The (Almost) NCAA Tournament

We’re less than a week away from Selection Sunday, one of the best Sundays of the year.

Actually, as time has gone on, I’ve thought less of the bracket revealing shows.  Just give me a bracket and let me go to work.

Anyways, the week preceding Selection Sunday is almost as exciting as the NCAA Tournament itself.  The fact that the selection committee has to sequester itself in a hotel for 5 days should tell you all you need to know about how big the tournament really is.  They will watch and talk about a ridiculous amount of basketball.  It’s something that I think every sports fan would love to be a fly on the wall for, if not a part of.

The conference that’s widely regarded as the best in college hoops is the Big East.  Not only is the conference huge (16 teams), it currently houses five teams in the Top 25, with three more receiving votes.  ESPN’s Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has nine teams in the field of 65, easily the most of any conference.

Andy Rautins will try to lead the Orange through the Big East Tournament

The Big East Tournament will provide several teams an opportunity to play their way in or out of the tournament, beginning tomorrow.

South Florida, fresh off a defeat of UCONN, takes on DePaul in the tournament’s opening game.  They’ve got a couple more impressive wins on their resume, knocking off Pitt and Georgetown, at Georgetown.  If they make a run, they could easily find themselves in the Big Dance.

Speaking of UCONN, they’ve got some work to do.  The tournament’s 12th seed has played like giants at times, and midgets at others.  They just can’t find a consistent balance.  Before the loss to South Florida, Lunardi still had them in the tournament, but with their stock going down.  The USF loss was one they couldn’t afford.  Now they have to play a St. John’s team that will be playing on their home court (Madison Square Garden), and is dangerous in their own right.  If they weather the Red Storm (like what I did there?), they face a Marquette team that always plays hard.  I think the Huskies can be a sleeper in this tournament, maybe to make the semi-finals.  It all depends on which team shows up.

Seton Hall is in Lunardi’s “Next Four Out”, meaning they need some wins and some help to make their way in.  If they get past Providence, they have to take on the Fighting Irish, who even without Luke Harangody are peaking at the right time.

I think Louisville, if they weren’t a lock already, punched their ticket to the Dance with Saturday’s convincing win over #1 Syracuse.  Say what you want about the emotions of the day, it’s still an impressive win.  Say what you want about whether or not Syracuse was really trying to win the game, does the committee know Jim Boeheim’s state of mind?  I didn’t watch the game, so I can’t give you my perception of Syracuse’s effort on this one.  Lunardi had them in as a #9 seed before that game, so you can bet that their seed will go up.

I’ve been saying for awhile that I think Syracuse is the best team in the country, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win the NCAA Tournament, let alone the Big East Tournament.  I do think though, that if they make it to the finals of the Big East, they’ll be primed for a run to the National Championship game in April.  They’re pretty darn good in a year where no dominating team has arisen.

Look out for the Pitt Panthers, too.  Everyone talks about ‘Cuse, ‘Nova, Georgetown, and West Virginia, but Jamie Dixon is one of the best coaches in America, and he has them playing great basketball.  Forget about the loss to Indiana, that was without their two best players.  They also swept the home-and-home with Syracuse.  They’ll be ready.

There’s a good chance the National Champion will come from the Big East.  The conference tournament will be a good indication of exactly who that may be.


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