
No. 3: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
This Rutgers team may be just under .500, but it has plenty to prove in this year's NCAA tournament.
Despite their 5-13 record in conference play, they have a scorer in Jonathan Mitchell that has played especially well as of late. His 18.3 points per game in his last three is four points better than his season average.
In their win yesterday, Mitchell would chip in 25 points and score 11 points on foul shots in the game, helping seal the deal in overtime against Seton Hall.
The team comes to play against the top teams in the conference, losing to Syracuse by only four points in overtime and falling short against the Pittsburgh Panthers 65-62.
Without a conference title, Rutgers will more than likely be a team on the outside looking in, as a long run for them is essential in making the field of 65.
Rutgers will take on the St. John's Red Storm, who are arguably the hottest team in the conference. The Storm are winners of seven of their last eight and beat Villanova, Pittsburgh and the University of Connecticut in the process.
No. 2: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
A potential No. 1 seed in the field of 68, the No. 4-ranked team in the nation, a 25-5 record overall and winning 11 of their last 12 games isn't good enough?
Based on the predictions of different sports analysts, it's fair to say that Notre Dame and Duke are two of the teams battling it out for the final No. 1 seed in the tournament. A No. 1 seed would allow for more favorable matchups in the field of 68, while also more than likely giving a team the chance to potentially play closer to home.
If Ben Hansbrough and company want to lock up the No. 1 seed, a couple of wins in the tournament or even winning the title would seal the deal for the Irish.
Notre Dame will take on the winner of the USF Bulls vs. the Cincinnati Bearcats, putting the Irish in a favorable position to likely find themselves in the semifinals against a Rick Pitino-led Louisville team or the WVU Mountaineers.
No. 1: University of South Florida
The bottom line: The USF Bulls have 10 wins the entire season and have a poor record in conference play, finishing 3-15 in the Big East.
Yes, it's true.
However, after last night's game, it wouldn't be right to count out the 15th-seeded Bulls.
After trailing 49-33 at half and by 17 at one point in the second half, the Bulls would come back and take the Wildcats by storm, making a statement across the field.
Dead last in the bracket, the Bulls have plenty to prove, as they have already turned heads across the nation.
Led by Shaun Noriega and Augustus Gilchrist, the Bulls could make some noise in the tournament. If they don't win it all, there is not the slightest chance the 10-win Bulls will be selected to the field of 68.
The Bulls take on Cincinnati in their next contest, a team the Bulls lost to by eight on the road earlier in the season.