The Big End
From #1 Georgetown all the way down to #14 DePaul, every team in the 2013 Big East Tournament senses the increased importance of one of College Basketball’s greatest five-day stretches. For one final time, storied rivalries will be played out at Madison Square Garden starting Tuesday night. No longer will we see overtime thrillers between Syracuse and Connecticut, or Buzz Williams yelling in the face of an official as Pittsburgh gives him the business. The Big East will transform next season, as seven Catholic schools leave behind old rivals to revitalize their conference with the potential additions of Butler, Xavier, and Creighton.
Former UConn Huskie and current Washington Wizards Center Emeka Okafor reflected on the changes before Friday’s game against the Nets, saying, “It’s sad that it’s going. It started to change a little when I left…to be honest, I couldn’t name the teams in the Big East now, much less who’ll be in it in a couple of years.” Okafor had fond memories of the Big East Tourney as well, from beer-slinging in the crowd by fans who had no stock in the game to the “intense” nature of each contest. The week is truly one of a kind, seemingly bringing together the entire east coast for an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament and the seeding considerations that go with a victory.
For this reason, the week ahead will bring out the best in each team, which is why it’s become increasingly hard to pick. The conference crowned three teams, Louisville, Georgetown, and Marquette, as Regular Season Champions after a 14-4 showing. The favorite appears to be fourth-ranked Louisville, the 2012 tournament champs, but Georgetown (fifth in the country) is in a close second. Others poised for a tournament run are Marquette, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse. Undeniably, one of the aforementioned five schools will send chips and salsa flying at the television screen after a bad loss, and I’m going to give my best guess as to which they’ll be.
You can view my bracket below and fire away in the comments section. I feel that Villanova is the team of destiny this year because not only are they 4-2 against AP Top 25 schools, but they’re coming off of a big win against Georgetown. Louisville is a stronger team, but the Wildcats have a leg up on them against Top 25 opponents (Lousville is 4-3), and they also took care of Peyton Siva and company back on January 22nd.
There may not be a team playing for more than Villanova is right now. After losing relevancy with the departure of Scottie Reynolds, Jay Wright’s squad wants to at least contend in this year’s NCAA Tournament. As of now, they’re projected to make the field of 68 as an 11 seed.
While their opponent in the next round of my bracket seems like a toss-up (both ND and Marquette are playing well), I think a momentous win over the Cardinals will propel Nova Nation to the final.
In the end, though, Otto Porter Jr. of Georgetown is far and away the best player in this tournament, and star power like that makes a big difference in March basketball. While the Hoyas hoist the one seed, they’re two wins behind Louisville in their overall record. For that reason, I don’t feel as bad for picking the top seed.
Regardless of what jersey you will be wearing and what players you will be heckling, take some time to appreciate the upcoming five days of hoops, because its quality and importance may not be matched again this side of the Mississippi. Just take it as an added bonus if your school wins. The tournament surely won’t disappoint, with eight teams expected to go to the big dance. The only question now is, are you ready?
Kenny's Big East Picks