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Big East tourney hits Madison Square Garden

Conference tournament begins Tuesday at noon.  Top-seed Syracuse is a major favorite, but are they our pick to take the crown?  Metro gives you our winner, plus who not to overlook.

Contenders

Syracuse

(30-1, 17-1)

OK, so it’s not exactly going out on a limb to say Syracuse, the No. 2 team in the country, is a top contender to win the Big East tournament.

Fans from central New York always travel well to the Garden and, let’s face it, they have the best team.

But that doesn’t mean they will win. When they won the national title in 2003, they didn’t even make the final — despite having Carmelo Anthony.

Only twice in the last eight years has the top seed won. Syracuse is a contender, but not our pick.

Marquette

(25-6, 14-4)

Metro’s pick to win it all is the team that’s gotten no respect all year.

The Golden Eagles are coming off a romp against Georgetown, and all four conference losses are on the road — including a tough one at the Orange. We like their path to the title game too.

Pretender

South Florida

(19-12, 12-6)

If you have a soft spot in your heart for the scrappy, underdog Bulls, we’re sorry. Their feel-good story is over.

They went into the last weekend of the season with a chance to secure a double-bye in the tournament. Instead, they choked at home against West Virginia in a game that set back basketball a few decades.

They shot 39 percent from the field, including an ugly 2-of-14 from 3. But that’s just one game, right?

Actually their 44-point output was one of 10 times they couldn’t break the 50-point barrier. Syracuse did it, unsurprisingly, zero times.

But even teams in the middle of the pack didn’t have that horrific of an offensive output regularly. Cincinnati did it once; so did Louisville. Seton Hall did it three times.

The Bulls can’t score. They’re tenacious, they’re gutty and they do an incredibly poor job of putting the ball into the basket.

Those aren’t the kind of teams you want to pick in March.

They had a nice run, nabbing the No. 6 seed in the tourney — but they won’t be sticking around long and they don’t deserve a spot in the big dance.

Dark horse

Connecticut

(18-12, 8-10)

You may question whether the Huskies belong as an under-the-radar team coming off a title last year, but they are the No. 9 seed and will have to play the first day.

Sound familiar?

It better, because it’s the same scenario as last season, when they won the Big East tournament and then marched to the national title. They even opened with the same team — DePaul. The second team they’d face is West Virginia, a team they’ve already beaten this year.

Jim Calhoun is back in charge, Shabazz Napier looked great against Pitt, and it shouldn’t surprise you to see another tourney run.

 
 
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