In this, the last season of the Big East as we have known it, the last Big East tournament is of course a must see. Though some consider this a down year for the league, it will still likely have 8 representatives in the NCAA Tournament, a few of which have legitimate Final Four aspirations.
Let’s take a brief look at what to expect from the ballyhooed final true Big East Tournament
There are two favorites in this year’s tourney, Louisville and Georgetown. These two finished the regular season tied at the top, along with an up-start Marquette squad. They faced each other only once this season, with Georgetown winning a two-point game in DC. Louisville would love the chance for a rematch on a neutral floor.
Louisville has won 10 of 11 games since that loss to the Hoyas in January and has an extremely balanced team led by their backcourt tandem of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith.
Georgetown has rattled of 12 victories in their last 13 games and seemed to gel when their rotation was shortened by the suspension of key contributor Greg Whittington. Since then, Player of the Year candidate Otto Porter has taken on more of a leadership role and been a force at both ends of the court. Porter is a tremendous all-around player and is the type who can dominate a game by scoring 30 points or just 10.
The league championship should come down to these two teams and given Rick Pitino’s track record in this tournament, it would be unwise to bet against him and the Cardinals.
Best of the Rest
As stated earlier, Marquette did finish tied for the league lead as well. You can be sure that coach Buzz Williams will have his team ready to go and it will be no surprise if the Golden Eagles wind up crashing the Madison Square Garden party.
Syracuse has struggled of late, losing five of their last 8 games and taking a rivalry-ending beat down from Georgetown in their last appearance. But, you can bet that Jim Boeheim will do all he can to get his team to perform at their highest possible level in his last Big East Tournament go-round. The Cuse has the horses to compete with any team in the country, so expect a spirited effort to yield results.
Pittsburgh has been under the radar all season and are definitely capable of making serious noise. Remember, this will be the Panthers’ last Big East tournament as well. Jamie Dixon has had great success in the Garden throughout his career, so expect Pitt to come into this tournament focused and confident.
Jay Wright has gotten his Villanova squad to overachieve this season. The team that was predicted to finish 13th in the league comes into this tournament as the 7th seed. Moreover, the Cats beat the likes of Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette and Georgetown, so they have what it takes to make a run.
Guess what? Notre Dame is leaving the Big East after this year as well. So add them to the list of teams with “this is our last Big East Tournament” motivation. The Fighting Irish have been solid all year and proved that they can grind out tough victories over the best of teams, as they showed in their 5 Overtime win versus Louisville in February.
The Big East Tournament will once again be a can’t miss priority for this Championship week. Expect nothing different in this “last” Big East clash at Madison Square Garden. You’ll get the same gritty, intense, nail-biting basketball you have become accustomed to under the bright lights of the big city.