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Big East Tournament Seed: No. 6; plays Marquette/Providence winner on Wednesday (9 p.m. on ESPN)
Head Coach: Bob Huggins is one of the most intense coaches in the country, and has turned West Virginia into a powerhouse in his four years in Morgantown. Huggie Bear will make it four straight tourney appearances at West Virginia with an invite this year.
Team MVP: Junior forward Kevin Jones is the Mountaineers’ best all-around player. The big-man gives them size inside (6-foot-8, 260-pounds), but also can knock down the occasional three pointer. In their regular season finale Saturday, Jones, who scored 25 points and pulled down 16 boards, was dominant in a big win over Louisville.
Playing For: A good seed in the NCAA Tournament. Right now, many tournament projections have West Virginia in the No. 5-6 seed range. That’s probably where they end up, but a best case scenario could see them move up to a No. 3 spot.
Breakdown: Huggins’ teams are always physical and this West Virginia team is no different. They aren’t a great scoring team, but they can play well defensively in the half court. That quality gives WVU a chance against anybody. WVU avoids big scoring runs from its opponents, as the Mountaineers allow teams to shoot just 28-percent from 3-point range.
Truck Bryant is an erratic scorer from the point guard position. If WVU can get scoring from Bryant, who can put up big nights, the Mountaineers are tough to beat. He splits time with veteran Joe Mazzulla, who plays distributor. the question is: Can WVU shoot well enough from the perimeter to make a run in the tournament?
Big East Tournament Seed: No. 16; play No. 9 (noon on ESPN2). on Tuesday
Head Coach: It has been a rough first year for first-year Oliver Purnell, who formerly coached the Clemson Tigers for seven seasons. Purnell also coached at Dayton, Old Dominion and Radford. In 2003, Purnell led Dayton to the Atlantic 10 Tournament title.
Team MVP: Though, freshman forward Cleveland Melvin will not be available for the remainder of the season because of a thumb injury he suffered in a loss to St. John's, Feb. 23. The 6-foot-8 forward, who averaged 17.4 points per game during league play, was by far DePaul's best player this season. The unanimous All-Big East Rookie Team selection and SB Nation New York Rookie Of The Year honoree will end the year as the team's best scorer (14.3 points per game) and second-best rebounder (5.9 rebounds per game).
Playing For: Considering that DePaul had a terrible regular season, it's only hope of making a postseason appearance is winning the Big East Tournament and earning the automatic bid that goes with it. Of course, Lindsay Lohan's odds of earning a movie role in 2011 are better than the Blue Demons winning five straight Big East games.
Breakdown: Freshman Brandon Young is now DePaul's first option. In the Blue Demon's first game without Melvin, a Feb. 26 loss at the South Florida Bulls, the 6-foot-2 guard netted 23 points. That performance helped Young, DePaul's second-best scorer (12.4 ppg) and best passer (3.7 assists per game), earn Big East Rookie Of The Week honors on Monday, Feb 28.
Big East Tournament Seed: No. 15; play No. 10 on Tuesday (7 p.m. on ESPNU).
Head Coach: Last year, under third-year coach Stan Heath, the USF basketball program earned its first 20-win season, but this year was a different story. Heath, who after last season signed an contract extension that expires in 2015, is having a hard time making USF basketball relevant in football country.
Team MVP: The name, Augustus Gilchrist, is fantastic and his game is pretty good too. All season, the 6-foot-10, junior forward, who finished the regular season as the team's best scorer (13.2 points per game) has been USF's go-to guy. Gilchrist's size and athletic ability creates tough matchup for opponents, but without much talent surrounding him constancy has been the issue.
Playing For: Unless a miracle-championship run in the Big East Tournament happens, then the Bulls are more thank likely headed back to the drawing board for the 2011-'12 season.
Breakdown: Explosiveness is not in USF's basketball dictionary. Only one player (Gilchrist) is averaging double-digits in scoring and the team is ranked last in the conference in points per game, 61.7. Now, I am no basketball genius, but I do know that scoring more than the other team is the key to winning. Sophmore forward Jawanza Poland is the team's second-best scorer (9.2 ppg), while teammate junior forward Ron Anderson Jr. is the squad's best rebound (6.5 rebounds per game).
Big East Tournament Seed: No. 3; play 6/11/14 winner on Thursday (9 p.m. on ESPN).
Head Coach: Rick Pitino, who's coaching his 10th season at Louisville, is one of the three living legends currently coaching in the Big East Conference. Pitino, who led the Cardinals to their first ever Big East Tournament title in 2008, has nine Elite 8 and five Final Four appearances on his resume.
Team MVP: Senior guard Preston Knowles is Louisville's biggest threat to put up big numbers. The 6-foot-1 guard is the team's leading scorer (14.5 points per game), shooter (7.6 3-point attempts per game) and team captain. The best aspect about Knowles, a All-Big East second teamer, is that he has been the team's leading scorer just once in the Cardinals' last 12 games.
Playing For: A Big East Tournament title would probably propel Louisville to a solid No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but who knows what will happen. The Cardinals downed No. 1-seed candidate Pittsburgh last Sunday, Feb. 27, but lost at the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday.
Breakdown: Knowles and junior Kyle Kuric (10.8 ppg) lead a team that lives and dies by the 3-pointer. If I received a dollar for every 3-point attempt that Louisville chucked up this season (750), I'd be able to throw a great Big East Tournament party (you wouldn't even need to BYOB). Knowles is a player who will shoot from anyplace, while Kuric is a sharp-shooter (45.5-percent on 3-pointers) and is the most underrated player in the league.
Sophomore guard Peyton Siva, who averages 9.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists and leads the conference in steals per game (2.1) does all the small things. The question is, can the Cardinals survive without sophomore forward Rakeem Buckles, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last Sunday?
Big East Tournament Seed: No. 1; play 8/9/16 winner on Thursday (noon on ESPN)
Head Coach: Jamie Dixon, who's coaching his eighth year at Pittsburgh, is probably the most underrated head coach in the nation. Entering this season, Dixon has the highest Big East winning percentage (.696) than any other conference coach (yeap, that includes legends like Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and Rick Pitino). Unfortunately for the rest of the coaches, his percentage just went up.
Team MVP: Frankly, there are about two other MVPs for the Panthers, but junior guard Ashton Gibbs stands out above them all. Why? Because the 6-foot-2 guard, who earned All-Big East First Team honors, leads the team in scoring (16.4 points per game), 3-point shooting percentage (46.6), is automatic from the free-throw line (89.5 percent) and if Pitt needs a basket, they look to him.
Playing For: A recent losses to St. John's Red Storm, Feb. 19, and Louisville Cardinals, Feb. 27, have put Pitt on the NCAA Tournament top-seed bubble. A finals appearances should help the Panthers earn their second No. 1 seed in three seasons.
Breakdown: By far the most well balanced team, the SB Nation New York's Best Big East Team has been the class of the nation's best conference all season. However, Pittsburgh could never string together enough victories to earn the nation's top ranking -- Pitt was ranked No. 2 on Jan. 24.
Gibbs and senior guard Brad Wannamaker (11.9 ppg), a All-Big East second teamer, can beat you inside and out, while senior center Gary McGhee and senior forward Gilbert Brown protect the rim with physical play. Sophomore guard Travon Woodall is the only non-junior/senior that plays 20-plus minutes per game. That experience should help the program earn its third Big East Tournament title.
Head Coach: Buzz Williams, who's coaching his third year at Marquette, has done a solid job of keeping the Marquette basketball, a 94-year tradition, competitive in the nation's toughest conference. However, the Golden Eagles are still searching for that one Big East accomplishment that could carry the program to the next level.
Team MVP: All season, senior forward Jimmy Butler has been Marquette's most consistent, all-around threat. The 6-foot-7 forward, who is averaging 34-plus minutes per game and earned All-Big East honorable mention, will enter the tournament as the Golden Eagles' leading scorer (16.2 points per game) and second-best rebounder (6.2 rebounds per game).
Playing For: After losing to the Cincinnati Bearcats, March 2, and the Seton Hall Pirates, March 5, to end the regular season, the Golden Eagles enter the Big East Tournament officially on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Currently, Marquette is in, but a first-round loss to a very beatable Providence team could end their NCAA aspirations.
Breakdown: Marquette has a solid trio of Butler, junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom and junior forward Jae Crowder, who will try an earn two wins to help the Golden Eagles earn their six straight 20-win season. Johnson-Odom, 15.9 ppg, can score with the best in the Big East conference, while Crowder can provided a solid inside (Marquette's leading rebound with 6.9 rpg) and outside (36.7 percent from 3-point land) weapon.
Big East Tournament Seed: No. 2; play No. 7/10/15 winner on Thursday (7 p.m. on ESPN).
Head Coach: Mike Brey, who's coaching his 11th year at Notre Dame, is the third-longest tenured coach in the Big East Conference. Brey has led the Irish to a lot of regular season success (11 20-win seasons), but he has never captured a Big East Conference Tournament championship.
Team MVP: Don't worry, I wont do be that guy who points out that one fact about senior guard Ben Hansbrough. The transfer from Mississippi State, has made a name for himself this season. Hansbrough, who was the only player to earn a unanimous selection for All-Big East First Team, ended the regular season as the conference's third-best scorer (18.5 points per game) and third-best 3-point shooter (45.1 percent). Since Jan. 19, the Irish are 11-1 and Hansbrough has averaged 19.9 ppg. On Feb. 23, the 6-foot-3 guard netted a collegiate-best 32 points at Providence.
Playing For: If Notre Dame can earn the program's first Big East Tournament title, a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is possible. If not, then the Irish will probably earn a No. 2 or 3 seed.
Breakdown: While Hansbrough has received a lot of attention, it needs to be noted that teammate senior forward Tim Abromaitis is also producing a stellar season. The 6-8 forward is the team's second-best scorer (15.2 ppg) and rebounder (6.2 rpg), but also can hit a 3-pointer (41.9 percent) and does every little thing on the basketball court. Add two more seniors, forwards Carleton Scott and Scott Martin, and Notre Dame, SB Nation New York's Most Surprising Team, has the goods to win the whole shebang. Finally.
-- written by Chris Celletti.
Big East Tournament Seed: No. 5; play Seton Hall Pirates or Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Wednesday (2 p.m. on ESPN.
Head Coach: The first-year head coach of St. John's, Steve Lavin, had a few months to morph nine seniors into winners and he's done a fantastic job. Last season, with Norm Roberts at the helm, the Red Storm finished in 13th place in the Big East Conference standings (17-15, 6-12) with basically the same group of players. Now, they are a contender for a Big East Tournament title.
Team MVP: Senior point guard Dwight Hardy, the SB Nation New York's Big East MVP and All-Big East First-Team, has ice water running through his veins. The 6-foot-2 guard reminds me a lot of former Texas A&M clutch performer Acie Law IV (2003-07), who led the Aggies to a Sweet 16 appearance. The three-time Big East Player Of The Week has been playing at an extremely high level (23.9 points per game) in St. John's last 11 games.
Playing For: A 60-59 victory over No. 4/6 Pittsburgh, Feb, 19, punched the Johnnies ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Johnnies are looking for something more -- a No. 4, possible 3 seed? Whereever the selection committee places the Red Storm, they will playing in their first NCAA Tournament since 2002.
Breakdown: St. John's began league play with a 4-5 record, but then rallied with a seven-game conference winning streak that including beating Pittsburgh, UConn and Villanova. This season, the Johnnies have defeated six top-15 teams, including the No. 4/5 Duke Blue Devils, a number match by no other men's Division I program.
Senior Justin Brownlee is the second-best scorer (12.1 ppg) and rebounder (5.2 rebound per game) for the Johnnies. The 6-foot-7, 220-pounds forward does nothing spectacular, but he's strong, athletic and a versatile scorer. Believe it or not, Brownlee can take opponents off the dribble and can hit the occasional 3-pointer. All these aspects create tough matchup for opposing teams. Despite being just 6-foot-5, senior forward D.J. Kennedy is a bully inside. Kennedy is averaging 10.7 ppg and 5.9 rpg.
-- Written by Jared Smith
Big East Tournament Seed: No. 4; plays 5/12/13 winner on Thursday (2 p.m. on ESPN).
Head Coach: Earlier this season, Jim Boeheim, who's coach his 35th season at Syracuse University, earned his 850th career victory and is currently ranked fifth all-time in victories for a men's basketball Division I coaches. Only Bob Knight (902), Mike Krzyzewski (still active), Dean Smith (879) and Adolph Rupp (876) have collected more victories.
Team MVP: Senior forward Rick Jackson is the key to the Orange's success in the Big East Tournament. Jackson, who earned All-Big East Second Team honors, has been SU's most consistent player all year. Jackson (13.1 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game) is a very agile 6-foot-9 big-man. That quality has helped the senior log a ton of minutes (35.1 minutes per game) and collect 17 double-doubles this season.
Playing For: The Orange enter the Big East Tournament as a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, but could improve their seeding with a couple wins in the conference tournament. With a Big East Tournament title, SU could earn a No. 2 seed.
Breakdown: It's been a roller coaster-like ride for Syracuse in 2010-11. At one point, the Orange were 18-0, ranked No. 4 in the country and were penciled-in to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, a mid-season tailspin (SU lost six of its next eight games, including a three-game home skid) that plummeted the Orange down the national rankings (No. 20 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll) and Big East standings.
SU's wandering ship righted itself after it found a captain, sophomore guard Brandon Triche. Triche is currently the team's fourth-best scorer (11.2 ppg) on the team, but he's the player that the Orange turn to to get the them going. Junior Kris Joseph is the team's leading scorer (14.2 ppg). Senior point guard Scoop Jardine (12.6 ppg and 6.0 assists per game) can create plays, but also a lot of headaches (2.8 turnovers per game). Freshman forward C.J. Fair (6.4 ppg and 3.5 rpg) is a positive contributor off the bench.
-- Written by Jared Smith
If there's one thing that New York fans do, its support their local sporting events. On Tuesday, the most exciting annual event, the 2011 Big East Conference Tournament, tips off at Madison Square Garden. And, this year's tournament won't be like the last ones.
All season, we here at SB Nation New York have written about the wacky regular season in the nation's best conference that concluded with: Three teams finishing in a tie for third place in the conference standings, two in a tie for sixth, three more tied for ninth and currently 11 squads are predicted to earn a NCAA Tournament bids, which would set a new record for a conference -- the previous record of eight was set by the Big East in '06 and '08.
Last season, the West Virginia Mountaineers earned the programs first Big East Tournament championship. Overall, the Georgetown Hoyas have earned a conference record of seven titles, while the Connecticut Huskies have six and the Syracuse Orange have five.
Would you like to know about these teams? Well, SB Nation New York has you covered with a preview of all 16 Big East Conference teams, along with a StoryStream that will update the tournament's bracket, schedule, scores, results, breaking news and a lot more. Oh, we also wrote a few features just for fun. If you're looking for day-to-day, hour-to-hour, second-to-second coverage of New York's most anticipated "Spring" sporting event, you've come to the right place.
Throughout the morning we will be adding all of the individual team capsules to this StoryStream. While you wait for your team to be posted, check out these related Big East Tournament articles:
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