By Jon Harris
Syracuse cruised past Big East competition during the regular season, posting a 15-3 conference record. Will the Conference Tournament also go in the Orange’s favor?
The Big East: the best basketball conference in the country. The Big East Tournament: the best conference basketball tournament in the country. This year’s installment of the Big East Tournament will be sure to excite and interest a lot of people. You have Syracuse looking to become the tournament and regular season conference champions. Then, there are teams like Connecticut, South Florida and Marquette that are trying to crawl their way into the NCAA Tournament. And it’s all live from Madison Square Garden in New York City. Let the madness begin.
1st Round: Tuesday, March 9
#9 South Florida v. #16 DePaul — Tuesday, March 9 @ 12 pm
Coming off a big win versus Connecticut this past week, there is no chance South Florida loses this game. They know if they lose, it is impossible for them to get in the NCAA Tournament. Guard Dominique Jones averages over 21 points per game and will lead the Bulls past DePaul with a double-digit win.
Prediction: South Florida: 72 DePaul: 55
#12 Connecticut v. #13 St. John’s — Tuesday, March 9 @ 2 pm
Let’s get something straight. Connecticut can beat any team in the country on any given night. They took then No. 1 Texas out, nearly beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, and cruised past Villanova. On the other end of the spectrum, St. John’s has seen better days. Connecticut wins big and guard Jerome Dyson puts up 20 points.
Prediction: Connecticut: 78 St. John’s: 61
#10 Seton Hall v. #15 Providence — Tuesday, March 9 @ 7 pm
This is quick and painless. Seton Hall just beat Providence 92-80 on Saturday and I see no reason to change the outcome of Tuesday’s matchup. Plus, Jeremy Hazell is a stud and averages over 21 points per game.
Prediction: Seton Hall: 85 Providence: 75
#11 Cincinnati v. #14 Rutgers — Tuesday, March 9 @ 9 pm
I don’t know what happened to the Bearcats against Georgetown this past Saturday, but they got hammered 74-47. Rutgers, however, is still the worse team in this matchup. Super-freshman Lance Stephenson will take over the game and Cincinnati will make it into the second round.
Prediction: Cincinnati: 74 Rutgers: 59
2nd Round: Wednesday, March 10
#8 Georgetown v. #9 South Florida
It’s true, last time around the Bulls did beat the Hoyas by the count of 72-64. But that’s old news. The Bulls were on a three-game winning streak when they beat Georgetown the first time. Austin Freeman, Greg Monroe and Chris Wright score over 47 combined points per game and will prove too much for South Florida.
Prediction: Georgetown: 68 South Florida: 65
#5 Marquette v. #12 Connecticut
I’m sorry Marquette. You came out of the Big East regular season with an 11-7 record and a #5 seed, thinking you would draw an easy second-round opponent and coast into the quarterfinals. Wrong. Lucky for you, the Huskies decided they wanted to underachieve all season long despite their wide-talent base. So, you get the Huskies in the second round and you will lose. Like I said, it’s just bad luck.
Prediction: Marquette: 71 Connecticut: 79
#7 Notre Dame v. #10 Seton Hall
The Fighting Irish are still without a healthy Luke Harangody. He played a limited role in Notre Dame’s win over Marquette Saturday, only accounting for five points in 11 minutes of play. He will not be 100 percent for this game, but Jeremy Hazell and the Seton Hall Pirates will be. It’s OK Notre Dame, you may be exiting the Big East Tournament early, but you will still get in the Big Dance. This will be the second win of the season for the Pirates against the Irish, as they won on Feb. 11th 90-87.
Prediction: Notre Dame: 75 Seton Hall: 81
#6 Louisville v. #11 Cincinnati
Coming off the big win against Syracuse, the Cardinals have already clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament. They can still boost their resume, however, with a win over Cincinnati and a place in the Big East Quarterfinals. They’ll do just this, as the Bearcats won’t have an answer for Samardo Samuels down low. They and the rest of the nation will also be paying attention to see if Kyle Kuric continues his run (if you consider a run the equivalent of one game) from zero to hero.
Prediction: Louisville: 70 Cincinnati: 62