The Big East Tournament gets underway on Tuesday. This year the Big East Tournament (BET) matches the construction of the conference. Oversized, a bit confusing and very clearly divided.
The Big East at this point has seven teams that are definitely going to the NCAA Tournament and one team that lies way out on the fringe of the bubble. This year, the BET is all about teams trying to improve or maintain their projected seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
For the first time, the BET includes all sixteen teams. The Big East, though, did not want the top teams to have to play too many games in a row before the NCAA Tournament or risk damaging their seed with the possibility of a really bad loss. To protect the top teams, the top four teams get a double-bye and do not play until Thursday. The next four teams seeded from No. 5 to 8 get a first day bye. That leaves teams No. 9 through 16 to face each other.
Those teams in the bottom half have no chance of going to the NCAA Tournament, and to win the BET they would have to win five games in five days. The odds are prohibitively stacked against that. So much so, that the opening day is not televised anywhere. There are free webcasts at the Big East site.
Tuesday: DePaul (16) vs. Cinci (9); St. John's (13) vs. Georgetown (12); Rutgers (15) vs. Notre Dame (10); USF (14) vs. Seton Hall (11).
Wednesday: 16/9 Winner vs. Providence (8); 13/12 Winner vs. Marquette (5); 15/10 Winner vs. West Virginia (7); 14/11 Winner vs. Syracuse (6)
You can view the bracket and times here (PDF).What Teams Want
Playing for No. 1 Seed: Pitt, UConn and Louisville
Trying to improve seed: Villanova, Syracuse, Marquette and West Virginia
Hoping to find a golden ticket: Providence
Next stop, NIT: Notre Dame, Georgetown, Cinci
Where is the CBI: Seton Hall, St. John's
Just stopping by to say hello: USF, Rutgers, DePaul
The bubble is an illusion for Providence. Every conference is supposed to have a bubble team. The Big East really does not. Nonetheless, for purposes of keeping punditry with standard storylines, Providence will be proffered as a Big East bubble team.
The Friars RPI is hovering around 70. With the exception of knocking off Pitt and Syracuse, they were the beneficiary of an unbalanced schedule that gave them six games against the bottom four of the Big East. That gave them the edge in finishing above .500 in the conference. They did beat Cinci twice, which only made the Big East bubble more barren.
Will the Big East get three No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament? That will be the most discussed issue in the BET. Pitt seems like a virtual lock for a No. 1 seed even if they go out and lose their first game. They have the No. 1 RPI, they are No. 2 in both polls. They have been a top-five team all season. UConn was considered another lock, but how do you deny the regular season Big East Champion in Louisville. It just does not seem possible that the NCAA Selection Committee would pick three No. 1 seeds from the same conference. UConn and Louisville do not meet unless both get to the championship game. If so, that could decide the issue.
How far will Marquette slide? The injury to Dominic James has been devastating. Before that, the Golden Eagles were looking like a No. 2 or 3 seed. A guard-heavy team that could go far in the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles played tough against UConn, Louisville and Pitt but still lost. That was not so bad, even encouraging. But then Marquette lost at home, on senior day to Syracuse. That was damaging. If Marquette does not win a couple games, they could see themselves as a No. 6 or 7 seed by Sunday night.
The Big East is a beast: It is the biggest and was supposed to be the toughest conference. With four teams in the top-ten or -thirteen and six teams ranked in the top-25, there is no doubt there is plenty of quality in the conference. The issue is that the bottom is so weak. DePaul went 0-18 in the Big East. Rutgers is a wreck. USF is very slowly improving. The shear size is the issue. Teams at the bottom have a hard time getting out from under the pile.
Day one: Cinci over DePaul; Georgetown over St. John's; Notre Dame over Rutgers; and USF surprises Seton Hall.
Day two: Providence over Cinci; Marquette over Georgetown; WVU over ND; and Syracuse beats USF.
Quarterfinals: Louisville over Providence; Villanova over Marquette; Pitt over WVU; and UConn over Syracuse.
Semifinals: Villanova upsets Louisville and UConn finally beats Pitt.