The battle for the last two-round bye in the Big East Tournament, March 8-12, will come down to the final week of play. And, who would of predicated that two SB Nation New York college hoops programs, St. John's Red Storm and Syracuse Orange, would be two of the four teams in the running. I sure didn't.
I defiantly didn't predict how each team would get to this point: The third-place Red Storm (19-9, 11-5 Big East) currently have a half-game advantage (in the loss column) on the fifth-place Orange (24-6, 11-6) in the conference standings. However, St. John's has two games remaining in the regular season (at Seton Hall Pirates, Thursday, and home against South Florida Bulls, next Saturday), while Syracuse has just one (last-place DePaul Blue Demons next Saturday).
This means: If St. John's drops just one of its last two contests and SU beats DePaul; then the Orange, who beat the Red Storm earlier in the season and own the head-to-head tiebreaker, would earn the final double-bye because both teams would have a 12-6 conference record (follow that?).
(The top-four teams in the Big East standings get two-round byes in the conference tournament. The next four teams receive just a one-round bye, while the final eight squads have to play first-round games Tuesday, March 8.)
Yes, there are other ways that both squads could earn a double-bye, but this scenario makes it simple to follow. St. John's need to win-out; while SU needs to beat DePaul and hope the Red Storm slip up.
How did this race get so close for these two New York squads?
Well, after jumping out to an early 18-0 record, the Syracuse basketball program seemed to be destined for one of the top-four spots in the nation's best conference tournament. However, the Orange hit a mid-season snag, losing six of eight Big East contests, and fell to the level of a first-round team. But SU's current four-game winning streak and a upcoming matchup with DePaul has the Orange back in the two-round-bye race.
The Red Storm's story is almost the opposite of SU. The Red Storm began conference play 4-5. However, a non-conference victory, 93-78, against the No. 3-ranked Duke Blue Devils (currently, No. 1 in both polls) sparked an amazing seven-game, Big East winning streak. Led by senior guard Dwight Hardy who has averaged 24.0 points per game during that seven-game span, the Johnnies are in a position to run the table and capture the program's first ever double-bye.
It might be bitter cold in the state of New York, but this final-week race will heat things up a bit. Enjoy the next week all, it should be fun.