But a four-game winning streak to end the season, one that included two road victories and four wins vs. teams in the RPI Top 55, resulted in a 7th place league finish and opening day bye.
The Irish traveled to Manhattan yesterday and will await the winner of today's Seton Hall/Providence tilt (where defense is optional). In case you're unable to locate a TV, computer, radio...or your own phone, here's how the week-long extravaganza in the Big Apple will play out:
Note: We'll offer updated daily predictions for each game as long as the Irish remain alive this week in Manhattan.
No. 9 South Florida vs. No. 16 DePaul: Last season, DePaul finished an improbable 0-18 in conference play; showed up in Madison Square Garden anyway, and upset ninth-seeded Cincinnati.
This year, DePaul finished an unlikely 1-17 in conference action; will show up Tuesday at the Garden and give ninth-seeded South Florida, a team with faint NCAA Tournament hopes, everything it can handle for 40 minutes behind the play of its pivot Mac Koshwal.
Prediction: South Florida by 5 thanks to the efforts of Dominique Jones.
The Winner Faces: No. 8 Georgetown at Noon on Wednesday
No. 10 Seton Hall vs. No. 15 Providence: The Pirates topped the Friars in the conference finale for both team's on Saturday, a 92-80 win at The Dunk in Providence. Keno Davis' Friars have an aversion to defense and Providence has lost 10 straight and 12 of its last 13 as a result, but they do have a solid point guards in senior Sharaud Curry and freshman Vincent Council, as well as two explosive players in big man Jamine Peterson and swingman Marshon Brooks.
Seton Hall has Jeremy Hazell and brimming confidence, winning six of its final eight league games.
Prediction: Seton Hall by 10 with about 190 points scored in the contest.
The Winner Faces: No. 7 Notre Dame at 7 pm Wednesday
No. 11 Cincinnati vs. No. 14 Rutgers: Also known as the "Why I'm Glad I Arrive in New York Wednesday Morning" game…
Prediction: Channels changing simultaneously across the nation. (And Cincinnati to subdue a disinterested bunch of Scarlet Knights in the second half).
The Winner Faces: Louisville at 9 pm Wednesday
No. 12 Connecticut vs. No. 13 St. John's: St. John's will play with pride in The Garden…just as Connecticut used to. The Huskies have dropped three straight after clawing back into NCAA contention with an upset win over West Virginia in late February. The Red Storm are just tough enough defensively to pull out a mild upset over a team ready for its disappointing season to end.
Prediction: St. John's 66 Connecticut 61
The Winner Faces: Marquette at 2 pm Wednesday
Wednesday MatchupsPredicting games not yet scheduled can be tricky (not to mention nonsensical) but I'll give it a shot:
- Notre Dame over Seton Hall – The Pirates defeated the Irish 90-87 in mid-February. Harangody was injured midway through the second half and Seton Hall guard Jeremy Hazell lost his mind, hitting 12 of 16 shots including 8 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc. He's topped the 20-point mark just once since. The Irish prevail in a much-lower scoring contest despite another strong effort from Hazell.
The winner faces: No. 2 seed Pittsburgh at 7 pm on Thursday.
- South Florida over Georgetown – A star is born (for those of you not paying attention) as Dominique Jones approaches a triple-double (and 30 points) in the Bulls upset.
The winner faces: No.1 seed Syracuse at Noon on Thursday. /p>
- Louisville over Cincinnati – Yuck. Louisville. Big.
The winner faces: No. 3 seed West Virginia at 9 pm on Thursday.
- Marquette over St. John's – Marquette's defensive pressure is too much for the Red Storm perimeter game.
The winner faces: No. 4 seed Villanova at 2 pm on Thursday.
Thursday Projections and PredictionsAnd now we're really out on a limb…
- Pittsburgh over Notre Dame – It'll be a heavyweight fight, but Pittsburgh is one of the greatest Big East Tournament programs of all-time and the Irish are 4-9 in the event under Mike Brey (5-13 all-time).
- West Virginia over Louisville – Per usual, the Mountaineers get down early, clamp down late, and outlast the enigmatic Cardinals to earn a berth in Friday's semi-finals.
- Syracuse over South Florida – The Bulls run ends one win short of an NCAA berth.
- Marquette over Villanova – The Golden Eagles upset the Wildcats in the game of the tournament, drawing Syracuse in the conference semi's.
Friday Night Semi'sWest Virginia handles Pittsburgh in the rubber match between the teams; Syracuse pulls ahead of Marquette late in the second half to set up Saturday's championship game…