Just when my couch sores were starting to heal from covering every minute of last week’s Missouri Conference Tournament, championship week arrives.
I’ll be glued to my sofa once again this week to bring you all the analysis and picks for the Big East tournament and provide some insight heading into the NCAA Tournament. The top 12 teams in the conference meet in New York as usual, and action begins Wednesday at noon at Madison Square Garden.
Last week the couch potato-ing seemed to help. I went 6-3 with my MVC plays and hopefully made us both a little money.
Back to the potato patch I go….
Syracuse (9) vs. Villanova (8)
Odds: +1 1/2, 148
Game time: 12 p.m. ET on ESPN
This should be a nasty little game that will start the tournament off with a bang. Cuse and Nova split their meetings SU (straight up) and ATS (against the spread) this season, oddly with the visiting team winning each game by double digits.
Both teams are loaded with underclassmen with only one senior between them. Cuse has more talent though, with freshman guard Jonny Flynn, sophomore guard Paul Harris, and freshman forward Donte Greene all earning Big East honors.
But Nova has been tough down the final stretch. The Wildcats have been helped lately by moving junior forward Dwayne Anderson to the starting lineup. He has 10.1 points and 8.1 boards since becoming a starter and the Cats are 6-3 SU and ATS during that span. The defense also improved dramatically down the stretch, as you can see by their nine unders in their last 10 games.
They’ll need to stop an Orange scoring offense that ranked No. 2 in the conference.
Pick: Cuse -1 1/2
Providence (12) vs. West Virginia (5)
Odds: West Virginia -8 1/2, 139
Game time: 2 p.m. ET on ESPN
This will be the third time in a row the Friars have met WVA in the first round after showdowns in 2005 and 2007. That’s not good considering Providence was hammered by the Mountaineers as small dogs by a combined 36 points in those meetings.
The Friars lost both of this year’s meetings by double digits too, so they’re in tough on Wednesday. They also just lost starting guard Dwain Williams for the season to an ankle injury, which leaves them without his 11 points and 2.2 assists per game.
West Virginia has the best scoring margin (+13.3) and best turnover margin (+5.39) so they’ll be a tough opponent throughout the tourney. Watch for do-everything forward Joe Alexander, who can pretty much do everything and even hit the trey. He is the reigning Big East player of the week after a 32-point game and a 29-point game last week.
Pick: West Virginia -8 1/2
Cincinnati (10) vs. Pittsburgh (7)
Odds: Pittsburgh -8 1/2, 129 1/2
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Pitt has made it to six of the last seven Big East finals, so the Panthers need to be taken seriously. MSG has been good to them this season, where they’ve won two games already (vs. Duke and St. John’s).
What hasn’t been good to them is Cincy - at least from a bettor’s perspective. The Bearcats covered the spread in both meetings with Pitt this season and won the first one outright, 62-69.
Cincy enters on a five-game losing streak on Wednesday, which includes a loss to Pitt, and the Cats have failed to cover in five of their last six games. The issue has been offense. Cincinnati hasn’t shot better than 40 percent from the field very often and it ranks 14th in the Big East in scoring.
That's not usually a problem for Pitt, which is shooting 48 percent from the field over its last five and has All-Big East teamer Sam Young on the floor (18 ppg). The Panthers defense has been sad lately though, where they’re allowing opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the field. That might make the over worth a look here.
Pick: over 129 1/2
Seton Hall (11) vs. Marquette (6)
Odds: Marquette -10 1/2, 149 1/2
Game time: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
Seton Hall doesn’t exactly come into the tournament bursting with confidence. The Pirates have only won two of their last 10 games (covering only three of them), and those wins came against a pair of teams that won’t be in New York (South Florida and Depaul).
Worse, the last game of the season could cause a hangover Wednesday. Hall lost on a last-second buzzer-beater to the Big East’s worst team, Rutgers, and now the conference is looking into comments made by Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez about the officials.
About the only bright spot lately for Seton Hall is that Brian Laing was named an all-conference first teamer after finished second in league scoring (19 ppg).
Marquette has more balanced scoring with four players in double digits per game. The Eagles love to run the floor and force the tempo, but their inconsistent guard play has hurt them at times.
Marquette ranks in the top five in the conference in scoring offense and defense. The Golden Eagles also beat Seton Hall twice this season, covering once. The most recent win was by 25 points.
Pick: Marquette - 10 1/2