Georgetown emerges as the favorite while Villanova and Cincinnati have work to do
March Madness is just getting started as the college basketball season shifts to the conference tournaments. Titles will be won, NCAA Tournament spots will be clinched or lost all over the country. Here’s what to watch in the Big East.
BIG EAST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
Starts: March 12
Final: March 16 in New York (ESPN)
No. 12 Seton Hall vs. No. 13 USF (Tuesday)
No. 11 Rutgers vs. No. 14 DePaul (Tuesday)
No. 8 Providence vs. No. 9 Providence (Wednesday)
No. 5 Syracuse vs. Seton Hall/USF (Wednesday)
No. 7 Villanova vs. No. 10 St. John’s (Wednesday)
No. 6 Notre Dame vs. Rutgers/DePaul (Wednesday)
Byes to the quarterfinals:
No. 1 Georgetown
No. 2 Louisville
No. 3 Marquette
No. 4 Pittsburgh
Full Bracket: (.pdf)
Other conference tournament previews:
THE FAVORITE: Georgetown
The Hoyas, led by unanimous All-Big East first teamer Otto Porter, won 13 of their final 14 games — capped off Saturday’s 61–39 win over rival Syracuse. Georgetown’s prowess on defense will make it hard to beat at Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas are also playing for a potential No. 1 seed if they can win their first Big East Tournament since 2007.
DARK HORSE: Villanova
Any team that can claim wins over Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette and Georgetown has to be considered a threat to win the Big East Tournament. A word of caution: Most of the Wildcats’ impressive wins this season have come at home.
ATHLON’S PICK: Louisville
The Cardinals have recovered from their puzzling late-January three-game slide. Louisville won 10 of its last 11 games, with the only setback coming at Notre Dame in five overtimes. Gorgui Dieng averaged 11.2 points and 10.8 rebounds in Big East play compared to 6.8 and 6.7 before his injury.
Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)
NCAA TOURNAMENT LOCKS:
Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
The Wildcats are awfully close to lock territory with the marquee wins this season. Losses to Columbia, Providence (twice) and Seton Hall earlier this season mean Villanova needs to avoid a loss to 10th-seeded St. John’s in the first round.
The Bearcats looked all but certain to be in the field to start February, but Cincinnati finished on a 3-6 slide. Cincinnati dodged a resume-killing loss to USF in the regular-season finale in overtime. Now the Bearcats have to prove they can defeat Providence. Through the Friars aren’t an at-large candidate, they have defeated Cincinnati already this season in addition to beating Notre Dame and Villanova.