Big East: What A Conference!

by Jim Feist of

Once again the Big East is loaded
with talented teams. Marquette, Cincinnati and Louisville came aboard back in
2006, among others, joining powerhouse schools like UConn, Syracuse, Villanova
and Pitt to form a 16-team Super Big East conference. A Big East representative
won college basketball’s national championship twice in the last ten years
(UConn, 2004 + 2011) and several will be knocking on the door again.

Syracuse: The Orange were the darlings of college hoops…until losing
back to back games two weeks ago, at Villanova in OT (75-71) and at Pitt
(65-55). Still, don’t overlook this talented group, one that knocked off
then-No. 1 Louisville (70-68) and plays that suffocating Boeheim zone. Syracuse
has a surprisingly veteran team for this day and age with senior guard Brandon
Triche (14.5 ppg), 6-8 junior C.J. Fair (14 ppg, 7 rpg) and 6-9 soph Rakeem

But the guy who makes the offense hum is 6-6 sophomore
Michael Carter-Williams and his 8.5 assists per contest. And, of course, that
defense, tops in the Big East in shooting percentage (36.6% allowed): The under
is 6-2 against a team with a winning percentage above .600. They host Providence
and Georgetown this week.

Pitt: Pitt does a lot of things well, 15th in
the nation in shooting (.48%), 6th in assists, plus the defense topped No. 6
Syracuse two weeks ago (65-55). Senior G Tray Woodall (10.8 ppg, 5.5 apg) leads
in scoring, with 6-9 junior Talib Zanna (10.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg), 7-0, 250-lb
freshman Steven Adams (7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) up front. They are on a 14-5 run over the
total, though the offense shoots just 66% from free throw line (13th in Big

They win with defense, allowing 54.5 ppg in Big East play (No.
1), 5th in FG defense (39%). The Panthers rank third in the Big East in 3-point
percentage but 11th in 3-pointers attempted. But they have not been an under
team: the over is 6-2 in the Panthers last 8 road games, 20-7 over following a
win and 54-26-1 over the total in Saturday games!

Marquette: The Golden
Eagles have been getting hot at the right time, on a recent 9-2 SU, 6-4 ATS run.
They beat Georgetown (49-48) in a slow down game, but got bombed by Florida
(82-49) when the Gators controlled the tempo. They are 4th in Big East in
shooting (45.7%), second in free throws (73%), but not good from long range
(29%, 14th in Big East) for Coach Buzz Williams.

The offense is led by
6-4 junior G Vander Blue (15 ppg), who leads in scoring but comes off the bench,
so he’s seen as the best 6th man in nation, plus 6-9, 290-lb junior Davante
Gardner (12 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and 6-5 senior Trent Lockett (7.7 ppg, 5 rpg).
Marquette’s reserves average 29.9 points, fifth-most in the nation, compared to
16.6 last season. The bench scoring accounts for 42.1 percent of the team’s
total offense, which is fourth-highest in the nation. The over is 41-18 in the
Golden Eagles last 59 Saturday games.

Louisville: Rick Pitino’s troops
are doing it again with defense, third in the Big East in points allowed and
allow 39.6% shooting in conference play. He has an ace scorer in junior guard
Russ Smith (18 ppg) and senior Peyton Siva (10.6 ppg, 6 apg) leading the
offense, and a pair of board bangers in 6-11 junior Gorgui Dieng and 6-6 soph
Chane Behanan (10 ppg, 7.2 rpg).

The loss to Syracuse starting a
stunning three-game skid, losing at Villianova and Georgetown the next two
games, before they got back on course with a 70-51 rout of No. 25 Marquette.
Next week starts a tough stretch to end the regular season with games at
Syracuse, then at home against Cincinnati and Notre Dame. The Cardinals are 25-9
ATS following a win.

Georgetown: The Hoyas don’t dazzle on offense, as
the way to win the rugged Big East is with Big D. They do, allowing 55.4 ppg in
conference play (second) and 37% shooting (also second). They lost to No. 1
Indiana earlier in the season in OT. The frontcourt leads the way with 6-8
sophomore Otto Porter Jr (14.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and 6-8 junior Nate Lubick. A key
blow appeared to be the loss of 6-8 soph Greg Whittington (12 ppg, 7 rpg) in
January to academic issues, but the Hoyas kept winning. This weekend Georgetown
heads to Syracuse, one of two meetings with the Orange still on deck. Good luck!

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