Marquette’s victory over Nova last night put pressure on the four teams ahead of them working for a bye in New York in two weeks. The Eagles can now finish 13-5 with wins in their last two games against Georgetown and at Syracuse. With the Hoyas looking more and more vulnerable, this is entirely possible with Marquette on a 5 game roll, winning handily in each. Let’s take a look at the leaders and their prospects for a bye.
Georgetown – The Hoyas are 12-3 and finish with St. John’s, at Marquette and Louisville. If the Hoyas were to lose to Marquette and Louisville they would end up 13-5 and lose a tiebreaker to both teams. Two wins would assure the Hoyas of a bye. Even though GTown is in a good position, they have to be careful of a letdown and must defeat either Marquette or Louisville to enter the BET with some momentum.
Louisville – The Cards are 12-3 and finish with home games against Notre Dame and Villanova along with a final game at Georgetown. Although the Cards should win both home games, ND is capable of an upset. If the Cards lose to ND and GTown they will end up with a record of 13-5 and lose tiebreakers to the Irish and UConn. Louisville has two wins over Marquette and a win over Georgetown. If the Cardinals win two of the last three they will secure a bye.
Notre Dame – The Irish are 11-3 and have three of the final four games on the road. Although they have been unbeatable at home, they have shown some vulnerability away. With splits against UConn and Marquette, the Irish lose tiebreaker vs. Georgetown and still have to travel to Louisville this Thursday. The game at DePaul is not a gimme, seeing that it is a rivalry game. ND should beat St. John’s at home and USF away. If the Irish split their remaining four games they will end up 13-5. A Marquette victory over Georgetown might force the Irish to play a Wednesday game.
UConn – The Huskies are 10-4 and suffered a crucial loss at Nova on Saturday. Remaining games are at Rutgers tonight, West Virginia Saturday and at Providence and home to Cincinnati next week. The Huskies must win 3 of the last 4 to put themselves in a good position at 13-5. UConn has trouble with Providence and West Virginia is still a mystery team. Two losses will probably push UConn to a Wednesday game. The Huskies lose a tiebreaker to Georgetown and win tiebreakers vs. Louisville and Marquette. The UConn-ND tiebreaker will be determined by the Irish game vs. Louisville this Thursday.
****UPDATE***** In checking all possibilities, if Marquette were to lose one of their final two league games, UConn and ND would have to win 2 of their remaining four games to receive a bye.
Complicated???? Not really…… Typical???? You bet….. WELCOME TO THE BIG EAST!
The bubble analogy is at best acceptable. I wouldn’t miss it when something else takes its place. If soap has to be involved, I’d rather picture cagers trying to climb a slope doused in soap than see them as either (1) a bubble itself, (2) sitting “on a bubble,” or (3) trying to keep a bubble from floating into something sharp. The slope evokes how difficult it can be to climb up and how easily one can fall back or out of it.
I’m nervous about the Big East.
Pittsburgh might have the right kind of profile to be snubbed. There’s nothing EVER wrong with beating Duke (Thank you again and again Mr. Maynor, too) – should Wake and Miami dance? – but that can’t be the only bullet point for Pitt to lean on. There’s other good wins, but they’re at home. The road/neutral record is reasonable at 5-6. I’d give them credit for “tough” losses at Marquette and Notre Dame if they’d kept those close. The real danger is if Pitt drops one of their remaining home games. I don’t particularly like their chances at Syracuse or WVU, so a flat performance against Cincinnati or DePaul could easily spell doom in the form of an 8-10 conference record and a 1-6 record to close the season. Even at 9-9, Pitt needs to show something in New York.
West Virginia should have an easier time of it – the stacked schedule is all but gone, leaving three games where they should be favored and a 4th in which close-game karma ought to swing back their way (against UConn). They should come out 11-7, with the superficially impressive 6-2 closing mark. I like their chances a lot better than Pitt’s.
Syracuse has lots of climbing to do (or, if you prefer bubbles, a Kentucky-borne breeze pushed their gossamer sphere awfully close to the dreaded thorn bush today). Their last chance to post a solid road win has come and gone. I think they can defend the dome against Pitt, but it’ll be close. Ditto for Seton Hall on the road and certainly Marquette. Even if they claw back to 9-9, the profile looks suspiciously similar to (and perhaps even worse given the disparity in conference records) last year – nothing good to speak of outside the Carrier Dome. One win against likely tournament teams. It’s just about necessary to run the table.
Villanova has exactly what it needs to have a chance – some momentum already building and a couple marquee matchups coming up. The Big East’s hottest teams are on deck and in the hole. Both Marquette and Louisville have been rolling for some time. Should Nova take one or especially both games, they look completely different. I like their chances to sneak up on one of the big boys in the next week. If they can carry that into a 10-8 finish, it’ll complete their own 6-2 finish to the season.
And that’s about it. I predict seven for the Big East – Syracuse will be left out this year (rightfully this time), West Virginia will cruise in and make me proud by upsetting somebody big, and Villanova will take Pitt’s place (they split a home-and-home this year in case you’re wondering). Cincinnati and Seton Hall, better luck next year.
Dan’l B noted that West Virginia is actually quite a good team who suffers from a low ranking because of losing a bunch of close games. UConn, up until today, had been winning a bunch of clos games. So it didn’t surprise me today that they lost in a close game against Villanova — one of these coin flips had to end up being tails. Here are the highlights, courtesy of ESPN:
Here are some quick thoughts I had. I’ll let Coach O affirm/negate my observations — perhaps he saw something different in person (if he ever made it to the game):
Scottie Reynolds is so absolutely dangerous when he gets his shoulders square. He has one of the best-looking shots in the Big East.
UConn typically plays a high post-low post game with Adrien in the high post and Thabeet in the low post. That makes sense superficially — Adrien is the power forward, is shorter, and has more basketball skills to make better decisions; Thabeet is 7’3” and is the center. But I think having Thabeet up top and Adrien down low is at least something to continue to try out. Thabeet surprised me with two great passes to Adrien down low, so perhaps his basketball skills aren’t that bad. Adrien is a better finisher than Thabeet and also can catch the ball in traffic. Here are two examples from the game:
Both nontrivial passes — in the first one, he leads Adrien a bit, and in the second, he throws a left-handed, wraparound bounce pass.
Villanova has the best jerseys in the Big East (although Marquette’s powder blue uniforms are pretty close). Syracuse and UConn have the worst jerseys.
I’m sitting here with a 10″ snowfall taking place and wondering if I can make the drive to Philly from Connecticut for the Nova-UConn game at noon tomorrow. New England winters really, really, really suck! Oh, well, I’ll give it a try at 5 am in the morning.
But…… I see things starting to shake out in the Big East….finally! Georgetown, Louisville and UConn seem set for three of the four byes in NYC in a few weeks. Notre Dame really moved in that direction with a great comeback win over Pitt last night. So only Marquette has a real good chance to bump ND and move into a bye spot. If ND beats SU on Sunday, it looks like a done deal for the Irish. USF, St. John’s, and Rutgers look like they will watch the tourney from their living rooms. Providence and Villanova will challenge Seton Hall for the final spot out of the BET. All the rest are in the process of positioning themselves for seeding spots.
I don’t think there’s another league in the US that can have this much uncertainty with only a few weeks left in the season. As far as the NCAA dance is concerned, Louisville (still my pick to win the BET), GTown, UConn, ND, Marquette, Pitt are in. WVU and SU are hoping a couple big wins or a run in New York will open the 7th and 8th spots. Cincinnati seems doomed by early season losses. Nova is an NIT team along with the Bearcats and possibly Syracuse. I see us getting 7 and hopefully 8.
This is the time of the year when college basketball shines the brightest. There’s no more NFL playoffs to take away headlines, the Spring Training games have not yet started, and the NBA race for the playoffs hasn’t really begun. Let’s face it, unless you’re into the NBA All-Star game or Daytona, February lacks major sporting events. So now is when college hoops finally begins to take center stage, as we drive towards March.
Saturday featured some great wins for two old classic Big East powers. First off, the Orange beat Georgetown in the Dome once again this year. This result didn’t surprise me at all, and likely didn’t surprise anyone. Seeing a Georgetown-Syracuse game in the Carrier Dome registers as on of the great sports environments I’ve ever been to, and while I wasn’t at this game, the crowd certainly seemed electric. As an impartial Big East fan, how can you not help but root for the Orange in this game. Although the Hoyas cut the lead to five late in the game, it never felt as if they were going to overtake the Orange. And in the end, this win may be the win that gets the Cuse into the NCAAs. Syracuse still has a killer remaining schedule, but momentum is important, and this was a big one.
Also, UConn impressed once again, and this time it came down in Tampa. USF has been pretty sad over their first few seasons in the league, but they’ve been impressive of late, and should be congratulated, because the Bulls played well. However, once again the Huskies did everything they needed to do to win, including a great game winner by Craig Austrie. There’s something about this UConn team right now. With a weak remaining schedule, and Georgetown’s loss, the Huskies look like they may be in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the Big East tournament. Check out the highlights below. Most of the country probably didn’t get a chance to see this game, but you’ll be impressed, both teams looked real good today, and this game produced some great, great highlights.