As the regular season’s slate of games draws to a close, and the mercifully short month of February wraps up bringing March ever closer; it’s time to look at how many Big East teams will likely have their chance to dance. Despite the fact (and yes, it is a fact) that the Big Ten is leaps and bounds better than any other conference in college basketball, there is a chance that the Big East will actually field more teams into the tournament.
Presently, I would say that there are four teams in the Big East who are locks for the tournament: Syracuse, Louisville, Georgetown, and Marquette. However, it’s possible that the next four teams in the standings will also receive a ticket to the big dance (excluding the ineligible UConn): Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Villanova, and Cincinnati.
Among those teams, Notre Dame is in the best position having just beaten Pitt on the road in a gutsy come from behind victory.
While it may not be as impressive as the 11-team convoy that the Big East entered the 2011 tournament with, eight teams isn’t a bad showing, and may end up being more berths than any other conference boasts. It would be a nice accolade for the Big East to hold in what looks to be the last season before the conference, rich with rivalries and history, scatters into new conferences to start anew.
What would be even more impressive? If the Big East teams can actually survive the tumultuous first and second rounds of the tournament and prove to a national audience that their entrance to the tournament was wholly justified—thus shedding the label of the “Big Least.” At the moment, I can only picture three teams in the Big East capable of making a deep run in the tournament (Elite Eight or farther).
Louisville- The Cards undoubtedly have the hardware to build a national championship, but point guard Peyton Siva must execute for L’ville to return to the final four as they did last year.
Georgetown- There’s a reason I had the Hoyas at the top of my latest Power Rankings. Coach John Thompson III has this team playing controlled basketball. Their pace and style of offense looks suitable to compete with the elites of the Big Ten.
Pittsburgh- While they suffered quite a slip with their inexcusable home loss to Notre Dame, the Panthers are strong inside and out. Senior Trey Woodall is a deft guard and junior Talib Zanna throws his 230-pound frame around the paint with tenacity. Their mini-two-game tailspin is certainly cause for concern, but if head coach Jamie Dixon can fix their problems, the Panthers are apt to succeed come bracket-time.
March Madness is the only event that can make February seem like the longest month of all. What Big East team do you think can go the farthest?