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Matt Norlander

Bubble Breakdown: Big East

The Dagger

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Selection Sunday is less than three weeks away, so we're taking a conference-by-conference look at the bubble picture this week. Now we're on to the Big East, the conference everybody seems to forget about.

Tourney-bound: Syracuse (25-2), Villanova (22-4), West Virginia (21-6), Pittsburgh (21-6), Georgetown (18-7).

They've got work to do: Louisville, Marquette, Connecticut, Cincinnati

Louisville (18-9, 9-5, RPI: 30)

• Marquee win: @ Syracuse

• Bad losses: Charlotte; Western Carolina (both home)

• Remaining schedule: Georgetown; @ UConn; @ Marquette; Syracuse

• Outlook: The Big East can give and take like no other conference in the country. Look at the remaining slate for Rick Pitino's team. My goodness, they could be so far out of it by that Syracuse game. Regardless of what happens against Georgetown, the game in Hartford Sunday afternoon is going to be a doozy. If the Cardinals win against UConn there, it would probably mean the Cards would have to lose to Marquette, Syracuse and their first game in the Big East tourney to be denied - and even then it may not happen.

Marquette (17-9, 8-6, RPI: 59)

• Marquee wins: Georgetown; Xavier

• Bad losses: North Carolina State; @ DePaul

• Remaining schedule: @ St. John's; @ Seton Hall; Louisville; Notre Dame

• Outlook: No one gets it easier than the Golden Eagles, who deserve a break after losing so many close games this season. Marquette's problem will be the RPI, which is, thankfully, slowly becoming less and less important. (But not completely irrelevant.) Going 3-1 in its final four games would mean an 11-win Big East season. Cha-ching.

Connecticut (17-11, 7-8, RPI: 41)

• Marquee wins: Texas; @ Villanova; West Virginia

• Bad losses: Cincinnati (twice); @ Providence; @ Michigan

• Remaining schedule: Louisville; @ Notre Dame; @ South Florida

• Outlook: No team will offer more flavors this season than the Huskies. If the selection committee drafted teams based on good wins alone, UConn would be a 5-seed. But that's not what happens. A really good win helps you just as much as a really bad loss hurts you - at least until the end of the season, I say. No matter what the committee tells you, winning over West Virginia with a week until March resonates a hell of a lot better than if UConn did it the week before Christmas. Beat Louisville, avoid a first-round collapse in the Big East tournament and Jim Calhoun will be back in the tournament.

Cincinnati (15-11, 6-8, RPI: 56)

• Marquee wins: Vanderbilt; Maryland; UConn (twice)

• Bad losses: @ St. John's; @ South Florida

• Remaining schedule: DePaul; @ West Virginia; Villanova; @ Georgetown

• Outlook: The reason Cincinnati gets a mention here is because the Bearcats get their chances. Can you imagine if they pulled off the unthinkable and ran the table? They'd be 10-8 in the Big East, have an RPI that'd be guaranteed to be in the 20s and have a better resume than, probably, anyone in the conference - in terms of who they'd have beaten. So the possibility exists. Right now, I don't think Cinci is even in the first eight teams out, let alone four. But the schedule is kind, if you want to look at it that way. And the reason I don't have Notre Dame listed below: its non-con resume isn't nearly as strong as Cincinnati's, and the Irish's losses are much worse than Cinci's.

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