Will The Big East Dominate The NCAA Tourney?

How many teams will the Big East Conference get into the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in two weeks?

If famed bracketologist Joe Lunardi is to be believed, and he has accurately predicted the field at better than a 90 percent rate, the 18-team Big East will have an NCAA-best seven schools in the 65-team NCAA Tourney.

While Lunardi's new bracket won't be released until Friday, seeding isn't likely to change. He has Pittsburgh (21-9, 9-8), which has a 25 RPI, listed as a No. 7 seed in the South bracket (Houston). The Panthers face No. 10 seed Davidson (22-6) in the opening round in Little Rock, Ark.

The other Big East teams in the NCAAs, according to Lunardi, are No. 3 seed Georgetown, No. 3 Louisville, No. 4 Connecticut, No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 5 Marquette and No. 10 West Virginia. Lunardi has the ACC with six NCAA teams, like the Big 12 and Pac-10, while the SEC has five and the Big Ten with four.

"All that stuff will play out in due time,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has said. "We just have to worry about ourselves. We need to play better and keep improving. We're always trying to improve ourselves no matter what.''

If Pitt beats DePaul (10-18, 5-11) in the regular-season finale Sunday at noon at the Petersen Events Center, and there's no reason to believe the Panthers won't wallop the Chicago-based school that has an RPI at 160, and gets its act together for a run at the Big East title next week at Madison Square Garden in New York City -- don't say it can't happen, because it has before -- the Panthers NCAA seeding could improve to maybe a No. 4.

The RPI won't be helped by a win against DePaul, so a strong Big East Tournament is needed to improve Pitt from its tentative No. 7 seed. One-and-done in the Conference tourney could drop the Panthers as quickly as beating a couple ranked teams -- like they did last season -- would elevate them.

Last year, Pitt's run to the Big East final probably moved them up at least one, if not two, spots to a No. 3 seed. The Panthers probably won't go that high this year, but they could drop to anywhere between 8-10.

If Pitt loses out, to DePaul -- highly unlikely -- and in the first round at the Garden, it's been suggested that a Panthers home game against Duquesne in the NIT is possible. Don't forget, in its last 10 games, going into the DePaul matchup, Pitt is 5-5. That's not good, but the Panthers should still get into the NCAA Tournament thanks to its RPI.

The only team to be left out of the NCAA field with an RPI of 30 or better was Missouri State in 2006. No team from a BCS conference with an RPI of 30 or better has been left out. Also, no team from the Big East with 24 wins was thwarted until Syracuse last season.

While some believed Syracuse was robbed, the Orange had a weak non-conference schedule. That's not the case with Pitt, which has a non-conference win against Duke and Big East win against Georgetown. Those two wins, as well as the Panthers' RPI at 25 gets them into the NCAA Tournament.

What they do from there is anybody's guess.

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