Battle for the East

James Evans

After scoring a season-low 50 points and suffering a heartbreaking loss to St. John’s, what is a better way to rebound, then by breaking down all the Big East teams’ chances of making the NCAA tournament.

There are several teams that can cash its chips in already because they are practically guaranteed a trip to the big dance: Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and UConn. Sticking with the 20-win-you-are-in rule, Notre Dame with 19 wins is easily in. Pittsburgh has been playing great all season, staying in the top five in the polls and flirting with the No. 1 ranking all season. While Syracuse, even with a tough schedule left, should be able to assure itself an invite by playing solid ball the rest of the way. To do this the Orangemen will rely on the freshman sensation Carmelo Anthony. That brings us to UConn, at 15-5, they seem pretty much locked in, however, with losses to Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech, the later two being blow outs, nothing is for sure for this team. It will have to play strong down the stretch, but is likely to find itself sitting relaxed on selection night.

Now for the bubble teams of the division, the teams that have a chance, but will have to likely win its remaining games, plus snag at least one win in the Big East Tournament. This is the group that ’Nova falls into. At 13-9 and 6-3 in the conference, ’Nova must hope to rebound from the slump that it is in of late. Five games ago, it seemed as if ’Nova was a lock to be playing come mid-March; however thanks to a 1-4 record in their last five, the ’Cats will be forced to claw and fight their way in. Two of their last seven games puts the ’Cats up against UConn and Pittsburgh, two teams that are ranked and dangerous. ’Nova will probably have to go deep in the Big East Tournament if it hopes to have any chance at making the tournament.

One team that could be picked over ’Nova when the bids come out is West Virginia. The Mountaineers at 12-9 are also considered a bubble team, but with wins over Florida and Tennessee, in addition to a win over ’Nova, this team could be going while the ’Cats heads for the NIT. St. John’s bubble didn’t pop, thanks largely to the fact that the ’Cats couldn’t burst it on Tuesday. With the win, the Storm improved to 12-8 and is getting ready for what promises to be a grueling schedule. The Storm has to go on the road and play Syracuse, UConn and Miami, three teams that are considered to have an enormous home-court advantage. Add in a nationally televised game with Duke, and it promises to be an interesting last few weeks.

The rest of the Big East is made up of teams that seem to be mediocre at best, no one team is the best and no one is worst. All these teams are right now hovering above or under the five hundred-mark. However, all a team has to do is win the Big East Tournament and it is in. So which team is the biggest threat to rise up and possibly win the Big East Tournament by knocking off one of the upper echelon teams? Boston College. The Eagles have two stars in Troy Bell and Ryan Sidney in the backcourt, plus with the emergence of freshman Craig Smith, the Eagles could easily soar to the title.

These predictions can not be written in stone. Who knows, maybe one of the so-called locks falters in its remaining games and doesn’t make the dance. But I can predict one thing, this will be a fun and exciting last couple of weeks in the Big East and leading into the battle in Madison Square Garden.