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March 10, 2008

Big East Tournament Breakdown

The long battle through the regular season has left twelve of the sixteen Big East teams to battle for the tournament championship in New York.

The top four seeds, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame and Connecticut, received first round byes and will watch as the other eight teams battle. The tip-off game is 11am CST Wednesday when No. 8 Villanova faces No. 9 Syracuse.

The battle for the Big East automatic bid to the NCAA tournament is on and MarquetteWatch.com gives a top to bottom crash course of the 2008 Big East tournament.

Georgetown Hoyas
Head Coach: John Thompson III
Record: 25-4 (15-3 BE)
Best wins: at Marquette, Louisville
Worst loss: at Syracuse
Last ten: 8-2
Players to watch: Roy Hibbert (13.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg), DeJuan Summers (11.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Jonathan Wallace (10.3 ppg)
The skinny: Georgetown, earning the top seed with Saturday's 55-52 win over Louisville, is primed for a run at their second consecutive Big East tournament championship. Led by 7'2" center Roy Hibbert, the Hoyas have scoring balance and senior leadership which is crucial this time of year. First game is Thursday vs. Villanova/Syracuse winner.
Why they might win the tournament: Defense. GU leads the country in field goal defense holding opponents to 41.6%. Winning 14 of 16 games heading into the tourney, they seem to be peaking at the right time. Seniors Hibbert and Wallace privide stability in pressure situations of close games late in the season.
Why they might not win the tournament: They lack scoring punch averaging only 69.4 point per game.

Louisville Cardinals
Head Coach: Rick Pitino
Record: 24-7 (14-4 BE)
Best wins: at Marquette, Georgetown
Worst losses: Cincinnati, at Seton Hall
Last ten: 9-1
Players to watch: David Padgett (11.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Terrence Williams (11.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Jerry Smith (10.5 ppg, 56 three point baskets)
The skinny: Louisville has the size down low to challenge Georgetown. It is no coincidence that when senior David Padgett got healthy, Louisville started winning. Jerry Smith's three-point shooting stretches opposing defenses. First game Thursday vs. Pittsburgh/Cincinnati winner.
Why they might win the tournament: Full court pressure defense allows the Cardinals easy baskets. Rick Pitino has as much tournament experience as any head coach in the conference.
Why they might not win the tournament: Free throw shooting deficiancy was key in Saturday's loss at Georgetown (10-18 from line). They shoot just 65% from the charity stripe on the season.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Head Coach: Mike Brey
Record: 24-6 (14-4 BE)
Best wins: Connecticut, Marquette
Worst loss: Georgia Tech (U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam)
Last ten: 8-2
Players to watch: Luke Harangody (21 ppg, 10.3 rpg), Kyle McAlarney (15 ppg, 99 three point baskets), Rob Kurz (12.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg)
The skinny: Notre Dame proved experts wrong for the second year in a row finishing third after being picked to finish ninth in the preseason. Harangody is a beast down low leading the conference in scoring. First game Thursday vs. Marquette/Seton Hall winner.
Why they might win the tournament: The Irish have all the pieces with Hanangody in the post, scoring (80.7 ppg as a team) and three-point shooting (41.1% as a team).
Why they might not win the tournament: ND lacks athletic big men to match up with teams in the top tier of the conference.

Connecticut Huskies
Head Coach: Jim Calhoun
Record: 24-7 (13-5 BE)
Best wins: at Indiana, Louisville
Worst losses: Providence, at Providence
Last ten: 8-2
Players to watch: Jeff Adrian (14.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg), A.J. Price (14.7 ppg, 6 apg), Jerome Dyson (12.6 ppg)
The skinny: Connecticut has incredible balance with six players averaging double figures in scoring. Price had a breakout year and is the key cog for the Huskies offense. First game Thursday against West Virginia/Providence winner.
Why they might win the tournament: Their athleicism poses match-up problems for opposing teams. Adrien led the league in double-doubles and is a force. Hasheem Thabeet protect the hoop leading the conference with 4.5 blocks per game.
Why they might not win the tournament: Georgetown has the size to match the Huskies in a potential semi-final match-up.

West Virginia Mountaineers
Head Coach: Bob Huggins
Record: 22-9 (11-7 BE)
Best wins: Marquette, Pittsburgh
Worst losses: Oklahoma, Cininnati
Last ten: 7-3
Players to watch: Joe Alexander (16.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Alex Ruoff (14.1 ppg), Da'Sean Butler (12.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
The skinny: No team in the tournament is more dangerous from beyond the arch. First team All-Big East selection Alexander averaged 30.5 points in the final two games of the season. First game Wednesday vs. Providence.
Why they might win the tournament: With only two losses in their last eight (at Villanova, at Connecticut), West Virginia is playing their best ball of the year. Six players shoot better than 38% from the three-point stripe. If the Mountaineers get hot, a tourney title is possible.
Why they might not win the tournament: Beating the Friars for the third time this year will be a challenge. Slotted on the same side of the bracket as Georgetown and UConn give them the toughest road of the top six seeds.

Marquette Golden Eagles
Head Coach: Tom Crean
Record: 22-8 (11-7 BE)
Best wins: at Wisconsin, Notre Dame
Worst loss: at Syracuse
Last 10: 6-4
Players to watch: Jerel McNeal (13.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Dominic James (13.3 ppg, 4.3 apg), Lazar Hayward (12.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
The skinny: A trio of Marquette players, James, McNeal and Hayward, were named second-team All-Big East. It is no secret the Golden Eagles' guards are their strength. Going five deep in the backcourt allows them to put intense pressure on the opposition.
Why they might win the tournament: MU averages a league-high 9.8 steals per game often leading to fast break points. Second-team Big East selection Hayward has given them scoring (12.9 ppg) and much needed outside shooting (48% from three-point line).
Why they might not win the tournament: They do not have the size to battle long, athletic front lines of the top teams in the conference. Senior Ousmane Barro will have to play big if they have a shot at the tournament title.

Pittsburgh Panthers
Head Coach: Jamie Dixon
Record: 22-9 (10-8 BE)
Best wins: Duke, Georgetown
Worst losses: Rutgers
Last 10: 5-5
Key players: Sam Young (18 ppg, 6.4 rpg), DeJuan Blair (12.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg), Levance Fields (11.1 ppg, 5.4 apg)
The skinny: Pittsburgh has a powerful front line with Young and super-frosh Blair. Defense always powers Pitt and they are strong at all positions on the floor. First game Wednesday vs. Cincinnati.
Why they might win the tournament: They have won three out of four and are the healthiest they have been all year.
Why they might not win the tournament: To win four games in four days requires depth. The loss of Mike Cook for the year and Fields, still bothered by early season injury, not being 100% leaves the Panthers with a thin bench.

Villanova Wildcats
Head Coach: Jay Wright
Record: 19-11 (9-9 BE)
Best wins: West Virgina, Connecticut
Worst losses: at DePaul, at Rutgers
Last 10: 6-4
Key players: Scottie Reynolds (15.4 ppg, 63 three point baskets), Dante Cunningham (10.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Corey Fisher (9.7 ppg)
The skinny: The Wildcats can hurt you in many ways. They are physical and well balanced. NCAA hopes hinge on a stronge performance in the Big East tournament.
Why they might win the tournament: Senior Reynolds has done a great job acclimating young players to Big East basketball. The freshman Corey's, Fisher and Stokes, are playing with confidence like they are nieve to the bright lights of the big time.
Why they might not win the tournament: The Wildcats may have trouble matching up with the size of their opponents.

Syracuse Orange
Head Coach: Jim Boeheim
Record: 19-12 (9-9)
Best wins: Georgetown, Marquette
Worst losses: Villanova, at South Florida
Last 10: 5-5
Key players: Donte Greene (17.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Jonny Flynn (15.9 ppg, 5.3 apg), Paul Harris (14.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg)
The skinny: Like Villanova, Syracuse is playing for their NCAA lives. Talented but inexperienced, the Orange will rely heavily on young players to carry them. First game Wednesday vs. Villanova.
Why they might win the tournament: They have been in this position before having to win games in the conference tournament to make the Big Dance. Boehiem knows how to prepare his teams to battle in March.
Why they might not win the tournament: Having a freshman, Jonny Flynn, run your team this time of the year could come back to haunt the Orange. They don't shoot well from the three-point line (33.5%).

Cincinnati Bearcats
Head Coach: Mick Cronin
Record: 13-17 (8-10 BE)
Best wins: at Louisville, at West Virginia
Worst losses: at St. John's, Providence
Last 10: 4-6
Key players: Deonta Vaughn (16.7 ppg, 4.1 apg, 86 three point baskets), John Williamson (11.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
The skinny: Vaughn has been the backbone of the squad as a first team all-Big East selection. The program is on the rise and they know they have to win the tourney for an NCAA birth. First game Wednesday vs. Pittsburgh
Why they might win the tournament: They allow teams to shoot only 42% from the field in league play. Rebounding is a strength on the team (36.5 per game as a team)...they do not allow second-chance points.
Why they might not win the tournament: The young Bearcats have not been played a Big East tournament game in their first two years in the conference so experience may be a problem.

Seton Hall Pirates
Head Coach: Bobby Gonzalez
Record: 17-14 (7-11 BE)
Best wins: Louisville, Cincinnati
Worst losses: at St. John's, Rutgers
Last 10: 2-8
Key players: Brian Laing (19 ppg, 7 rpg), Eugene Harvey (13.3 ppg, 4.8 apg), Jeremy Hazell (12.9 ppg, 77 three point baskets)
The skinny: Big East first-teamer Laing, second leading scorer in the conference at 19 ppg, has been a true go-to guy for Seton Hall. An explosive backcourt has complimented him putting pressure on opposing guards. Hazell's hot shooting carried the Pirates to upset victories. First game Wednesday vs. Marquette.
Why they might win the tournament: A single-elimination tournament in their own backyard with nothing to lose takes the pressure off. Winning four overtime games early in the year gives the Pirates positive experience in close games.
Why they might not win the tournament: On a three game losing streak, their first round matchup with Marquette poses problems with the strength of the Golden Eagles being their backcourt.

Providence Friars
Head Coach: Tim Welsh
Record: 15-15 (6-12 BE)
Best wins: at Connecticut, Connecticut
Worst losses: at DePaul, Seton Hall
Last 10: 3-7
Key players: Jeff Xavier (12.5 ppg, 74 three point baskets), Weyinmi Efejuku (11.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Brian McKenzie (11 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
The skinny: Providence has nothing to lose and everything to gain this weekend. All-Big East honorable mention Geoff McDermott has had an injury plagued year but has been the team's glue throughout the season. First game Wednesday vs. West Virginia.
Why they might win the tournament: In the Big East, any team can win on any given day. Coach Welsh will rally his team with their underdog status.
Why they might not win the tournament: Losers of six of eight, including a 80-53 blowout loss to first-round opponent West Virginia, the Fiars are not playing well going into the tournament.



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