College Basketball: 2012 Big East Tournament Predictions and Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/5/2012
Well, I suppose this is it for the Big East.
Because of the cesspool that is college football, the Big East, as we have known it for nearly three decades, will be no more. West Virginia’s departure for the Big 12 next season is already confirmed. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are both defecting to the ACC, but their departure date is undetermined. That means that this may be the final chance for that trio to claim a conference title on one of the biggest stages in college basketball.
At least one of those three teams has played in the Big East Tournament Championship Game in 10 of the last 11 years. Between them they boast five of the past nine titles and they have provided college basketball bettors and fans with plenty of classic moments at Madison Square Garden over the last decade.
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What will they do for their potential curtain call?
The Big East Tournament is a 16-team free-for-all and this year the stakes are even higher for the teams playing in the opening rounds. Teams like Connecticut, West Virginia, Seton Hall and South Florida are battling for the final slots in the NCAA Tournament field. And tourney staples like Pittsburgh and Villanova know that this week is an all-or-nothing opportunity to get back to the Big Dance.
As a result, this week’s action should be fierce. And handicapping the Big East Tournament is going to be a moment-by-moment exercise. And just like last year, when Connecticut came out of nowhere to win five games in five stunning nights on their way to eventual Big East and National Championships, I think we could be in for another surprising week.
The Big East Conference Tournament begins Tuesday, March 6, and is being held at the Madison Square Garden in New York City. Here is Doc’s Sports 2012 Big East Tournament predictions:
The Favorite: Syracuse (+150)
I have consistently held the position that Syracuse is the best team in the country. I have seen nothing over the last two months to dispute that. The Orange have the most talent, 1-10, of any team in the nation and their depth should be a huge advantage in a monster tournament like the Big East. Madison Square Garden has been their home away from Dome for years and the Orange always bring their ‘A’ game to the Garden. I was at their game against St. John’s earlier this year and, well, I know St. John’s stinks but Syracuse put on a show and the crowd was going bonkers. They can be beaten. But it will take a mammoth effort and some ridiculous shooting to bust this 2-3 zone.
The Contenders: Marquette (+250)
Even at this point in the season I still feel like Marquette is somewhat underrated. They are playing for a No. 2 or a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and this is a dangerous team. I have said it before and I will scream it again: Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom are one of the best 1-2 punches in the country. This entire team is a max-effort squad and they have had success at MSG in recent years. Marquette has lost just twice (13-2 straight up) since Jan. 8 and they are on a sweet 11-4 ATS rush. This team has been underrated but they have a chance to make a statement this week.
The Hoyas dropped from third place to fifth place – resulting in an extra game in order to win this title – over the last week of the year. They are a solid 10-4 SU in their last 14 games but they will likely have to play through Pitt and Cincinnati just to get to the semifinals. That’s a tall order. They are one of the top defensive teams in the country and guard Jason Clark is their go-to guy. This is a young team. And I have questions how they are going to perform on a neutral court. They really benefitted from a fortuitous league schedule and executed against sloppier teams. But I don’t know that they have enough offensive options to hold up over four days.
The Sleeper: Louisville (+800)
I always have a difficult time handicapping this team. But Rick Pitino is a mastermind and this team has the toughness that comes from overcoming all manner of injury and distraction this year. Louisville enters the tournament on an 8-2 SU and 7-3 ATS rush and they have size, athleticism and experience. The Cardinals don’t shoot well, ranked just No. 262 from three-point land and No. 215 from the free throw line. I think those two areas will be exploited at some point. But this is definitely a dangerous team and one to keep an eye on.
The Spoiler: Cincinnati (+1200)
This has been a wild, weird season for the Bearcats. From their bizarre brawl with Xavier back in December to a cup of tea in the Top 25, this team has been all over the map. But they have one of the more experienced rosters in the Big East and their upperclassmen could be poised for a rush here. Cincinnati has been a bust in past Big East Tournaments. And it isn’t as if they have been playing great basketball heading into NYC. But if you’re looking for a team that could get hot and make a run this is one that could do it.
No. 9 Connecticut vs. No. 16 DePaul (Noon, Tuesday, March 6)
I’m sure the defending National Champions will feel like playing in this game is beneath them this year. But in a way they may get to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume here by getting an easy ‘W’ against a barely competitive opponent. Connecticut beat the Blue Demons, 80-54, in the first meeting and they should be motivated for a repeat performance. The Huskies won five games in five nights last year to cut down the nets and parlayed that into a national title run. I wouldn’t expect a repeat. But it will be interesting to see if the Huskies will come to play on an early tip against a team playing with house money.
No. 12 St. John’s vs. No. 13 Pittsburgh (2:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 6)
It has been a brutal year for the Panthers, who lost eight straight games earlier this season and are now in a 1-6 SU slide. They hammered St. John’s by 20 at home on Feb. 29 and are a more talented, experienced team. But the youth the Panthers do have is an anchor around this team’s neck. But for senior Ashton Gibbs this is his last shot and the shooter could get hot for a few days and lead this team on a run. The Johnnies will have the benefit of the home turf here. But five of their top seven players are freshmen and I don’t think they have the stones to knock off the Panthers here.
No. 10 Seton Hall vs. No. 15 Providence (7 p.m., Tuesday, March 6)
The Pirates have positioned themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble. But they are limping to the finish, losing nine of 13 games. That includes crippling losses to Rutgers and DePaul in their last two games. It is tough to guess where this team’s head is at. Seniors Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope won’t go down without a fight. Neither will Providence, which embraced the spoiler role in their win over Connecticut. The Friars are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 and they have played some tough teams in tight games. This one should be the best game of the day.
No. 11 Rutgers vs. No. 14 Villanova (9:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 6)
These two teams linked up for a battle just last week, with the Wildcats winning on the road by six in a game that they dominated for the majority. Villanova shot 10-for-18 from deep and they were up 16 at the half, but they let the Scarlet Knights back in the game with the same sloppy play that has plagued them this year. Villanova is a different team now that guard Maalik Wayns is back from injury. But this team has been a mess all year. Rutgers is just 3-9 in its last 12 games and doesn’t have much to work with. But they will always play physical and will get some licks in before Nova puts them down.
2012 Big East Conference Tournament Predictions:
I really don’t see how Syracuse won’t win this tournament. Not only are they head-and-shoulders better than the rest of this shaky conference but there is a big emotional component here. Syracuse has had a lot of thrilling moments at The Garden in the Big East Tournament and this could be their last chance to cut down the nets there as a member of this conference. I’m sure that the early rounds will have a bevy of “upsets” and surprises because there really isn’t much that separates the No. 4 team from the No. 10 or No. 12 teams in this conference. I’m could see someone like Pittsburgh making a little run. But the top-tier – Syracuse, Marquette and Georgetown – will take advantage of their extra byes and we should see some quality ball in the semifinals and championship game. But this one goes to the Orange.
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