The 2011 Big East Conference Tournament begins today at the XL Center in Hartford, CT. The Big East has 6 teams ranked in the top 25 and another 4 receiving votes. All 10 teams, that have gotten the attention of the writers and coaches, have been projected to make the NCAA tournament.
Connecticut (29-1, 16-0) was the regular season champion by 3 games over Notre Dame and Depaul. So the question remains, can anyone challenge the Huskies for the tournament title?
From Worst to First, we’ll take a look:
16. Seton Hall: Seton Hall takes on Syracuse in what should be the final game of Pirates senior Kashmere Joseph’s career. Seton Hall has come a long way since the team that lost 9 straight including giving UConn as good of a game in the Big East as they have had all season before losing by 21. But Seton Hall is still Seton Hall. In other words they have a better chance of getting Anne Donavan to suit up for them then winning this tournament. Chances: 1%
15. Cincinnati: The good news for Cincinnati is they had an incredible come from behind victory over Marquette, giving Jamelle Elliot her first win over a ranked team. The bad news for the Bearcats is they are going up against a team fighting for their NCAA Tourney bid life, in West Virginia. The Bearcats are young and should be better next year after landing 2 players on the All-Freshman team. Cincinnati has a short bench and is young but they don’t have enough to put up much of a fight. Chances: 1%
14. Villanova: Villanova lives by the 3 and dies by 3. Mostly they die though. They are last in scoring offense and allow their opponents to shoot better from the floor (40%) than they do (36%). Villanova has lost to Delaware and Drexel to think that they can win 5 games in 5 days is comical. Chances: -1%
13. South Florida: The Bulls are on a 2 game winning streak including an upset of 18th ranked Georgetown. The 2 -game swing upped their win total in the Big East to 3 games. South Florida will be home in time to enjoy their Spring Break. If one goes to school in South Florida, where does one go to Spring Break? Book it now. Chances: 3%
12: Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Panthers coach Agnus Berenato is one of the nicest women that you could hope to meet. She’s a great ambassador for the game. If only her players could be great players of the game. Pittsburgh is 4-6 in their last 10 games including losing the last 4 games. Pittsburgh should win their first game against South Florida but would not be a threat to Marquette ub the 2nd round. Chances: 5%
11. Providence: Providence beat Villanova twice this season, What’s interesting is they also beat their potential 2nd round match up in Lousiville on the final night of the regular season. The Friars have the best chance among the double digit seeds to advance past the 2nd day. That’s not saying a lot when those teams had a combined record of 26-84. Chances: 5%
10. West Virginia: How did we get here? A team that has 5 seniors and returned every starter from a team that finished 2nd to Connecticut last season has struggled to a .500 record in conference. Sometimes you struggle under the weight of expectations. The great thing about WVU is that they have proven in the past they can make a run. In 2006, the 12th seeded Mountaineers made a run to the championship game. Hey, Mike Carey (WVU Head Coach) bring at least 2 shirts and ties this time. Chances: 15%
9. Syracuse: Syracuse should blitz Seton Hall in the first round. Their potential 2nd round match up with Georgetown has the potential to be a knock out drag out fight. Literally. Syracuse hasn’t lost to anyone they were suppose to but they also haven’t beat anyone that they weren’t suppose to either, partially because they played no one. A conference tournament is typically about out-toughing your opponents and I don’t think Syracuse has been put in a situation to out-tough anyone. Chances: 5%
8. Georgetown: Oh Sugar, Sugar. Rodgers while a key might not be the key. Tournament time is typically about the superstar doing her part but the "and others" doing a bit more. Monica McNutt and Adria Crawford will need big games if they are to get past The Orange again and have a shot at UConn. Georgetown is not one to get intimidated. Good cause they could be facing Goliath come the quarterfinals. Chances: 5%
7. St. John’s: The pattern for the Red Storm has been Win, Win, Loss for the last month and a half. If that pattern continues then St. John’s will beat West Virginia/ Cincinnati winner and Depaul. I always say dream big. But this is fairytales considering the Johnnies have only beat one ranked team all year, can’t see them beating four, 4 days in a row. Chances: 1%
6. Louisville: Louisville is as young as you can possibly get. With that youth comes some amazing victories and some incredible frustrations. Shoni Schimmel is spectacular This isn’t the KFC Yum Yum Center. Louisville has a record of 5-6 away from home. Perhaps we can get them a departure prize of Popeyes to change it up a little. Chances: 3%
5. Marquette: Marquette only has one bad loss on the year an early season drop to Creighton. They were picked to finished 10th in the league by the coaches in the pre-season. They have a solid 3 in Angel Robinson, Tatiyiana McMorris and Paige Fiedorowicz. They don’t lose games they are supposed to normally. That’s the reason why a potential quarterfinal match up with Rutgers is intriguing. The Scarlet Knights beat the Golden Eagles by 19 points 2 weeks ago. Battle of the color wheel, coming soon. Chances: 10%
4. Rutgers: Again, how did we get here? A month ago I didn’t think that Rutgers was going to get 1 bye never mind 2. Chelsea Lee while previously inconsistent has been coming on strong. April Sykes continues to be hot and cold. Rutgers hot finish to the season might have cost them advancing in the tournament because they are now on UConn’s side of the bracket. Their chance lies on winning ugly, very ugly. Not sure there is enough lipstick to cover their inability to put the ball in the basket. Chances: 10%
3. Notre Dame: Notre Dame has better players than UConn and Depaul according to the Big East Conference. They had 3 players make the Big East First Team including The Defensive Player of the Year, Devereaux Peters and the Most Improved Player, Natalie Novosel. That’s not including who I think is their biggest weapon in Becca Bruszewski. Notre Dame has the offense, defense and depth that could take Connecticut and Depaul down. Bring lots of green nail polish Irish. We wouldn’t want chipped nails on national television would we? Chances: 25%
2. Depaul: The comeback kids are coming back to town hoping for better results than the last time they were in CT. Depaul is about as pretty of an offensive team that’s out there. Their struggle is on the backboards. When this team is hitting 3’s, it’s goodnight moon for their opposition. Depaul has said they didn’t play well and wants another shot at UConn. Their road to redemption goes through the Notre Dame team which they just beat on a last second shot. Chances: 25%
1. Connecticut: Connecticut wins and collects trophies like I collect shoes. Geno Auriemma once told a funny story about looking for socks in a storage closet and looking in an old laundry bin and finding a regular season championship trophy. There are just too many to keep track of. While titles are common place, it is still this team’s 2nd goal and they still have Maya Moore on their team. I wouldn’t stand between her and the library never mind a trophy. The Huskies have won their last 66 games against Big East opponents. Huskies downfall might be 3 games in 3 games with only 8 healthy bodies and only 6 getting significant playing time. But UConn on their home court is a lot for most teams to overcome. Just ask Notre Dame, Depaul, Duke and Oklahoma. Chances: 33%
Should be fun. Let’s play some ball!