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BIG EAST CONFERENCE
Madison Square Garden
Record: 24-5, 14-4
The Hoyas want that No. 1 seed and the only way they're going to get it is by winning this tournament. A rematch with Pittsburgh could be in the cards in the semifinals. They played once this year and the Panthers won by 28 points.
Georgetown is coming off a demolishing of Syracuse and is feeling good. With Otto Porter Jr. dominating on all ends of the court combined with a suffocating defense, the Hoyas are not an easy team to prepare for on short rest. Even though they are the No. 1 seed, most people expect Louisville to win the tourney. The Hoyas don't agree.
Record: 26-5, 14-4
The Cardinals are rolling right now, to the dismay of much of the Big East. With seven straight wins, including a road win at Syracuse and a beat down of Notre Dame, Louisville is playing well at the right time. Their defense is starting to click which has been the main reason for the success.
Offensively, Russ Smith is what makes them go, but a good game from him isn't needed anymore for the Cards to score. Smith had a season-low five points in their win over Notre Dame. If the other four starters keep playing like this, it's going to take a lot to beat them. It wouldn't be a surprise to see them in the Final Four once again.
Record: 23-7, 14-4
Not many are giving the Golden Eagles much respect even though they finished in a three-way tie for the regular season Big East title. Marquette is currently on a four-game winning streak, taking out Syracuse and Notre Dame. They have zero losses at home on the year which shows how tough they are to crack.
They only played Georgetown and Louisville once each this year and lost to both on the road. It's going to be a whole lot different seeing either of these teams in a neutral site. Still, Marquette is being the forgotten team for a reason. They have a solid defense, but their offense is kind of hit-or-miss. After Vander Blue, their second-leading scoring is Davante Gardner who comes off the bench. It's going to be a huge task if they want to get past Louisville in the semis.
Record: 24-7, 12-6
Here's another team that no one is giving much thought to even though they finished fourth in the conference. While they don't play very exciting basketball, the Panthers get the job done. With wins over Georgetown, Syracuse and at Villanova, this is a team that needs to be taken seriously.
Pittsburgh will likely get a rematch with the Orange in the quarters and if they can get past them, will have another rematch with the Hoyas. Basically, to get to the Championship game, it's going to take a lot. It's not out of the question, but their offense will really need to pick it up. Tray Woodall is Pitt's only player averaging more than 10 points per game.
Record: 23-8, 11-7
It wasn't that long ago when the Orange were a Top 10 team. All of a sudden they have taken a nosedive and lost four of their last five games. In fact, the only teams they have beaten lately are the ones in the bottom of the standings. The good thing for Syracuse is that they don't have all that bad of a draw with Pittsburgh awaiting them in the quarterfinals.
This is a team that can play defense, but just runs into too many periods of nonexistent offense. Brandon Triche needs to step up his game for Syracuse to be a serious contender. He only had two points in their most recent loss at Georgetown.
Record: 23-8, 11-7
The odds that Notre Dame wins this tournament, are very slim. They have a couple nice wins on their résumé, but they have zero consistency. A couple of their conference losses include St. John's and Providence, and a home game against Connecticut.
Senior point guard, Scott Martin, is not coming back and this team lacks a person that can take games over. Jack Cooley is their best player, but it's not like he's going to dominate a game anytime soon.
Record: 19-12, 10-8
Nova cannot lose in their first game against St. John's, simple enough. If they do, they will probably be knocked off the bubble and out of the NCAA Tournament. This is a team that excelled at home (wins vs. Louisville, Georgetown), but struggled mightily on the road (Seton Hall). They can cause problems against Louisville, but it's still undetermined how the Wildcats will play on a neutral court.
Record: 21-10, 9-9
Somehow, the Bearcats still find themselves as a No. 10 seed in many bracket projections. This is a team that has lost six of their last nine games. They don't have a decent win since beating Marquette at home in overtime back in January. They get Providence in the first round and will be on the edge of the bubble if they can't win that game.
Record: 17-13, 9-9
The Friars need a couple of wins to make the Big Dance and that starts with Cincy in their first game. They already beat the Bearcats by four points a month ago at home. They have won seven of their last nine games which is almost the opposite of Cincinnati. The problem for them is that if they do win this game, they'll have to face Georgetown next.
Of course, this isn't the easiest tournament to predict with how deep it is. No one has an exactly easy route en route to the Championship, but with the way Louisville has been playing, not many teams will be able to beat them, this week, or even over the next couple of weeks.
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