UPDATED 11 March 2013, 11:21 p.m. ET
We’ve seen signs of the dissolving Big East as we know it, celebrated its triumphs, and eulogized its ending for much of the 2012-13 season. This week in New York City, though, it will come to a conclusion with the last conference tournament for the Big East as it was. With such parity in this field, there is also the chance that it could be one of the best tournaments, prone to upsets and full of dramatics that we’ve become accustomed to in this conference for over 30 years. Check out a preview below:
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Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.
When: March 12-16
Final: March 16, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
After losing to South Florida on Jan. 19, Georgetown has won 12 of its last 13 games and is one of the more dangerous teams in the conference. The Hoyas lost second-leading scorer Greg Whittington earlier in the season, but have not missed a beat. That is mostly because of the increased production of likely conference player of the year Otto Porter, as well as guards Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The biggest possible stumbling block for the Hoyas will be offensively, making sure they are able to keep the offense flowing and avoid big slumps like they fell victim to early in the season.
And if they lose? Louisville
Three straight losses early in the Big East season had critics writing Louisville off. Since late January, though, the Cardinals have won ten of their last 11 games, with the only loss coming in a five-overtime thriller on the road to Notre Dame. Guard Russ Smith has scored in double figures in all but one of those games, but the key will be how well his backcourt mate Peyton Siva plays. Last season, Siva’s emergence in the postseason is what helped Louisville to the Final Four. Can he do it again?
Coach Buzz Williams and his Marquette team quietly crept into the Top 25 this season and up to the top of the Big East to grab a share of the conference title. The Golden Eagles have adapted to personnel changes year-to-year and Vander Blue is proving that he can be a No. 1 scoring option for this team. Marquette does not rebound or score the ball at a particularly high rate, but they play solid defense and shoot efficiently from the field.
- Jack Cooley, Notre Dame
Cooley has been a double-double machine for the Irish this season and the anchor in the middle of the lane that complements the strong backcourt of Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. The more involved Cooley is, the better off the Irish will be in New York.
- Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Carter-Williams has been the biggest breakout star in the conference this season and is the facilitator that makes Syracuse go. Unfortunately, the Orange are in a skid and have lost four of their last five games. Granted, four of those fives games have been against ranked teams, but that is what a schedule in March can be, especially in a single-elimination tournament.
- Bryce Cotton, Providence
The Big East’s scoring leader is part of a sneaky Providence teams that many higher seeds likely don’t want to face. Along with Vincent Council in the Friar backcourt, coach Ed Cooley and Providence could surprise some teams at MSG.
CBT Prediction: Villanova beats St. John’s in its Wednesday matchup with St. John’s, then upsets Louisville in the quarterfinal. By then, the Wildcats will have fully solidified their spot in the NCAA tournament.