The Big East tournament is alive and kicking. Syracuse, Villanova, and Pittsburgh, three of the top four seeds are home resting for the Big Dance. So what's left?
The five storylines:
1 - The KO of A.O. Orange fans feigned apathy on campus Friday afternoon, focusing on the spring break exodus more so than the Big East tournament. Losing in this championship would have minimal impact on the bigger goal (a national championship), they said. They were right: no one cares about the loss to Georgetown, all eyes are focused on Friday’s MRI of senior Arinze Onuaku’s right knee. The availability of A.O. (below) is the key to a deep Syracuse run. Without production from the post, teams can focus on taking away the Orange’s ability to shoot deep jumpers. The latest A.O. info by Mike Waters from The Post-Standard.
Photo by Jamie De Pould
2 - The best of the rest. West Virginia is the stable pick to take home the Big East Tournament championship. Steady star D’Sean Butler topped the highlight reel after he banked in a 3-pointer to beat Cincinnati on Thursday night, but his name easily could been engraved on the Player of the Year trophy. Combine his versatility with that of teammates Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks, and the defense becomes a scramble.
3 - Different dog each night. Pete Thamel of The New York Times called Georgetown “as predictable as lottery numbers.” When all three Hoya guns are firing (center Greg Monroe, forward Austin Freeman, and guard Chris Wright), Georgetown is a top-five team. When one gun gets jammed, amazingly the Hoyas look like Connecticut. We see Georgetown playing strong in one of the next two games, but which one will it be?
4 - Marq-ed birds. Marquette has always shot the ball from beyond the arc with accuracy, even its big men (see Buffalo native Lazar Hayward on Thursday) can drill deep jumpers. Armed with the most accurate shooter in the conference (Darius Johnson-Odom) and a ton of Buzz (head coach Williams, that is), the Eagles need to let ‘em fly to top the Hoyas.
5- Re-count? Every coach in the country should take note of teams that take a top scorer out of the starting lineup, and use that player as a sixth man. Basketball is a momentum game with scoring runs, timeouts, and hot shooting streaks that need to be avoided or exploited. When Notre Dame senior Luke Harangody went down with an injury late in the season, it gave head coach Mike Brey a chance to beat the team-first drum. Once his leading scorer regained his health, Brey resisted returning ‘Gody to the starting lineup and the team has won six straight games
Big East tourney predictions:
Georgetown 79, Marquette 71 / West Virginia 64, Notre Dame 61
Final: West Virginia 79, Georgetown 71