College basketball predictions: SB Nation New York's Big East Conference, NCAA Tournament and Final Four picks

Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE

The men's college basketball season begins Friday, and SB Nation New York's college sports writer Jared Smith provides his predictions, including Big East Conference awards and Final Four picks.

The men's college basketball season has commenced! And before it officially kicks into high gear, I wanted to toss out my 2012-13 predictions.

I'll start by doing a rundown of the Big East Conference, the main focus of SB Nation New York, and polish it off with NCAA Tournament predictions, Final Four participants and the Naismith Player of the Year Award.

Without further delay, here they are: (react @JaredSmithCNY.)

Big East Conference

Final regular-season standings

  1. Cincinnati Bearcats
  2. Louisville Cardinals
  3. Syracuse Orange
  4. Pittsburgh Panthers
  5. Georgetown Hoyas
  6. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  7. South Florida Bulls
  8. Connecticut Huskies
  9. Marquette Golden Eagles
  10. St. John's Red Storm
  11. Villanova Wildcats
  12. Seton Hall Pirates
  13. DePaul Blue Demons
  14. Providence Friars
  15. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

The pick of the Bearcats may seem like a surprise, but I believe head coach Mick Cronin will reach his peak with this squad. Also, lets admit it, the backcourt combo of junior Sean Kilpatrick and senior Cashmere Wright is scary good. The question is: will the hole left by Yancy Gates be harder to replace than I expect?

Big East Tournament Final Four: Louisville, Georgetown, Syracuse and Pittsburgh (for old time sake.)
Big East Tournament Final: Syracuse vs. Georgetown (it's going to happen.)
Big East Tournament Champions: Syracuse (don't say I didn't tell you so.)
NCAA Tournament teams (8): Louisville (No. 2 seed), Cincinnati (No. 3), Syracuse (3), Georgetown (4), Pittsburgh (4), Notre Dame (5), South Florida (8), Marquette (12).

If Cincinnati wins the Big East regular season title, it will because Kilpatrick grows up and becomes an All-American candidate.

Player of the Year: Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Defensive Player of the Year: Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Rookie of the Year: DaJuan Coleman, Syracuse

NCAA Tournament

Alright, we're through the regular season and conference tournaments and are now onto the most important time of the year -- Selection Sunday.

I believe the Kentucky Wildcats and Arizona Wildcats will cruise through their respective leagues and tournaments -- sorry UCLA Bruins fans -- allowing them to earn No. 1 seeds. Meanwhile, the Indiana Hoosiers and Ohio St. Buckeyes will battle each other all year, however, in the end the selection committee will be forced to give these two programs No. 1 seeds.

The Cardinals have No. 1-seed talent but will be beaten up by the the Big East and will need to settle for a No. 2 seed. I like the Florida Gators' overall talent, schedule and head coach. The Kansas Jayhawks just always find a way to get a high seed and they have the talent to overcome their losses, while the Michigan St. Spartans prove the Big Ten Conference will be fun to watch this season.

The Orange and Bearcats both have enough talent to make a Final-Four run. The N.C. State Wolfpack will be everyone's sleeper pick while the Duke Blue Devils will want to be the team representing tobacco road.

No. 1 seeds: Kentucky, Ohio State, Indiana, Arizona
No. 2 seeds: Louisville, Kansas, Florida, Michigan State
No. 3: seeds: Cincinnati, Syracuse, N.C. State., Duke
No. 4 seeds: Michigan, UNLV, Georgetown, Pittsburgh

Everybody loves a Cinderella story, but by the time this time of year talent wins and these four teams could all be morphed into National Championship contenders. The Hoosiers win it all behind the nation's best player, Cody Zeller.

Final Four: Kentucky, Indiana, Syracuse, Louisville
Champion: Indiana

Naismith Player of the Year: Cody Zeller, Indiana

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