‘Cats will attempt to rebound at MSG






The big dance may still be a week away, but the grand march has already begun. After two days of play in the Big East championship, a few things have become clear about the 16 teams that are not only battling for the title in one of the toughest and most competitive conferences in college basketball, but are also looking to strengthen their résumés with Selection Sunday looming.

Several teams have been eliminated altogether, while others have their tickets to the NCAA tournament all but punched. More exciting, however, are the teams still floating on the bubble, hoping for a chance to challenge one of the Big East’s top contenders and pick up the victory they need to grab a spot in next week’s field of 65. And then, of course, there’s the conference title itself — a prize that will give the winning team a huge boost of confidence heading into March Madness.


Tuesday’s first round action saw four teams exit the Big East tournament and lose any hope of gaining a bid on Sunday: No. 12 Connecticut, No. 14 Rutgers, No. 15 Providence, and No. 16 DePaul. The story here, of course, is Connecticut, who was annihilated by No. 13 St. John’s and will watch the NCAA tournament from home just one year after making it to the Final Four.

On Wednesday, No. 8 Georgetown discarded No. 9 South Florida, making it unlikely for the Bulls to reach the tournament. St. John’s then saw its tournament hopes come to an end as well, losing a hard-fought battle to No. 5 Marquette. The Golden Eagles just about ensured themselves a tournament bid with the victory, and will play No. 4 Villanova in the quarterfinals today at 2 p.m. for the second year in a row.

The Contenders

We will be treated to an extraordinary quarterfinal matchup at noon between Georgetown and No. 1 Syracuse, the winner of which will play either Marquette or Villanova in the semifinals tomorrow. The other two teams besides Syracuse and Villanova that gained double-byes and were put straight through to the quarterfinals were No. 2 Pittsburgh and No. 3 West Virginia, who will play No. 7 Notre Dame; No. 10 Seton Hall and No. 6 Louisville;No. 11 Cincinnati, pending last night’s matchups, respectively.

These top eight seeds — Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Villanova, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Georgetown — are all but locks for next week’s tournament. For them, the championship week is about pride and preparing to the best of their abilities for the big dance, and the competition is sure to be spectacular. (Remember that six overtime quarterfinal game between Syracuse and Connecticut last year?) Pittsburgh and West Virginia are on track to play each other in the bottom half of the bracket, while Villanova will face either Syracuse or Georgetown if it can make it past Marquette.

Bubble Watch

While teams such as Marquette and Notre Dame certainly wouldn’t mind a couple wins to guarantee their names being called on Sunday night, the most intriguing bubble team in the Big East is Seton Hall. The Pirates barely escaped with a 109-106 win over Providence on Tuesday night, in a game they led by as much as 29. Seton Hall took on Notre Dame last night in second round play, a must-win game for them in order to make the tournament. If the Pirates can make a decent run through this championship week, and the eight teams expecting bids receive them, the Big East could be extremely well represented with nine teams in the big dance.


Villanova’s quarterfinal rematch with Marquette is a revenge game on multiple levels for the Golden Eagles. The Wildcats beat Marquette on a last-second shot in the quarterfinals last season, and topped the Golden Eagles twice in the space of a week this year by a combined four points. 

Villanova is better rested, but Marquette is rolling with the momentum of yesterday’s win over St. John’s. Expect today’s battle to be a fierce one; but why would you expect anything else? This is, after all, the Big East.