2013 Big East Tournament Picks and College Basketball Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/11/2013
The dissection and desecration of the Big East has been one of the underlying themes of this college basketball season. The best, most competitive, most successful conference of the last quarter-century will cease to exist a month from now. But, before the league is blown up, it will have one final battle royal in the Mecca of basketball.
The Big East Conference Tournament begins Tuesday, March 12, and is being held at the Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Big East Championship Game will take place at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night. Here is Doc’s Sports Big East Tournament picks preview with college basketball odds to win for each team:
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The Favorite: Louisville (+175)
The Cardinals are the defending champions after cutting down the nets in MSG last year. A three-game losing streak back in January took them off the national radar, but since then their only loss in 11 games was a five-overtime thriller in South Bend. The Cardinals can lock down defensively, they can press tired opponents off the court, and they have both the experience and the talent to match up with anyone. This is the most well-rounded team in the conference, and they have the best path to the title game. If this team has a weakness, it is clearly its unsteady three-point shooting. But if they are knocking down shots then this team will rack up another banner.
The Contenders: Georgetown (+200)
The Hoyas might be the hottest team in the country right now. They have won 12 of 13 games and are coming off a convincing demolition of Syracuse. The Hoyas are one of the best defensive teams in the nation while also displaying icy efficiency on the offensive end. Otto Porter is one of the best players in the land, and he gives the team a clear go-to scorer. However, despite Georgetown’s incredible two-month run, I do think they have weaknesses. This team is one of the youngest and least experienced in the field. They also rely almost exclusively on a six-man rotation. They need to win three games in three nights, and I’m just not sure they will have enough left in the tank on Saturday to secure this title.
The Dark Horse: Syracuse (+385)
The Orange have the most talent in the conference and one of the most talented rosters in the nation. However, this team has been getting horrendous guard play and looks like it has zero heart or chemistry right now. Syracuse has been a menace in Madison Square Garden, the Orange’s home away from Dome. And this is their last shot at a Big East Championship, so you know they will be motivated. But Syracuse has lost four of its last five games – albeit all to teams currently in the Top 15 – and they have negative momentum heading into New York. This group will be the biggest X-Factor in the tournament.
Notre Dame (+800) - The Irish are another team capable of coming off the pace to cut down the nets in New York. The Irish are one of the few top teams in the Big East that doesn’t have scoring issues, as they average 71 points per game. Guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant can play with anyone. So the only question remaining for the Irish is if they are tough enough to trade blows a team like Marquette, which beat Notre Dame just last week.
Marquette (+650) – The Golden Eagles just won a thriller on this court in their overtime win over St. John’s over the weekend. This is another typical tough, physical, grind-it-out Big East group. But, if Marquette is going to win three games in three nights, they will need to be able to knock down at least something from the perimeter. This team is ranked No. 318 in the country in three-point shooting.
Pittsburgh (+800) – This will be the final go-round for both Pittsburgh and talented senior point guard Tray Woodall. Pitt is another dark horse team with the talent and pedigree to win this title. Freshman center Steve Adams leads a powerful frontcourt that will have no problem holding up against the physical play in the Big East. Jamie Dixon has a track record of success in New York and would love to steal one last title before bolting to the ACC.
No. 12 Seton Hall vs. No. 13 South Florida (7 p.m., Tuesday, March 6)
Syracuse awaits the winner of this matchup. South Florida was a surprise NCAA Tournament participant last year, but the wheels fell off this season once league play started. The Bulls have dumped 14 of their last 17 games and were noncompetitive in most of their Big East performances this year. They try to grind opponents down with a quirky, slow-play style. But they weren’t able to take down the Pirates in the first matchup in Jersey this year. The Pirates have lost 14 of 16 games and have struggled through an injury-riddled conference season. But slippery wing Fuquan Edwin is one of the league’s top scorers, and Aaron Cosby is a smooth point guard. Seton Hall is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings. But I actually think this game is a better matchup for the Bulls.
No. 11 Rutgers vs. No. 14 DePaul (9:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 6)
The winner will advance to face Notre Dame. Rutgers is a physical, hard-nosed team that tries to pound the paint on both ends of the court. But they have lost 11 of 13 games, and the only team they have beaten since mid-January is Seton Hall. Rutgers has been trying to play without leading scorer Eli Carter (broken leg) for the last seven games, and the results have been predictably ugly. DePaul actually beat the Scarlet Knights in the only meeting this season and also beat the Scarlet Knights when they played last year. But DePaul has won just one Big East tournament game since joining the conference in 2006. The Blue Demons are 0-6 SU and ATS in their last six games and haven’t stayed within 10 of any of their last six opponents.
No. 8 Providence vs. No. 9 Cincinnati (Noon, Wednesday, March 6)
The winner of this one will face Georgetown Thursday afternoon. These are two teams going in opposite directions. Cincinnati was a Top 25 team at one point this year. But losing six of nine games has put them squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Providence lost nine of 11 games from late December to January. But they have rallied to win seven of nine thanks to the stellar backcourt play of Bryce Cotton and Vincent Council. That duo will duel with Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick, and the backcourt that plays better will advance. Cincy was the runner-up in last year’s tournament and has more size and experience. But Providence has beaten them already and has been hot.
No. 10 St. John’s vs. No. 7 Villanova (7 p.m., Wednesday, March 6)
Louisville will take on the winner of this quarterfinal matchup. The Wildcats are another team that could use one more win to lock up their NCAA Tournament resume. This team has been an enigma all season. They have beaten Louisville, Syracuse and Georgetown. But they have also lost to Columbia and Seton Hall. The Wildcats are tough. And their young roster won’t be scared of a team that they have already beaten once this year. St. John’s has a smidge of home court advantage here. But they will be without leading scorer DeAngelo Harrison, who has been suspended for the rest of the season. The Red Storm are also young, and they are extremely athletic. But Harrison was by far St. Johns’ top offensive player, and I am not sure they can generate enough offense to advance.
2013 Big East Tournament Picks: Of all of the conference tournaments this week, the Big East is the toughest to predict. There are six teams that could legitimately cut down the nets, and I wouldn’t be surprised if none of the top four seeds were still around on Saturday. As much as I would love for Syracuse to leave the conference on top, I don’t think they are playing well enough right now to get the job done. Georgetown doesn’t have the depth and neither Marquette nor Pittsburgh has enough scoring. I think that Louisville will earn the crown. They are still flying a bit under the radar as the No. 2 seed. But I think they have a very favorable path to the championship, likely having to beat the Notre Dame-Marquette winner. I think the Cardinals are going to take the title here and position themselves for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this weekend. No team has won back-to-back titles since Syracuse accomplished the feat in 2005 and 2006. But I think this Cards team has enough balance to accomplish it this year.
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