Big East tournament: Grand send-off at Madison Square Garden
The Big East tournament tips off Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in what will surely be a grand finale for the conference as we know it. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are heading to the ACC this summer, while Notre Dame also could join them this year and Louisville will follow in 2014. Rutgers exits next year to join the Big Ten. And seven schools - Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and DePaul - will leave to form the new Big East in July.
But that's next year. For now, 14 teams will vie for automatic entry into the NCAA Tournament, or simply improve their chances of receiving a bid come Sunday.
Here is a breakdown of the field, ranked from most to least likely to win it.
-- Georgetown (24-5, 14-4)
-- Louisville (26-5, 14-4)
-- Marquette (23-7, 14-4)
-- Syracuse (23-8, 11-7)
The Hoyas, Cardinals and Golden Eagles all finished the Big East regular season with a share of the conference title and are primed for success in New York. The Orange have struggled recently, losing four of five games, but are always a threat to go on a run on the big stage. No. 1-seeded Georgetown shows no signs of slowing down after winning 14 of their last 16 games and will ultimately be crowned champions on Saturday.
-- Notre Dame (23-8, 11-7)
-- Pittsburgh (24-7, 12-6)
-- Villanova (19-12, 10-8)
These three could find themselves advancing further than others expect. Of the three, only the Panthers have made an appearance in the finals during the past 12 years. The Wildcats have the most to gain out of the tournament as they can reach 20 wins by defeating St. John's to lock up their NCAA Tournament bid. Going forward, Villanova has the best chance to still be playing on Saturday as they've already shown they can defeat the heavyweights.
-- Providence (17-13, 9-9)
-- Cincinnati (21-10, 9-9)
-- St. John's (16-14, 8-10)
The Friars have been on an upswing throughout conference play and could play their way into the NCAA Tournament with a couple of wins. The Bearcats aren't the same as they were a year ago when they made it to the Big East title game, but would do themselves some good with at least one win to put themselves more favorably in the eyes of the committee. The Red Storm are probably the last Big East school with any legitimate shot of going on a surprising run this week.
-- Rutgers (14-15, 5-13)
-- Seton Hall (14-7, 3-15)
-- South Florida (12-18, 3-15)
-- DePaul (11-20, 2-16)
Connecticut is the only team in the history of the tournament to play five games in five days and earn the automatic bid, which is what these teams would have to do to get into the NCAA Tournament. Don't bet on it. Expect Rutgers and South Florida to advance at least one day before bowing out.