2011 Big East Basketball Tournament Predictions From WhatIfSports.com image

2011 Big East Tournament Predictions

Who Claims the Big East Crown?

By Joel Beall - Whatifsports.com
March 7, 2011

For the first time, Whatifsports.com is providing simulation predictions for the Big East, Big 12 and Big Ten conference basketball tournaments. We hope to expand and include other conference tournament predictions next season. Let us know what you think of our latest prediction venture and if you would like to see more conferences added in 2012. Contact information can be found at the bottom of each article. Thank you.

Big East Tournament Bracket
<a href="http://msn.foxsports.com/video?vid=d27e8a03-7535-47e9-b9a8-83a2dfd8c6db" target="_new" title="">WhatIfSports: Big East prediction</a>

It's not often a conference can claim its tournament's semifinal could theoretically feature higher-ranked teams than the national Final Four. Yet the Big East can make such a proclamation during the 2010-11 season with minimal objection or condemnation.

With nine teams already taking residence in the AP poll heading into the conference's competition at Madison Square Garden this week, several bracketologists foresee the uber-league sending 11 teams to the Big Dance. To give that figure illumination, some forecast the SEC, ACC and Pac-10, all historical powerhouses, to push 13 squads combined.

Although depth remains the league's greatest asset (to note: Jim Calhoun's Connecticut Huskies, ranked No. 21 in the country, are a No. 9 seed in the Big East tourney), there are a few teams that rise above the proverbial fray. The Pittsburgh Panthers finished as regular-season champs with a 15-3 conference mark, highlighted by wins against Syracuse, Connecticut and a season-sweep of Villanova. Featuring one of the best backcourts in the nation with guards Ashton Gibbs (16.4 points per game) and Brad Wanamaker (11.9 ppg, 5.2 assists per game), Jamie Dixon's Panthers should be in line for a No. 1 seed in next week's NCAA tournament with a decent showing in New York.

The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame are another team with No. 1 seed aspirations. With the departure of All-American Luke Harangody, many prognosticated the Domers to dwell in the bottom half of the Big East standings. But thanks to the breakout play of Ben Hansbrough (18.5 ppg, 4.2 apg) and sharpshooting of Tim Abromaitis (15.2 ppg, 41.9 percent from behind the arc), the Irish finished the season with a 25-5 record, accentuated with victories at Pittsburgh and an overtime thriller against Louisville.

Speaking of the Cardinals, Rick Pitino's troops could entice the NCAA Selection Committee with a solid run this week. Louisville has an impressive resume of its own, with victories against Pittsburgh and Syracuse to its credit. Senior guard Preston Knowles (14.5 ppg) paces the Cardinals, with help from Kyle Kuric (10.8 ppg) and Peyton Siva (9.9 ppg, 5 apg).

The three aforementioned teams head into this week's festivities as tournament favorites. Yet, as anyone who has observed Big East basketball can attest, each team poses as a formidable foe. With an overabundance of aptitude throughout the league, predicting a conference champion can become an arduous task. Thanks to the WhatIfSports college basketball simulation engine, we were able to project who would be cutting down the nets in the Garden on Saturday night. We simulated each tournament game 101 times and generated each team's chances of winning (W%) and average score.

Big East Opening Round
MatchupWin%Avg Score
DePaul Blue Demons13.757
Connecticut Huskies86.370
Big East Opening Round
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Rutgers Scarlet Knights56.467
Seton Hall Pirates43.665
Big East Opening Round
MatchupWin%Avg Score
South Florida Bulls28.762
Villanova Wildcats71.368
Big East Opening Round
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Providence Friars29.772
Marquette Golden Eagles70.378

No big surprises in the first round, as Marquette's win should solidify an at-large berth. The USF-Villanova matchup will be the one to watch on Tuesday, as Jay Wright and the Wildcats finished the season in a free fall, losing nine of their last 14 ballgames. On the opposite end of that spectrum lies Seton Hall, which enters the tournament with some momentum thanks to upsets over St. John's and Marquette.

Big East Second Round
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Connecticut Huskies36.664
Georgetown Hoyas63.467
Big East Second Round
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Rutgers Scarlet Knights42.666
St. John's Red Storm57.471
Big East Second Round
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Villanova Wildcats51.571
Cincinnati Bearcats48.569
Big East Second Round
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Marquette Golden Eagles54.473
West Virginia Mountaineers45.671

Although it has the higher seed, Georgetown, sans guard Chris Wright, over Connecticut is our first shocker of the tournament. Villanova looks to be back on the right track after disposing of Cincinnati, and West Virginia, fresh off its dramatic win against Louisville on Senior Day, is sent home early thanks to Jimmy Butler and the Golden Eagles. And you're dreaming if you think the Red Storm are losing in front of a surely raucous and partisan Garden crowd.

Big East Quarterfinals
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Georgetown Hoyas48.568
Pittsburgh Panthers51.569
Big East Quarterfinals
MatchupWin%Avg Score
St. John's Red Storm21.865
Syracuse Orange78.272
Big East Quarterfinals
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Villanova Wildcats37.669
Notre Dame Fighting Irish62.473
Big East Quarterfinals
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Marquette Golden Eagles36.672
Louisville Cardinals63.476

All of the top seeds take care of business, with Pittsburgh squeaking out a W against a feisty Hoyas squad. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals show any lingering effects from their epic collapse in Morgantown, as well as how Syracuse, a notoriously shaky away group, handles the hostile environment of a pro-St. John's arena.

Big East Final Four
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Syracuse Orange37.670
Pittsburgh Panthers62.472
Big East Final Four
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Louisville Cardinals55.473
Notre Dame Fighting Irish44.672

Louisville wins the rematch against Notre Dame, while Pittsburgh regains its form after a scare from Georgetown in its opening game. Should it come to fruition, a Cardinals-Irish Matchup would be an engaging showcase of divergent philosophies, as Louisville's up-tempo, fast-paced pattern stands in contrast to Notre Dame's infamous shot clock-burning approach.

Big East Championship
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Louisville Cardinals54.371
Pittsburgh Panthers45.770

When these teams met on Feb. 27, the game earned nationwide recognition for the premature celebration of a Cardinals cheerleader, allowing the Panthers a desperation heave to force double overtime. Discounting cheerleader interference, Louisville claims the Big East crown with a 71-70 win over Pittsburgh.

Check out our 2011 Big Ten Tournament Predictions

Check out our 2011 Big 12 Tournament Predictions
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Joel Beall is a Assistant Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

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