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Posts Tagged ‘west virginia’

Week four of the college football season has the potential to be huge.  There are a couple of games with national championship implications, as well as several conference battles. 

No more setup is needed.  Let’s get right to the five college football questions I am looking forward to getting the answers to in week four:

Andrew Luck Takes the Snap

With the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Buffalo Bills select...

5.  Will Andrew Luck solidify his NFL Draft footing on the national stage?

Stanford’s quarterback has worked his way up to the top spot on Mel Kiper’s big board.  In the first three games of the season Luck has thrown for 674 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.  This weekend he and the Cardinal head to South Bend, Indiana to take on the Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on national television.  Last year he was a solid 14 of 20 for 198 yards but did not throw a touchdown pass against the Irish. 

4.  Can West Virginia earn the Big East some respect in Death Valley?

How daunting is the task for the Mountaineers?  LSU is 52-5 in night games at Tiger Stadium since 2000.  Since bringing on head coach Les Miles the Bayou Bengals are 25-1 in that situation.  Both teams come into the game at 3-0.  If West Virginia can steal a win it will go a long way in earning the Big East respect, but the likelihood of that happening is extremely slim.

3.  Which of the two trendy SEC teams, South Carolina or Auburn, will continue their joy ride?

It may not be the biggest battle in the SEC on Saturday, but make no mistake, the South Carolina-Auburn games is a big one.  The Gamecocks have been riding freshman running back Marcus Lattimore to a 3-0 record and many mentions as a challenger to Florida in the SEC East.  Auburn is coming off a big win over Clemson, bumping their record up to 3-0.  The Tigers are being held up as a challenger to their hated rival, Alabama, in the SEC West.  Whoever wins this game will make a big statement about their intentions.

2.  Will Oregon State derail Boise State’s slim hopes for national championship consideration?

Virginia Tech’s loss to James Madison all but booted the Broncos from national championship contention.  They now need a lot of things to go in their favor to get back into that conversation.  Oregon State has already had a chance to ruin the national championship hopes of a non-BCS contender.  They lost that game on opening weekend to TCU.  Will the outcome be different on Saturday night in Boise?

1.  Can Arkansas end Alabama’s 16 game SEC regular season winning streak?

This is an appointment game – so clear your schedule right now for 3:30 Saturday afternoon.  The Razorbacks have lived up to expectations so far this season going 3-0 on the arm of Heisman front runner Ryan Mallett.  Now comes the ultimate test, #1 ranked Alabama.  Arkansas hopes to rely on Mallett and the home field advantage to get a win over the Crimson Tide.  Alabama got reigning Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram back last week and he looked stellar.  Arkansas is going to have to play their best defensive game of the year to get the win. 

Did I miss the game you are most looking forward to this weekend?  Do you see these matchups in a different light?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: Monica’s Dad

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As the Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC and Pac-10 again have expanded their conferences, the ACC has sat back and watched.  The most important thing for the ACC at this point is that none of their current programs have been taken away by the other quickly growing conferences. 

While the ACC was the league that caused all of the tremors of expansion earlier this decade they will be the last conference to grow this time.  Initially I said that I expected that the final result of expansion would be four 16-team mega conferences.  As I’ve gone through this exercise, my thinking has changed.  The reason is that similar to what I said about the Pac-10 expansion, I don’t see four legitimate candidates available for the ACC at this point.  If the league moves more quickly, or if the Big Ten only grabs one of the Big East schools, I could see four legitimate candidates (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia).  But I firmly believe that the Big Ten will grab two of those schools (Pittsburgh and Syracuse) and take that option away from the ACC.

So that leaves Connecticut and West Virginia.  The case for both schools is complicated. 

First, let’s look at Connecticut.  Traditionally the Huskies have had an excellent men’s basketball program, but they are currently under a great deal of scrutiny by the NCAA.  And according to SI’s Seth Davis, that is just the beginning of UConn’s issues.  Their candidacy with the ACC is certainly helped by the inclusion of the premier women’s basketball program in the nation.  Their addition would also solidify a rival for Boston College in the Northeast and bring some access to the New York City market.  Their academics (#66 ranking by the U.S. News and World Report) don’t match up with the ACC elite, but are still solidly in the range of the other schools.

The biggest challenge for West Virginia to overcome will be their academics.  They are ranked as a Tier 3 school by the U.S. News and World Report.  That means they are not good enough to be ranked among the top 133 colleges and universities in the country.  That fact will not sit well with the ACC whose lowest current ranking school is Florida St. at #102.  Otherwise they have a strong football program with a passionate fan base and a very solid basketball program.  In fact, they have a lot of depth in their athletics program as they currently stand at #15 in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings.

Will the ACC be willing to overlook Connecticut’s NCAA violations and West Virginia’s less than ideal academic ratings?  I say yes.  I believe that the pressure to expand will be great because there is nothing saying that the Big Ten and SEC have to stop at 16 teams.  You could just as easily see them jumping up to 20.  So the ACC will react and add the Huskies and Mountaineers believing that their only way to ultimately survive is to strengthen their own ranks.

What are your thoughts?  Would Connecticut’s NCAA issues keep them from being invited to join the ACC?  Does West Virginia’s academic ranking make them a no-go?

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So, just like I initially predicted it’s Syracuse vs. West Virginia in the final…oh, okay, well I wasn’t that far off.  In reality, I’m not surprised that Georgetown beat Syracuse, nor that they will be playing for the Big East Championship tonight against West Virginia.  The Big East Tournament has often been about a dominating player and the Hoyas certainly have one in Greg Monroe.  Monroe had 16 points and 8 rebounds against USF; 15 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists against Syracuse; and 23 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists against Marquette.

Of course, the Mountaineers have had their own dominating player in Da’Sean Butler.  He hit the winning shot against Cincinnati while scoring 15 points, pulling in 6 rebounds and dishing 5 assists.  He followed that up with 24 points and 7 rebounds against Notre Dame last night.

It was less than two weeks ago that these two teams had their only meeting of the season on senior day in Morgantown.  The Mountaineers got off to an early lead and dominated that game.  The final score was 81-68.  The Hoyas were without the services of Austin Freeman, who missed the game with a mysterious illness that would soon be determined to be diabetes.

As for this game, I’d look to West Virginia to try to get a lot of defensive pressure on Georgetown.  They will try to take advantage of the extra day of rest they have coming into this game.  It was heavy defensive pressure that helped them beat the Hoyas in the first matchup.  Georgetown will have to take care of the ball and run a methodical offense.  If they get involved in a fast-paced, up and down game they will be in trouble.

Both of these teams rebound the ball very well.  Whoever can control the boards will have a big advantage.  I think West Virginia will keep the pace where they want it; distribute the ball well on offense; take advantage of Georgetown’s extra day of playing and short bench; and get the big win.  My final score prediction is 75-69. This should be enough to get West Virginia a number one seed in the NCAA tournament.  If you think that sounds ridiculous, look at this evaluation of the resumes of WVU and Duke.  Of course, I’ll still be surprised if they were to get the one seed over the Blue Devils.

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If the Big East Tournament has half of the drama, surprises and excitement of the regular season we will all be in for quite a treat.  The top two seeds (Syracuse and Pittsburgh) were expected to be in the middle of the pack at best.  Also outperforming expectactions were Marquette and South Florida.  Ultimately, disappointing seasons were turned in by Georgetown and Connecticut.  The good news for the Hoyas is that they will have a good chance to make things right in this tournament and the big dance.

This should be a really fun five days, so buckle up and get ready to go.  Here are my predictions:

First Round – Tuesday, March 9

#9 USF v. #16 DePaul – Noon
Impressively USF posted a 9-9 record in league play.  They also beat DePaul 63-59 last week in the teams’ only matchup.  No reason to think this game won’t end the same way
Winner – USF

#12 UConn v. #13 St. John’s – 2:00 pm
Historically two of the prouder programs in the Big East meet in this first day matchup.  The Huskies still have very faint hopes of making the NCAA tournament, while the Red Storm’s hopes ended about as soon as league play started.  Connecticut won at home in the regular season 75-59.  I think their talent will get them one more win
Winner – UConn

 #10 Seton Hall v. #15 Providence – 7:00 pm
While their record gives them the #15 seed, Providence is not the 2nd worst team in the conference.  Seton Hall did just beat them on their home floor this weekend and I expect the same result in this game.
Winner – Seton Hall

#11 Cincinnati v. #14 Rutgers – 9:00 pm
Rutgers does have a few nice wins, but they were at home.  The Scarlet Knights only have one win on the road, and that was at DePaul.  As unsteady as the Bearcats can be, they’ll get the win in this one.
Winner – Cincinnati

 Second Round – Wednesday, March 10

#8 Georgetown v. #9 USF – Noon
It was South Florida’s huge win at Georgetown that really started to get people’s attention.  Unfortunately for them they proceeded to lose four of their next five after that game.  Georgetown will come into this game having lost four of their last six.  But, they looked very impressive this past weekend, stomping Cincinnati 74-47 in Austin Freeman’s first game since being diagnosed with diabetes.  They Hoyas certainly have the talent to make a deep run in this tournament.  I think they’ll also have the focus and motivation, especially to get some revenge on the Bulls.
Winner – Georgetown

#5 Marquette v. #12 UConn – 2:00 pm
Connecticut needs this game desperately to keep their NCAA tournament chances alive.  Marquette should be in even with a loss.  The Golden Eagles won the only matchup between these two teams in late January in Connecticut 70-68.  I think the Huskies will rely on their rebounding advantage for a win in this battle.  My first upset pick of the tournament.
Winner – UConn

#7 Notre Dame v. #10 Seton Hall – 7:00 pm
The Irish will bring the Big East’s longest current win streak into this game while the Pirates will come into it knowing they need to continue to win to have any chance of an NCAA birth.   Seton Hall beat Notre Dame in New Jersey 90-87 behind Jeremy Hazell’s 35 points.  Of course that was the game in which Luke Harangody got hurt.  Since the Irish have learned to play without Harangody they have been very dangerous.  They’ll look good in this matchup and will get the win.
Winner – Notre Dame

#6 Louisville v. #11 Cincinnati – 9:00 pm
The Cardinals locked their way into the NCAA tournament with another win over Syracuse.  They’ll be looking to improve their seeding during these days in NYC.  Louisville won the only matchup between these old foes 68-60 in January at home.  They’ve won five of their last seven and will make it six of their last eight here.
Winner – Louisville

Quarterfinals – Thursday, March 11

#1 Syracuse v. #8 Georgetown – Noon
It’s not until the third day of the tournament that we have a matchup where the two teams met twice in the regular season.  The Orange dominated the first game 73-56 and then held on to barely win the second game 75-71.  Syracuse will be coming off a discouraging loss to Louisville and should be ready to make a statement.  However, it’s always difficult to beat a team three times in a season, especially when you factor in the history of these two programs.  I think Syracuse just has too much on offense for Georgetown.  Add in the Orange’s extra motivation after the loss to Louisville and it will all equal a win.
Winner – Syracuse

#4 Villanova v. #12 UConn – 2:00 pm
To this point Connecticut has made a nice run and put themselves back on the bubble with two wins.  The Huskies also beat the Wildcats in their only regular season matchup, 84-75 in Philadelphia.  Kemba Walker exploded for 29 points and nine rebounds in that game.  This one will be all about the guards with UConn’s Walker and Jerome Dyson, and Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and Reggie Reading sure to make an impact.  I think the rest and an appetite for revenge will be enough for ‘Nova to get a needed win.
Winner – Villanova

#2 Pittsburgh v. #7 Notre Dame – 7:00 pm
It was a huge win over Pitt that started Notre Dame’s four game win streak at the end of the regular season and proved that they can play without Luke Harangody.  By this point he’s sure to be getting more normal minutes.  I’m not sure that’s a good thing for the Irish.  The Panthers will come into this game having won three in a row and eight of their last nine.  They usually bring their best to the Garden but something tells me that Notre Dame will win this game.  I think the other players on the team gained a good deal of confidence while Harangody was out.  As he works his way back, the team will be less reliant on him and will be much more well-rounded.
Winner – Notre Dame

#3 West Virginia v. #6 Louisville – 9:00 pm
The night cap on the third evening should be an excellent finale to an exciting day.  In January these teams met in Morgantown and it took a late second half West Virginia comeback for the home team to win.  Louisville shot 52% from the field but could not hold off the Mountaineers who were led by Da’Sean Butler’s 27 points and capitalized on a 22 shot discrepancy from the free throw line.  WVU will come into this game having won five of their last six.  I think the Mountaineers are a national title contender.  And while I think this will be a closely fought game, I believe they will leave with the W.
Winner – West Virginia

Semifinals – Friday, March 12

#1 Syracuse v. #4 Villanova – 7:00 pm
The anticipation for the regular season matchup between these two teams was very high when they met on February 27th.  A well-rounded effort and superb play off the bench by Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph put the Orange ahead late in the first half and they wouldn’t relent.  Likely Big East MVP Scottie Reynolds gave a valiant effort and finished with 16 points.  Surprisingly, Mouphtaou Yarou also had an excellent game for Villanova with 13 points and eight rebounds.  

This will be a battle of two classic Big East teams.  The first game was played at a very fast pace.  Typically Villanova likes to play at that pace but they seemed overwhelmed in the Carrier Dome.  It may be weird for them, but I think they may fare better if they slow down a bit against Syracuse.  They should also look to drive the ball into the paint with Reynolds and Corey Fisher.  I think the Orange’s big men and balanced attack will be the difference. 
Winner – Syracuse

#3 West Virginia v. #7 Notre Dame – 9:00 pm
Before they went on their late season run, a home victory over West Virginia was the only strong win Notre Dame had on their resume.  The Irish stormed out to an early lead before a furious comeback by the Mountaineers made it tight at the end.  Da’Sean Butler’s three pointer at the buzzer was in and out as the Irish won 70-68.  In reality, Kevin Jones, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds, was the only Mountaineer who played well.  The Irish will not be able to depend on that type of poor play for a win in this game.  To win, they will have to shoot the lights out from three point range.  Ultimately I think Notre Dame’s weak defense will hurt them as West Virginia just has too many ways to score.
Winner – West Virginia

Championship – Saturday, March 13

#1 Syracuse v. #3 West Virginia – 9:00 pm
The Saturday night championship game is always magical in Madison Square Garden.  The Orange will be playing in it for the second year in a row.  They lost to Louisville last year.  Before that game though, they beat West Virginia in the semis.  The only regular season meeting between these two teams was a back and forth battle that Syracuse almost gave away at the end.  They did hold on to win 72-71.  Oddly enough Brandon Triche led the Orange with 16 points and five assists.  Syracuse’s big men were not that effective. 

I believe the key to this game will be the Mountaineers’ three point shooting on offense and their ability to stop Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku on defense.  They are going to be willing to take the three so they are going to have to hit those shots.  The Orange must get the ball inside to Jackson and Onuaku and give them a chance to work down low.  They cannot settle for contested outside shots.  I think the Orange will patient on offense and will make the smart decisions that enable them to cut down the Garden nets
Your Big East Champion – Syracuse

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Going into the last weekend of the regular season, the Big East has 11 teams with legitimate hopes of getting an NCAA Tournament birth.  Five teams are considered locks.  I posted an article earlier this week on what I think the other six Big East bubble teams need to do to get into the Big Dance.  In his updated Bracketology, Joe Lunardi has nine Big East teams in the field of 65.

Many teams will go into their last regular season conference game looking to improve their seeding in the Big East Tournament.  A favorable draw and a couple of wins could easily seal the deal for a few of the bubble teams.  Here are my final regular season power rankings:

  1. Syracuse (15-2, 28-2) (W Vill 95-77, W St.J 85-66)
  2. Villanova (13-4, 24-5) (L @Syr 95-77, W @Cin 77-73)
  3. Pittsburgh (12-5, 23-7) (W @St.J 71-64, W Prov 73-71)
  4. West Virginia (12-5, 23-6) (W Cin 74-68, W Gtwn 81-68)
  5. Marquette (11-6, 20-9) (W @SH 84-83 OT, W Lou 69-48)
  6. Georgetown (9-8, 19-9) (L ND 78-64, L @WVU 81-68)
  7. Louisville (10-7, 19-11) (W @UConn 78-76, L @Marq 69-48)
  8. Notre Dame (9-8, 20-10) (W @Gtwn 78-64, W UConn 58-50)
  9. Connecticut (7-10, 17-13) (L Lou 78-76, L @ND 58-50)
  10.   Seton Hall (8-9, 17-11) (L Marq 84-83 OT, W @Rut 85-74)
  11.   Cincinnati (7-10, 16-13) (L @WVU 74-68, L Vill 77-73)
  12.   South Florida (8-9, 18-11) (W Prov 99-93, W @DeP 63-59)
  13.   St. John’s (5-12, 15-14) (L Pitt 71-64, L @Syr 85-66)
  14.   Rutgers (5-12, 15-15) (W DeP 71-62, L SH 85-74)
  15.   Providence (4-13, 12-17) (L @USF 99-93, L @Pitt 73-71)
  16.   DePaul (1-16, 8-21) (L @Rut 71-62, USF 63-59)

Weekend Preview

Main Event
West Virginia @ Villanova, Saturday, 12:00 PM
The Mountaineers and Wildcats will be battling for the 2nd seed in the Big East tournament early Saturday afternoon.  Even more may be at stake for Villanova, namely a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.  In reality both teams have a shot at that big prize.  If whoever wins this game can go to New York and win the Big East tournament they will have an excellent case for a #1 seed.  These two teams met about a month ago in Morgantown and it was the Wildcats who came away with the 82-75 victory behind Scottie Reynolds’ 21 points and Corey Fisher’s 17.  In that game Villanova shot 57% from the field while West Virginia struggled at 41%.  It will be Reynolds last game at home and I expect the rest of the team to send him off in style with a big win.

Best Matchup
Notre Dame @ Marquette, Saturday, 2:00 PM
The only meeting between these two programs will take place on the last day of the Big East regular season.  After suffering through three tough losses by a total of six points the Irish have really turned it on lately scoring huges wins over Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Connecticut.  Marquette continues to be one of the hottest teams in the conference having won nine of their last 10 games.  While Marquette would cement their place in the NCAA tournament with this win, it’s Notre Dame that needs the victory more.  However, I think their luck will run out and the Golden Eagles will win this one at home.

Upset Alert
Syracuse @ Louisville, Saturday, 2:00 PM
The Cardinals should be highly motivated to win this game.  They need the victory for their tournament hopes; they’ll want to send their seniors off on a good note; and it will be the final game in Freedom Hall.  Meanwhile the Orange may choose to give Wesley Johnson a lot more time off than he would normally get during a game to rest his many injuries.  They don’t have a lot to gain from this matchup other than revenge on Louisville for giving them one of their two losses.  I think that with all the motivation they will have, the Cardinals will win this one, if you can call that an upset.

Rest of the Slate (in chronological order)
Cincinnati @ Georgetown, Saturday, 12:00 PM
There is a lot of uncertainty for Georgetown with Austin Freeman’s recent diabetes diagnosis.  It is unknown when he will return to the lineup, although he did practice some this week.  Without Freeman the Hoyas, who have been considered a championship contender, will likely quietly fade away.  Both of these teams are coming into this game having lost four of their last five.  Even with a 7-10 Big East record and a 16-13 overall record the Bearcats are still on the bubble.  Although, they certainly have to win this game and make a run in the Big East tournament to get the nod.  My hunch is that Georgetown will find a way to win this one.

Connecticut @ South Florida, Saturday, 2:00 PM
After playing their way into the tournament with huge wins over Villanova and West Virginia, the Huskies have possibly played their way back out with losses to Louisville and Notre Dame.  In the Notre Dame matchup their offense was absolutely atrocious.  They are 2-7 on the road but they really need this win over USF.  Hard to believe, but a Bulls win will get them to .500 on the season in the Big East.  Some prognosticators even think they still have a chance to sneak into the tournament.  I’ve got to believe that UConn will win this game with so much at stake.

Rutgers @ Pittsburgh, Saturday, 4:30 PM
Pitt is coming off a buzzer beater win over Providence while Rutgers comes into the game having lost two of their last three games to their New Jersey rival Seton Hall.  The Panthers still have a shot at the #2 seed in the Big East tourney.  They should handle the Scarlet Knights easily.

Seton Hall @ Providence, Saturday, 7:00 PM
Just like South Florida, Seton Hall is a team with a faint chance for an NCAA tournament birth who can achieve a .500 conference record with a win.  Meanwhile, Providence has lost nine in a row.  The Friars are not as bad as their 4-13 league record indicates though.  I would not be surprised to see them pull off the upset in this game and ruin the Pirates’ NCAA hopes.

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With one week, and two games each, left in the Big East regular season schedule, the conference still has an almost unbelievable 11 teams in the running for an NCAA tournament birth.  Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Georgetown are definites in the field.  In Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology on ESPN he adds Marquette, Louisville and Connecticut to that group for a total of eight Big East teams.  He also includes Notre Dame in the first four out and Seton Hall and Cincinnati in the next four out.

Last week I assessed what each Big East bubble team needed to do to be invited to the NCAA tournament.  Here’s an updated analysis (South Florida has dropped out of contention):

Louisville – 19-10 (10-6), RPI: 32, SOS: 5

Remaining Schedule: @Marquette, Syracuse
The Cardinals still have the best RPI of the Big East bubble teams.  They split their games last week, losing a tough one at home to Georgetown and then scoring a big win at Connecticut.  One more win in their last two games and a first round Big East tournament victory will guarantee a spot in the big dance.  I think they still get in with a first round tourney win even if they lose their last two regular season games.   
Bottom Line – In

Marquette – 19-9 (10-6), RPI: 49, SOS: 67

Remaining Schedule: Louisville, Notre Dame
Marquette is one of the hottest teams in the conference having won eight out of their last nine and their last three on the road in overtime.  A weak RPI and bad losses to DePaul and N.C. State are the things holding them back.  A win against either Louisville or Notre Dame will guarantee them a spot in the Big Dance.
Bottom Line – In

Connecticut – 17-12 (7-9), RPI: 44, SOS: 2

Remaining Schedule: @Notre Dame, @USF
The Huskies lost in a battle against Louisville.  Now they need to win their last two games on the road to reach .500 in conference play.  I think they still need some combination of three wins during the rest of the regular season and the Big East tournament to guarantee a spot.
Bottom Line – In

Notre Dame – 19-10 (8-8), RPI: 68, SOS: 60

Remaining Schedule: Connecticut, @Marquette
Nobody helped themselves more last week than the Irish.  They picked up two big wins, one at home against Pittsburgh and another at Georgetown.  Even more impressively they won without Luke Harangody, who looks likely to miss the rest of the season.  As I said last week, their remaining schedule gives them a chance to play their way in.  If they can get two more wins this week they will solidify their spot in the NCAA tournment.  If they lose one they will still have a chance if they can look impressive in a win or two in the Big East tournament.
Bottom Line – Out

Cincinnati – 16-12 (7-9), RPI: 58, SOS: 17

Remaining Schedule: Villanova, @Georgetown
The Bearcats are on their last legs.  They have big opportunities to score a strong victory in the last week of regular season play.  Two wins this week and one in the Big East tournament would secure their spot in the NCAA tourney.  Otherwise they are going to need to make a deep run in the Garden.
Bottom Line – Out

Seton Hall – 16-11 (7-9), RPI: 63, SOS: 16

Remaining Schedule: @Rutgers, @Providence
The Pirates lost a real tough game at the end of last week at home against Marquette in overtime.  That win would have really helped their chances.  They are going to need a lot of help to get into the NCAA tournament.  They absolutely have to win their last two games and then probably two more at Madison Square Garden to get a spot in the Big Dance.
Bottom Line – Out

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As we head into the closing stretch of the regular season some of the Big East teams are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in the middle of the conference standings (Connecticut and Marquette), while others are struggling at just the wrong time (Cincinnati and South Florida).  Earlier in the week I posted my thoughts on what all of the Big East bubble teams have to do to earn a birth to the big dance.  Going into the second to last weekend of conference play here are my updated power rankings:

  1. Syracuse (13-2, 26-2) (W @Prov 99-85)
  2. Villanova (12-3, 23-4) (L @Pitt 70-65, W USF 74-49)
  3. Pittsburgh (10-5, 21-7) (W Vill 70-65, L @ND 68-53)
  4. West Virginia (10-5, 21-6) (W SH 75-63, L @Conn 73-62)
  5. Georgetown (9-6, 19-7) (W @Lou 70-60)
  6. Louisville (9-6, 18-10) (W @DeP 68-59, L Gtwn 70-60)
  7. Marquette (9-6, 18-9) (W @Cin 79-76 OT, W @St.J 63-61 OT)
  8. Connecticut (7-8, 17-11) (W @Rut 76-58, W WVU 73-62)
  9. Notre Dame (7-8, 18-10) (W Pitt 68-53)
  10.   Seton Hall (7-8, 16-10) (L @WVU 75-63, W Rut 76-70)
  11.   Cincinnati (7-8, 16-11) (L Marq 79-76 OT, W DeP 74-69)
  12.   South Florida (6-9, 16-11) (L St.J 74-58, L @Vill 74-49)
  13.   St. John’s (5-10, 15-12) (W @USF 74-58, L Marq 63-61 OT)
  14.   Providence (4-11, 12-15) (L Syr 99-85)
  15.   Rutgers (4-11, 14-14) (L Conn 76-58, L @SH 76-70)
  16.   DePaul (1-14, 8-19) (L Lou 68-59, L @Cin 74-69)

Weekend Preview

Main Event
Villanova @ Syracuse, Saturday, 9:00 PM
This is the game Syracuse and Villanova fans have been waiting for…the matchup between the two teams that have sat on top of the Big East all season.  More than 34,000 will pile into the Carrier Dome to witness the battle.  Both teams have had to scrap their way through some tough games lately.  The Wildcats lost to Connecticut and Pittsburgh before beating USF most recently.  The Orange had a tough home loss to Louisville, but have rallied with consecutive wins against Georgetown and Providence.  A key to this game will be Syracuse’s defensive intensity.  They are willing to give up the three in the zone, but they need to be aggressive out front.  They need to make Villanova uncomfortable and to start their transition offense through forced turnovers.  I think the Orange will be focused and motivated and will win this one.  Although, a hot night from Big East Player of the Year candidate Scottie Reynolds could ruin the evening for the mass of Orange fans.

Best Matchup
Louisville @ Connecticut, Sunday, 2:00 PM
A classic matchup of legendary coaches, this game brings together two teams that are fighting for their NCAA tournament lives.  After being written off upon Coach Jim Calhoun’s return and a bad loss to Cincinnati, Connecticut has won three in a row.  Louisville had also been playing well until they failed this week to capitalize on a big opportunity by losing to Georgetown at home.  Louisville won the first matchup of these two teams handily on February 1st, 82-69.  That was before Calhoun’s return.  The Cardinals shot well and forced the Huskies into 17 turnovers.  I think Connecticut has rediscovered their swagger and will get an important win in this one.

Upset Alert
Providence @ South Florida, Saturday, 7:00 PM
The first matchup between the Friars and the Bulls was an overtime barn-burner that South Florida pulled out 109-105.  That was the big coming out party for Dominique Jones in which he scored 46 points.  While Providence has lost seven games in a row I keep expecting them to pull out an upset win.  South Florida may give them a good chance to do it, having lost four of their last five games.  Of course if Jones goes off for 40+ again they’ll have no chance.

Rest of the Slate (in chronological order)
Notre Dame @ Georgetown, Saturday, 12:00 PM
As good as Georgetown is, they’ve certainly been uneven.  They’ve easily won at Pittsburgh and at Louisville, but also have losses to USF at home and at Rutgers.  Notre Dame was expected to just play out the season after Luke Harangody’s injury, but they scored a dominant win over Pittsburgh this week.  I expect the Hoyas to come out strong in this game and handle the Irish.

Pittsburgh @ St. John’s, Saturday, 12:00 PM
The Red Storm has proven they can be a dangerous team having scored upset road wins the past two weekends at Notre Dame and South Florida.  They can count on Pittsburgh coming to play in this one though.  The Panthers will be angry after losing, and really not being competitive, this week at Notre Dame.  Pitt rode a late game rally to win the first matchup of these teams at the end of January, 63-53.  Expect the Panthers to come out strong and win this one as well.

Cincinnati @ West Virginia, Saturday, 2:00 PM
Cincinnati is fighting for their season and really needs to win two of their last three games to even merit consideration for the NCAA tournament.  That’s much easier said than done considering they play at West Virginia, then home against Villanova before finishing their season at Georgetown.  Meanwhile West Virginia has looked like one of the best teams in the country at times.  They have struggled lately though, winning only two of their last five games and coming off a loss at Connecticut.  As much as they need this game, I don’t think the Bearcats can win it.  Expect Bob Huggins to get his first win over his former team.

DePaul @ Rutgers, Saturday, 4:00 PM
What can you really say about this game?  How about this…somebody’s got to win.

Marquette @ Seton Hall, Sunday, 12:00 PM
Seton Hall is holding on to a slight chance to play their way into the big dance while Marquette is looking to solidify their seeding.  Both of these teams have played well lately.  The Golden Eagles have won seven of their last eight games and the Pirates have won four of their past five.  Marquette will have to contain dangerous scorer Jeremy Hazell while generating good scoring opportunities when they have the ball.  I expect Marquette to find a way to win this game but I will not be surprised if Seton Hall is able to pull it out because they will feel that they need the victory more.

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