Chasing Syracuse: Big East Tournament preview
When & Where: Tuesday, March 6 to Saturday, March 10 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
No. 1 Syracuse Orange (double bye)
No. 2 Marquette Golden Eagles (double bye)
No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (double bye)
No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats (double bye)
No. 5 Georgetown Hoyas (bye)
No. 6 South Florida Bulls (bye)
No. 7 Louisville Cardinals (bye)
No. 8 West Virginia Mountaineers (bye)
No. 9 Connecticut Huskies
No. 10. Seton Hall Pirates
No. 11 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
No. 12 St. John's Red Storm
No. 13. Pittsburgh Panthers
No. 14 Villanova Wildcats
No. 15 Providence Friars
No. 16. DePaul Blue Demons
Favorite: Syracuse Orange
Potential Cinderella: West Virginia Mountaineers
What's at stake?
The better question is what isn't at stake. At least four teams' tournament lives are predicated on a good performance at MSG. Right now Connecticut, South Florida, West Virginia and Seton Hall are all sitting precariously on the bubble.
What do they each need to do to get in? Well, the defending-champion Huskies are the No. 9 seed in the Big East--just like last season when they ran the table in the Big East Tournament and then kept on winning right through the NCAA Tournament. Despite being the defending NCAA champions and having the No. 1 strength of schedule in the nation, UConn is not a shoe in at this point. To breathe easy on Selection Sunday Jim Calhoun's squad needs to beat DePaul in the opening round. That might be enough, but a second round win over bubble companion West Virginia would put UConn in a far better position. For the Mountaineers, that game against the Huskies is also vital. Bob Huggins' squad might slip in without a victory, but I don't think he wants to take that chance.
Seton Hall might be able to get in by simply downing Providence in the first round, but like UConn and West Virginia, winning that second-round game could be what puts them over the hump. With a win over Providence the Pirates would be taking on Louisville, and given that they don't have a top-50 RPI win all season--Seton Hall might want to win that one.
South Florida should be in good shape if they can win their first game against the winner of Villanova and Rutgers, however if the bubble turns out to be smaller than expected thanks to upsets around the country, the Bulls might need a second victory in the Big East Tournament, which would come in the quarterfinals against Notre Dame.
The tournament is also significant for a few other teams. Cincinnati has a double bye, but you can argue that they too are still on the bubble, and if they want to ensure themselves a spot in the field of 68, they should win their quarterfinal matchup.
For Syracuse, the top overall seed in the country is still attainable. In fact, if the Orange wins the Big East Tournament they will be neck-in-neck with the Kentucky Wildcats for that distinction.
Here is a preview of the Big 12 Tournament.
Here is a preview of the Pac-12 Tournament.
Here is a preview of the SEC Tournament.
Here is a preview of the ACC Tournament.