Big East Update

This week's update examines the race for the Big East's top eight. Right now there are six teams who are battling for the three remaining spots in the top half of the conference and only five who have a decent chance. Notre Dame is one of those five, but how does its final two weeks stack up against those of the other four.

As the Big East regular season enters its final two weeks, the standings are becoming clearer.

With all 16 teams being invited to this year's Big East Tournament, the bottom eight teams will play on the first day with the winners facing off against seeds 5-8 on day two. The top four teams will have byes for the first two days and will not be in action until the quarterfinals.

As it stands right now, the top four teams are Connecticut (25-2, 13-2), Louisville (22-5, 13-2), Marquette (12-2, 23-4) and Pittsburgh (25-2, 12-2). Villanova (10-4, 22-5) is fifth and still has a chance of moving into the top four, especially since it would own a tiebreaker over the Panthers, who still have Marquette and UConn on their schedule.

While those five teams have clinched spots in the top eight, Georgetown (14-12, 5-10), St. John's (12-14, 3-10), South Florida (8-18, 3-11), Rutgers (10-16, 1-12) and DePaul (8-19, 0-14) all know that they will be playing on day one of the conference tournament.

That leaves six teams – West Virginia (19-8, 8-6), Providence (16-11, 8-7), Syracuse (19-8, 7-7), Cincinnati (17-10, 7-7), Notre Dame (15-11, 6-8) and Seton Hall (14-12, 5-9) – battling for the remaining three spots in the top eight.

The Pirates would probably need to sweep their final four games for .500 record and a spot in the top eight, and with matchups against Pittsburgh and Louisville included in those four, the chances are not good.

Of the other five teams, the Bearcats have the most control of where they finish as they play three of the teams that they are battling with for position. Cincinnati's schedule includes a Thursday matchup with the Mountaineers and a Sunday game at Syracuse before contests with South Florida and the Pirates in the final week of the season.

Providence is the only team that does not have four games remaining. The Friars have just three games, but sandwiched around a game at Rutgers are a matchup with Pitt tonight and a regular season finale at Villanova next week.

If Providence does not have the toughest remaining schedule than Notre Dame does. Sure, the Irish have home games against Rutgers and St. John's, but they also play at Connecticut on Saturday and have another home game with Villanova.

Meanwhile, Syracuse and West Virginia may have the most favorable slates other than Cincinnati's. Each play the Bearcats and Syracuse does have a game at Marquette while the Mountaineers end the regular season with a matchup against Louisville, but the other games will provide great chances for victories.

The Orange play at St. John's tonight and have a home game against Rutgers before playing the Golden Eagles. After Thursday's game with Cincinnati, West Virginia goes to South Florida for a Sunday game before a home contest next week with DePaul.

It is likely that tiebreakers will come into play in separating teams in the top eight from teams in the bottom eight. The Irish own tiebreakers over Providence and Seton Hall, but would lose out in any ties with West Virginia, Syracuse or Cincinnati.

At the same time, if the Big East gets eight invites to the NCAA Tournament, the selection committee is more likely to use strength of schedule as its tiebreaker rather than head-to-head matchups.


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