Monday, February 20, 2012

I Wanna Dance with Somebody...from the Big East

With Selection Sunday just 20 days away...yes, 20 days...we wanted to explore who'd be dancing from the Big East Conference. You might be saying, anyone can look at the standings and figure who the best teams in the conference are. That may be true. But can anyone predict who will make the Tournament while also comparing the teams to, and in turn honoring, the late, great Whitney Houston? Challenge accepted.

1. Syracuse - "Greatest Love of All" or "I Will Always Love You" - No brainer here. The only school that I've ever truly loved, and will love forever. Syracuse has been in control of the conference since Day 1. They look to be in the drivers seat for a #1 seed in the Big Dance as well (most likely in the East), which would mean opening round games in Pittsburgh, and Sweet 16/Elite 8 games in Baaaahston. Even at 27-1, the Orange have their flaws. If they don't fix the rebounding woes that have hurt them all season, there could be an upset before New Orleans.
Bold Prediction: The Final Four is on Bourbon Street, and Jimmy B has been there in '87 and '03. Why not just invite him and the Orange back for '12, as well.

2. Marquette - "It's Not Right, But It's Okay (Thunderpuss Remix)" - The Golden Eagles beat Syracuse during the regular season last year, and then knocked them out in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. If I had to root for another Big East school this year, it'd be Marquette (It's not right, but it's okay). I don't know about you, but Marquette scares the crap out of me. They are a tough as nails team, have a crazy coach (in a good way, not in a Frank Martin/Mike Rice way), have a couple of guys that are seniors and have been there before (Crowder and Johnson-Odom), and there have been at least three or four games this year in which they've been down by at least 15 points, and have come back to win the game.
Bold Prediction: They not only make a run to Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in the final "real" Big East Tournament, and continue the streak with a Elite 8 run in the Tourney. Don't be surprised if you see in NOLA as well.

3. Georgetown - "Run to You" - As in, run the Princeton offense. Hoyas have been solid all year long. Nice mix of young and old, as well as inside and outside. Jason Clark can go for 25 time any time he steps on the court, Hollis Thompson is an experienced swingman, while Henry Sims and Nate Lubick provide skill and experience in the paint. However, the Hoyas also depend a group of freshman who have gotten big minutes all year. Can a team with a lot of freshmen go far in the tournament? It's happened before, and G'town would like to rebound from last year's 1st round exit.
Bold Prediction: The Hoyas will be one of the last Big East teams standing in the NCAAs, along with Marquette and Cuse. Look for Georgetown to be playing for a shot to go to the Elite 8, come late March.

3a. Notre Dame - "Saving All My Love for You" - This references all the love Notre Dame is getting from around the country. "Mike Brey does it again....Coach of the Year in the Big East....they lost their best player before the season started....they're they only team to beat Syracuse..." To be honest, most of it is all warranted. Notre Dame has come out of nowhere, running their "burn" offense when they want to control the tempo of games, like they did against Syracuse. Since losing to UConn and Rutgers in mid-January, Notre Dame has won 8 in a row and are now ranked in the top 20.
Bold Prediction: The Irish might be pulling a Rick Pitino, and may be peaking too early. They got trampled out of the NCAA tournament last year during opening weekend. A great story this year, but don't expect the Irish to be around after St. Patty's Day weekend.

5. Louisville - "Heartbreak Hotel" - Unfortunately Fortunately Whitney didn't have a song titled "Italian Restaurant Bathroom," or else we'd have the perfect match for Pitino and the Cardinals. We'll go with the Heartbreak Hotel instead. Syracuse was able to beat the Cardinals at the Yum last Monday, after Louisville basically owned the Orange in their last 7 meetings. Coming off that loss, Cards needed OT to win at DePaul. Big game at Cincy on Thursday. L'ville needs to get some confidence back.
Bold Predication: Louisville is obviously in, and most likely a 3-5 seed. This sets them up perfectly for 13-4/12-5 upset, and "Pitino Doesn't Last Long" jokes lighting up Twitter.

6. West Virginia - "One Moment in Time" - The Mountaineers are taking their final breathes of Big East basketball. Whether or not they'll be spending late March in the NCAA Tournament or the NIT still remains to be seen. WVU has a Huggy-sized huge game against Notre Dame on Wednesday. A win in South Bend would go a loooong way for selection committee members. If WVU wins the games they are supposed to (ND not included) down the stretch, and can get a pair of Ws in NYC in their final Big East Tournament, they should be dancing.
Bold Predication: Their final moment in time in the Big East includes a trip to the NCAA Tournament, but a loss in the Round of 32. Kevin Jones can't do it all.

7. South Florida - "How Will I Know" - The Bulls are a tough team to predict. They are 10-4 in conference (good for a tie for 4th overall), with a trip to the Carrier Dome on Wednesday looming. After Cuse, they have Cincy at home, Louisville at the Yum, and host WVU in the season finale. If they go 2-2 over the final four regular season games, and win at least one in NYC, Bulls will be running into the NCAA Tournament.
Bold Predication: USF isn't quite ready to take the next step yet. They go 1-3 to finish the year, and get bounced early in the Big East tournament, punching a ticket to the NIT. With that said, can you keep an 11-7 team in the Big East out of the Big Dance? Redact prediction, Bulls are in if they win 3 more games before Selection Sunday.

8. Cincinnati - "So Emotional" - It's been quite the rollercoaster of emotions for Cincy this year. The Bearcats have a couple of black eyes on their resume that won't do them any favors on Selection Sunday (Presbyterian and Marshall). Throw in the black eyes they gave to Xavier players, it's been an up and down season for the 'Nati. The Bearcats sit basically in the same position as USF. I'd say they are in right now, but losing to the Bulls or Villanova in the final weeks of the season could be the knockout punch for Cincy.
Bold Predication: If the Bearcats can defend their home court and beat Louisville on Thursday night, they are in. If they lose, they still have a chance, but that's a resume building win and they need it at this point in the season.

9. Seton Hall - "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" - Did you know that Seton Hall lost 6 games in a row during the month of January and early February. Even with that stretch of games, most "experts" have said the Pirates are in, despite being 7-8 in the league right now. The Hall hosts Georgetown and Rutgers before closing out the year at DePaul. To say the Pirates still have some work to do, would be putting it lightly.
Bold Predication: The Hall loses 2 of their final 3, and answer the question, Where Do Broken Hearts Go....the NIT.

10. UConn - "I Have Nothing" - If you looked at UConn's Tournament resume, changed the name at the top to Storrs College, there is no way they'd be a tournament team. But they are UConn, the defending National Champs, so they get the benefit of a perennial tournament team. Similar to Villanova last year, who had no business making the tournament (and lost in their first game), UConn could get some benefit of the doubt votes. Throw in the fact UConn won't be in the tournament next year (NCAA violations), could this year be Calhoun's last opportunity to coach in a NCAA tourney game?
Bold Predication: It's been a rough year for the defending champs. Suspensions due to NCAA violations for a player as well as Calhoun. They've basically quit in a number of games, where it really showed that they had nothing. Shabazz Napier kept hopes alive with his ONIONS on Monday night at Villanova. Don't think that will be enough though. No NCAA Tournament for the Huskies, and loyal reader Ramy has to console his little brother, Jeremy Lamb (that's if he didn't trade in this Jeremy for Jeremy Lin).

Final count: Big East definitely gets 7, possibly 8. Only get 9 if someone has a Gerry McNamara/Da'Sean Butler/Kemba-esque run in NYC. Give me 4 of those teams in the Sweet 16, 2 in the Elite 8 and 1 in the New Orleans.

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