NCAA Basketball

College Basketball Preview: 2011 Big East Championship

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Tuesday at noon the ball will be tipped and the Connecticut Huskies and DePaul Blue Demons will begin the 2011 BIG EAST Championship in Madison Square Garden. Rutgers will try to take out Jeremy Hazell and the Pirates of Seton Hall in the second game of the first session. The night games on day one will see Stan Heath sacrifice his Bulls of South Florida to Jay Wright and the Wildcats of Villanova and then Marquette will look to move on against a Providence team just trying to reach .500 and qualify for post-season play.

Louisville will play Thursday night at 9pm, against the West Virginia/Marquette/Providence survivor. If they win they’ll play in the semi’s on Friday night at 9pm, and then the Championship Saturday night, also at 9pm. For the full tournament schedule, CLICK HERE.

Here’s a look at the bracket:

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And below is a quick snapshot of each squad, along with the Pinkie’s odds of each team’s chances at earning the automatic bid into the Big Dance. Click on the team to get a quick rundown of how they looked prior to their previous game versus the Cardinals.

(16) DePaul (7-23, 1-17) – The Blue Demons finished their regular season on Saturday against Syracuse, and have been staying in New York since in preparation for their Tuesday opener against UConn. This is the third strait year DePaul enters the BIG EAST Championship as the 16-seed. First year head coach Oliver Purnell, despite the record, has gotten his team to perform admirably and instilled some hope for next year. Unfortunately this year is lost, as is the Blue Demons’ leading scorer, freshman Cleveland Melvin (torn ligament in his left thumb). Odds of winning automatic bid: 500-1.

(15) South Florida (9-22, 3-15) – The Bulls, in my opinion, are the worst team in the league. Stan Heath somehow not only still has his job, but has gotten votes of confidence from the school and its boosters. Augustus Gilchrist could cause some problems for other teams, but he hasn’t done so all year. South Florida isn’t beating Villanova. Odds of winning automatic bid: 1000-1.

(14) Providence (15-16, 4-14) – The Friars have that one guy who could lead his team on a run in Marshon “Kobe” Brooks. Brooks leads Providence in scoring (24.8), rebounding (7.2) and blocks (1.3), unfortunately for him the rest of his team just isn’t that good. Despite his 52 (FIFTY TWO!) points on February 23rd, his Friars still lost to Notre Dame 94-93. Odds of winning automatic bid: 250-1.

(13) Rutgers (14-16, 5-13) – The Scarlet Knights will take on Seton Hall in a bragging rights game for the state of New Jersey. Joe Budden will likely not be bragging about either team anytime soon. Rutgers does not have a true go-to player, senior Jonathan Mitchell is the only Scarlet Knight scoring in double digits with 14.2 points a game. Odds of winning automatic bid: 200-1.

(12) Seton Hall (13-17, 7-11) – The Pirates have found something as of late, knocking off St. John’s and Marquette to end the season. Now that Jeremy Hazell is back following some early season setbacks, this is a dangerous team. Hazell, the third-leading career scorer in Seton Hall history, has 2,119 points heading into the BIG EAST Championship and may just get five extra games in The Garden to add to that total. Odds of winning automatic bid: 75-1.

(11) Marquette (18-13, 9-9) – The Golden Eagles’ are hoping they become the record setting 11th team from the BIG EAST conference to go dancing, but a first round exit may put those hopes in serious jeopardy. Marquette has lost its last two, on senior night to Cincinnati and the aforementioned loss to Jeremy Hazell and the Seton Hall Pirates. They should get past Providence in the first round, but likely need a win over West Virginia on Wednesday to feel any sort of confidence going into Selection Sunday. Odds of winning automatic bid: 40-1.

(10) Villanova (21-10, 9-9) – The Wildcats have lost four strait games, given all to ranked opponents, but that is still not the way you want to enter post-season play (they’ve also dropped six of their last eight). Should ‘Nova fall to South Florida, they might get a little nervous. They won’t. Odds of winning automatic bid: 25-1.

(9) Connecticut (21-9, 9-9) – The Huskies are also a team backsliding into post-season play. UConn has lost four of its last five games, but will get a shot at cellar dweller DePaul to try and swing some momentum back on their side. They started the 2010-2011 season off with a bang, winning Maui behind National Player of the Year candidate Kemba Walker. Even if Walker is on in MSG, winning five games in five days against this level of competition is an extremely difficult task. Odds of winning automatic bid: 25-1.

(8) Georgetown (21-9, 10-8) – The Hoyas are the third strait team we will look at that is free falling towards the end of their season. Georgetown has lost four of their last five, the only win over South Florida. The loss of their senior floor leader, guard Chris Wright has much to do with the Hoyas troubles. After starting 93 consecutive games for Georgetown, Wright broke his left hand and it is unclear how long he will be out, though the team is hopeful he’ll be able to return for the opening round – of the NCAA Tournament. Without Wright the Hoyas don’t have much of a legit chance. Odds of winning automatic bid: 25-1.

(7) West Virginia (20-10, 11-7) – The defending BIG EAST Tournament champions got a gift with a big home victory over Louisville to end the regular season and earn them at least one extra day of rest before getting their title defense underway on Wednesday. Should they defeat the Marquette/Providence winner, they will face the Cardinals for the third and rubber match of the season. If that happens, it will also be a match-up between the last two winners of this tournament, the Cards won it all in 2009. Odds of winning automatic bid: 10-1.

(6) Cincinnati (24-7, 11-7) – Mick Cronin has improved the Nasty ‘Nati’s win total for the fourth consecutive year and it is all but guaranteed that Bearcat fans will hear their squad’s name called on Selection Sunday for the first time since Bob Huggins left town. Yancy Gates has been playing beastly since a return to favor after a benching for attitude problems. The Bearcats play a style of basketball that most teams simply find uncomfortable going against and could make a run. Odds of winning automatic bid: 12-1.

(5) St. John’s (20-10, 12-6)St. John’s is painting New York City red again. And the Red Storm will once again enjoy the advantage of playing in Madison Square Garden for the BIG EAST Championship. It’s been a long time since they were relevant enough for that to even matter, but first year coach Steve Lavin and his senior laden group of Johnnies have put together an outstanding season and I doubt anyone in the conference is looking forward to playing them in the Garden. They have defeated five Top-10 teams already this year: Pittsburgh, Georgetown, UConn and Notre Dame from the BIG EAST and Duke back on January 30th. Odds of winning automatic bid: 8-1.

(4) Syracuse (25-6, 12-6) – The hottest team coming into New York, the Orange have won five strait. After starting the season 18-0, they went 2-6 during a horrid eight games stretch before seemingly righting the ship over their last five. Their zone has not been up to par lately and most teams have figured out how to effectively score against this year’s version. Odds of winning automatic bid: 8-1.

(3) Louisville (23-8, 12-6) – The Cardinals haven’t lost back-to-back games all season long. If they want to keep that record alive they will have to advance to the BIG EAST Semifinals, by way of a win on Thursday. Following a stunning loss at West Virginia on Saturday, Louisville might get an immediate chance at revenge as their Thursday opponent will be the survivor of the West Virginia/Marquette/Providence trio. BIG EAST Coach of the Year candidate Rick Pitino has brought the up-tempo style of play he has become synonymous with over the years back to Louisville. The Cardinals practiced all season with a 24 second shot clock and considered it a turnover if they didn’t cross halfcourt within three seconds. Couple their fast paced offense with their smothering defense and this is a very solid team capable of beating anyone in the country. Odds of winning automatic bid: 8-1.

(2) Notre Dame (25-5, 14-4) – The Irish got a big road win to end the season at Connecticut, however, Notre Dame is not the same team away from the comfort of their home court (17-0 at home, just 8-5 elsewhere). But when seniors Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis get it going, anything is possible – and not just a BIG EAST Championship. The Irish faithful are thinking on a National scale. Odds of winning automatic bid: 6-1.

(1) Pittsburgh (27-4, 15-3) – The Panthers have been the class of the BIG EAST from start to finish, and with a deep roster and intelligent coaching, they are and should be the favorites to win the BIG EAST Championship. The Panthers are led by All BIG-EAST guards Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker, averaging 16.4 and 11.9 points, respectively. Odds of winning automatic bid: 3-1.

So there you have it. Completely arbitrary odds from a completely arbitrary source. Take em and run with em – then blame yourself for listening to us idiots.