Big East tournament preview: Seven teams have legitimate shot at final title in this classic

Kyle Ringo
The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

The Dagger will be previewing this week's eight marquee conference tournaments. Here's our look at the Big East tournament:

Big East Tournament
Dates: March 12-16
Site: New York (Madison Square Garden)
Top four seeds: 1. Georgetown 2. Louisville 3. Marquette 4. Pittsburgh
Draw: Click here

Best draw: Georgetown. Let's face it, no one gets off easy in this conference, but the Hoyas appear to be the most likely to get to the championship. They handled both potential quarterfinal opponents Cincinnati or Providence. A potential stumbling block is a possible semifinal matchup with Pitt, the team that handed Georgetown its worst defeat of the season in early January. The other option in a semifinal is Syracuse, a rival the Hoyas swept in the regular season.

Worst draw: Marquette. The Golden Eagles beat all their potential quarterfinal opponents in the regular season but the two most likely matchups – Notre Dame and Rutgers – gave them a fight to the end. A likely semifinal game against Louisville would provide Marquette a chance to redeem itself from a 19-point loss to the Cardinals in January.

Three players to watch:
• Otto Porter, F, Georgetown — The only unanimous selection to the all-conference team selected by the coaches. He was second in the league in scoring (18.1) and fifth in rebounds (7.3) per game.
• Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville — The conference's defensive player of the year who averaged 10.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and nearly three blocked shots.
• C.J. Fair, F, Syracuse— The leading scorer and rebounder and most consistent player for the fifth-seeded Orange.

Bubble implications: Villanova and Cincinnati appear to be firmly in the NCAA tournament but a bad loss for either here in their first game could change that and put them back on the bubble. Cincinnati has the most to lose. It has lost six of its final 10 regular season games and has only two wins over top-25 programs this season. Villanova has beaten three top-five teams. The Bearcats need to beat Providence and give top-seeded Georgetown a fight.

Projected champ: The top six teams could realistically get hot here and win it all. Heck, make it seven. We'd be crazy to rule out Villanova considering who it has beaten. Georgetown and Louisville have been the most consistent performers over the past month. That isn't always the most reliable indicator of how a team will perform in the postseason, but it's much easier to see one of those teams winning the title than some of the others. Considering Syracuse lost four of its final five games, it would be a surprise to see the Orange turn things around and win here. Pitt is one of the best shooting teams in the nation and could certainly get hot and steal this from the top two seeds, but I'm taking Louisville to repeat because three of its four conference losses came by a total of seven points. It has been the best team the majority of the season.

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