Big East Tournament: Predicting Tonight's Games and the Championship Game

Pat MarrujoContributor IMarch 11, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10:  Shabazz Napier #13 and Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters  at Madison Square Garden on March 10, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The Big East is without a doubt the deepest conference in college basketball. They currently have seven teams ranked in the top 25 and have 11 teams with 20 or more wins.

Every season the Big East tournament is one of the most exciting in the country, this year has been no different. Whether it was Kemba Walker’s buzzer-beater or South Florida’s upset of Villanova, the 2011 tournament has been truly electrifying.  

There are now only four teams remaining, but still plenty of heartbreak and excitement to come.

The following are my predictions on who will win the semi-final matchups and the Big East championship game.


Connecticut vs. Syracuse

The last time these two teams squared off in the Big East tournament was in 2009, when Syracuse won a six-overtime thriller. Tonight’s game looks to be as exciting and epic as that battle was in 2009.

Syracuse has one of the best coaches in college basketball, Jim Boeheim. The Orangemen are one of the most experienced teams in the country. They are led by two juniors, Kris Joseph and guard Scoop Jardine. They play great defense and like to get a lot of players involved in the offense.

UConn, on the other hand, runs through their star guard Kemba Walker. He is fast, exciting and one of the best pure scorers alive. The Huskies live and die with Walker.

Syracuse and Connecticut only played one time in the regular season, a 66-58 Syracuse win. Walker had arguably the worst performance of his career in that game, but I don’t see him letting him that happen again.

Prediction: Kemba Walker carries the Huskies late in a thrilling overtime victory.

Louisville vs. Notre Dame

Notre Dame is red hot and won in blowout fashion,  89-51, against Cincinnati to advance to the semi-finals. Likewise, Louisville rolled through Marquette last round to a 81-56 victory.

Notre Dame is led by an all-senior starting five. Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough is averaging a team high 18.7 points per game and is shooting just under 50 percent from the field.

Lately, the story of Louisville has been the play of their defense. In the past five games, they are only allowing a field goal percentage of 33.6.

In their only meeting of the season, the Fighting Irish won a 89-79 overtime thriller.

Prediction: This should be a very close game as well, but I like Notre Dame because of their experience. Last season, this team lost a heart-breaker to West Virginia in the semi-finals; they will learn from their mistakes and win this one.


Connecticut vs. Notre Dame

The Irish and Huskies have played twice this season, Notre Dame came out on top both times by three points.

In the first meeting, Kemba Walker was only 8-23 from the field and missed a three point shot at the end that would have tied the game. In the second meeting Walker was amazing, scoring 34 points and shooting 10 of 10 from the line.

Notre Dame has proven they can beat UConn regardless of how well Kemba Walker plays. He is an electrifying player, but Notre Dame has a complete team.

Prediction: A close victory for the Irish like the previous two meetings.