It is the end of the Big East as we know it.
The conference may not look like its old self next year with the loss of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame due to conference realignment shaking a once-proud Big East. But for one last glorious turn at Madison Square Garden this week, what is still a powerhouse conference will have a sad swan song. The good news is that so many of the Big East’s top programs are expected to go far this week in the tournament, meaning that this last installment of the conference tournament should provide some epic moments.
Three things to watch ...
1. It is all about Georgetown
The Hoyas finished the regular season strong, with a dominant home win over Syracuse as part of Georgetown’s 12 wins in 13 games to close out the season. Unanimous All-Big East selection Otto Porter Jr. is leading Georgetown with 16.4 point per game and the sophomore is a dynamic game-changer who also rebounds very well. But without sophomore forward Greg Whittington, who hasn’t played since mid-January after being ruled academically ineligible, the team still struggles to rebound. In a Big East with some strong front courts this could well be their weakness.
2. Providence could make a run
The Friars closed out the season on a strong note, winning seven of their final nine games although they were exposed in their regular season finale loss at UConn. Junior Bryce Cotton is a tremendous talent at guard but the team is perhaps overly reliant on him to pace the offense. In their last two losses, he’s scored a combined 19 points during a season where he led Providence with 19.6 points per game. If he can step up against Cincinnati on Wednesday, then Providence can win a game or two in this tournament. If not, they’re NIT bound.
3. Buzz kills it
Every year, it seems that despite their ranking, pundits and fans overlook Marquette in favor of the big boys. But every year, Buzz Williams’s teams show up. The Golden Eagles have never won the Big East under Williams but this is a balanced team that works well as a unit. They lack a prolific scorer, although Vander Blue can get streaky at times. Junior Cadougan is steady at the point and one of the most underrated players in the Big East. In a year where the only favorite is Georgetown, don’t be surprised if the Golden Eagles makes a deep run.
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.