Big East Tournament Preview

What to watch for as the Big East gets set for tip-off at its end-of-the-year tournament at Madison Square Garden.

The Favorite - Syracuse

No one in the Big East combines raw ability with length and athleticism like the Orange do.

The Dark horse - Cincinnati

The Bearcats have the guards to make a run and create mismatches with their small lineup.

Knocked out early - Notre Dame

Had a big win over SU, but ND relies too much on the long ball. If they're not falling the Irish will have a short stay in New York City.


Who the Orange have to go through

No. 2 Marquette

The Good - The Golden Eagles have arguably the best tandem of players in the league in Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. Both can take over games and will their team to victory.

The Bad - Coach Buzz Williams historically recruits versatile players who can guard multiple positions, but in effect, Marquette lacks true size. No one on the roster is listed over 6 feet 8 inches tall. 

The Scoop - Marquette’s going under the radar and is a dark horse to make a Final Four run. The Golden Eagles pose the biggest threat to take down the Orange at MSG.

No. 3 Notre Dame

The Good - It seems like every year Notre Dame has a wealth of shooters. This year is no different. The Irish space the floor, shoot threes and play at a contained pace.

The Bad - Notre Dame can be overly reliant on the three and doesn't have any experienced guards. That could haunt them in March. 

The Scoop - ND seems to be tailing off right now, but with Mike Brey at the helm, it remains a threat. However, the Irish are certainly not playing their best basketball right now.

No. 4 Cincinnati 

The Good - This team can play big or small. Yancy Gates is a difference maker down low. If his head is on right, the Bearcats are dangerous.

The Bad - Besides Gates, Cincy has no real big men who are effective. When Gates was suspended, the team went with a four-guard lineup because it had no more serviceable bigs. 

The Scoop - This is my dark horse for the Big East tournament. The Bearcats play loose and together while still playing solid defense.

No. 5 Georgetown

The Good - The Hoyas offense - when clicking - is extremely difficult to stop. Henry Sims is one of the best big man passers in college basketball, and Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson are shot-makers.

The Bad - Former starting point guard Markel Starks seems to be in the doghouse, so the Hoyas don’t have much depth at the position. GU doesn’t have an imposing figure in the paint, so they don’t alter many shots. 

The Scoop - Georgetown got good shots against the SU zone in their first matchup, thanks in part to freshman Otto Porter, who manned the high post and baseline with skill. Despite less firepower than previous years, this team looks dangerous heading into the tourney.

No. 6 South Florida

The Good - USF defends about as well as any other Big East team. The Bulls play at a deliberate pace that keeps them in games and have a heady point guard in Anthony Collins.

The Bad - Their defense keeps opponents off the scoreboard, but their offense keeps themselves off it too. South Florida simply doesn’t have the talent to score at a high rate.  

The Scoop - This is a team that needs a win or two to get itself off the bubble, so don’t be surprised if it plays inspired basketball. It needs the wins as much as any team in the league.  

No. 7 Louisville

The Good - The Cardinals attack the rim. Russ SmithPeyton Siva and Chris Smith can all get to the hoop off the bounce and both score and pass effectively once they’re there.

The Bad - They can’t shoot! They’re in the bottom third of Division I in shooting percentage (234th out of 348 teams). 

The Scoop - This isn’t your typical Rick Pitino squad. He loves to use the three, but this season, his team is shooting just 31 percent from deep. They’ve had to rely on penetration from Siva and Russ Smith.  

No. 8 West Virginia

The Good - Like all Bob Huggins-coached teams, these guys are tough and get after it on the floor. Kevin Jones cleans the glass and is one of the most talented players in the Big East.

The Bad -  The Mountaineers lack experience and reliable shooters. From deep they shoot just 31 percent. That’s abysmal. 

The Scoop - WVU has lost seven of its last 10. Looks like it needs to win a game or two in the Big East tourney to go dancing.

No. 9 UConn

The Good - The Huskies offense can be potent. They have shooters, thrashers and players who can score in the post. UConn can put up big numbers.

The Bad - This team lacks any semblance of leadership and has a poor mental makeup.  

The Scoop - UConn is playing horrible basketball at this point in the season. It’s as if the Huskies are doing all they can to play themselves out of the NCAA tournament.  

No. 10 Seton Hall

The Good - Jordan Theodore is one of the best point guards in the Big East. He passes, scores and leads the Pirates.

The Bad - SHU shoots 66 percent from the free-throw line. That’s horrendous. Like embarrassingly awful. 

The Scoop - The Hall isn’t playing good basketball right now. Losses to DePaul and Rutgers in one week won’t help its already shaky tournament resume.  

No. 11 Rutgers

The Good - Head coach Mike Rice has instilled a fiery attitude into his team. The Scarlet Knights play tough, hard-nosed defense and leave it all on the floor.

The Bad - The Scarlet Knights have an extremely young backcourt. Their two leading scorers are freshmen, which bodes well for the future, but not for now. 

The Scoop - Give Rutgers two years and then it’ll be relevant when it comes time to play in MSG.

No. 12 St. John’s

The Good - This team has talent and a lot of athleticism. Moe Harkless and D’Angelo Harrison are not only two great building pieces for the future, but they’re also really good right now.

The Bad - In the rugged Big East, it helps to have girth inside. The Johnnies just don’t have that. 

The Scoop - With basically no bench or experience, St. John’s isn’t exactly built to make a run in the Big East tournament. 

No. 13 Pittsburgh

The Good - Tray Woodall is a steady ball-handler and seems to be one of the only Panthers who is truly poised and comfortable putting the ball on the floor.

The Bad - Ashton Gibbs has been a disappointment. A great shooter, Gibbs went from being a 49 percent three-point shooter last season to just 33 percent this year.

The Scoop - Jamie Dixon excels at coaching the defensive side of the ball with his typical cast of blue-collar kids, but it seems like the players haven’t all bought into the system this year.

No. 14 Villanova

The Good - The Cats are well-coached and play hard. Maalik Wayns can ball, and freshman JayVaughn Pinkston is looking like a top-notch talent. The kid is as tough as they come.

The Bad - The roster is inexperienced and not as talented as it's been the past couple of years. Wayns hasn’t stepped up and shown the leadership that many expected from him.

The Scoop - A run at Madison Square Garden is unlikely. Help is on the way next season with a couple of five-star prospects on their way.

No. 15 Providence

The Good - Point guard is the most important position on the floor, and Vincent Council is an extremely talented point guard. He gives the team a chance.

The Bad - They have some talented guards, but up front, the Friars don’t have much ability. Providence can struggle to defend the interior because of that.

The Scoop - Because Ed Cooley can recruit with anyone, the Friars will be all right in the future. Chances of a run in this year’s Big East tournament though? Slim.

No. 16 DePaul

The Good - For a team in the cellar of the Big East, it has surprising firepower. Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are both capable of putting up big-time numbers.

The Bad - Besides Melvin and Young, the Blue Demons don’t have much Big East talent. And someone has to tell Melvin and Young to stop shooting threes, as they’re hitting at 22 and 29 percent clips, respectively.

The Scoop - At this point in the season, DePaul doesn’t have much to play for. Don’t expect the Blue Demons to hang in NYC for too long.

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