2013 Big East Tournament Predictions: Louisville the Favorite

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IMarch 12, 2013

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 09:  Luke Hancock #11 and Peyton Siva #3 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrate and hold the Big East Conference Regular Sean Championship trophy after beating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at KFC YUM! Center on March 9, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In principle, the Big East Tournament will take place next season in its familiar backdrop of basketball’s mecca, Madison Square Garden. Yet, much like Van Halen after the exile of David Lee Roth, though the conference sobriquet endures, the spirit and veracity that powered the league’s soul is gone.

In fairness, just as Van Halen still sold its share of records with Sammy Hagar at the helm, the Big East arsenal is far from dry, flaunting a hardwood-rich core from the league’s current seven Catholic schools and boosted with the additions of perennial March Madness participants Butler and Xavier. Alas, though the league retains relevance in the kingdom of college hoops, it no longer bears claim to its throne. The "Beast" is dead. Long live the "Beast."

However, we do not come to mourn the dead; rather, we cherish this last hurrah of one of sport’s greatest spectacles. Utilizing the award-winning WhatIfSports.com college basketball simulation engine, we were able to project who would claim the last crown of the vaunted competition. We simulated each tournament game 501 times and generated each team's chances of winning (Win %) and average score. Here are the results:

Big East Opening Round
Matchup Win % Avg. Score
13) South Florida Bulls 38.7 57.7
vs. 12) Seton Hall 61.3 60.3
14) DePaul Demon Deacons 41.1 62.8
vs. 11) Rutgers Scarlet Knights 58.9 65.5

With West Virginia’s departure to greener pastures and Connecticut banned from postseason play, the opening round is trimmed to just two contests. Given the slim pickings at the bottom of the Big East barrel, this is not necessarily remorseful, as the four play-in teams own a collective 13-59 conference record.

Seton Hall certainly fits this appalling billing. Despite an auspicious 12-2 start, the Pirates enter tournament play as losers of 15 of their last 17 ballgames. Luckily for head coach Kevin Willard, one of those victories came against the Bulls of South Florida, a feat the Pirates had no problem replicating in the tournament’s opening match, sending USF home with a 60-58 win.

Also packing their bags are the Demon Deacons, as Rutgers avenged a regular-season loss to DePaul by squeaking out a 66-63 nail biter. The loss marks the 16th defeat in DePaul’s last 17 games.

Big East Second Round
Matchup Win % Avg. Score
9) Cincinnati Bearcats 67.9 68.9
vs. 8) Providence Friars 32.1 64.3
12) Seton Hall Pirates 11.2 58.5
vs. 5) Syracuse Orange 88.8 69.7
10) St. John's Red Storm 29.5 57.9
vs. 7) Villanova Wildcats 70.5 63.5
11) Rutgers Scarlet Knights 25.1 60.8
vs. 6) Notre Dame Fighting Irish 74.9 66.6

Villanova has been a fickle bunch to forecast this winter. At times, the Wildcats exhibit the capacity of a top-10 team, illustrated by wins over Georgetown, Syracuse, Louisville and Marquette. Such a resume seems fitting for the field of 68, but stumbles to Columbia, Seton Hall and Providence (twice) have muddled that outlook. JayVaughn Pinkston and company take care of business in their initial tournament test, knocking off the Johnnies to advance to the quarterfinals.

Also improving their at-large odds were the Bearcats, as Cincinnati’s 69-64 win ended the tournament aspirations of the Friars. And already projected in by bracketologists, Syracuse and Notre Dame cemented their cases with triumphs in Wednesday action at the Garden.

Big East Quarterfinals
Matchup Win % Avg. Score
9) Cincinnati Bearcats 50.3 62.1
vs. 1) Georgetown Hoyas 49.7 61.1
5) Syracuse Orange 59.7 67.6
vs. 4) Pittsburgh Panthers 40.3 65.3
7) Villanova Wildcats 13.2 61.5
vs. 2) Louisville Cardinals 86.8 72.6
6) Notre Dame Fighting Irish 55.7 68.4
vs. 3) Marquette Golden Eagles 44.3 67.5

The curse of the double-bye strikes again, as three of the top seeds are vanquished in the quarterfinals. The Georgetown Hoyas are the most notable Goliath to be slain, as the Big East regular-season champs meet their demise at the hands of Mick Cronin’s Bearcats. The Big Apple excursions of Marquette and Pittsburgh are also ended abruptly by the Fighting Irish and Orange, not particularly surprising given the topsy-turvy landscape of college hoops this campaign.

The only big dog to survive is Louisville, as the Cardinals brush off Villanova on the way to the semifinals. With a deep roster and Rick Pitino at the wheel, the Cards suddenly look like tournament favorites.

Big East Semifinals
Matchup Win % Avg. Score
9) Cincinnati Bearcats 22.8 61.9
vs. 5) Syracuse Orange 77.2 68.4
2) Louisville Cardinals 73.7 70.4
vs. 6) Notre Dame Fighting Irish 26.3 64.3

Though the steadfast resistance of Cincinnati is second to none, the Bearcats’ upset bid unravels against Syracuse, as the duo of C.J. Fair and Michael Carter-Williams proves too dexterous to contain. Despite losing four of its last five regular-season games, Syracuse finds itself in the conference championship game.

Joining the Orange will be the Cardinals, who dispatched the pesky Fighting Irish with a 70-64 win. Amazingly, these teams settled their differences in regulation rather than extra periods, an anomaly in the recent rivalry between the future ACC members.

Big East Championship Game
Matchup Win % Avg. Score
5) Syracuse Orange 39.7 65.4
vs. 2) Louisville Cardinals 60.3 68.5

If there was any doubt on the validity of the Cardinals as a No. 1 seed, that reservation has been put to rest with Louisville’s 69-65 win over Syracuse. The achievement marks consecutive titles for the ‘Ville, as well as the third tournament title in the Pitino Era.

WhatIfSports.com utilizes its NCAA basketball simulation engine to present conference tournament previews and predictions for the Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12. We simulate each matchup 501 times to learn each team's win percentage and average score. Simulations are based on updated rosters and the statistical makeup of each team during the 2012-13 season.


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