Big East Tournament Preview and Predictions

Familiar names headline the top seeds of the 2003 Big East Tournament. Perhaps it's fitting that the three teams that battled in the championship game the last 2 tournaments all earned a day of rest.<br><br> Pittsburgh (runner-up ‘01 & ‘02), Boston College (‘01 Champion), and Connecticut (‘02 Champion) join Syracuse tomorrow watching the beginning of what should be the most competitive tournament in recent years.

In the East Division, Boston College earned it's second Big East East Division regular season championship in 3 years and the #1 seed, while Connecticut, after a tumultuous season where they briefly lost head coach Jim Calhoun to cancer surgery, earns the #2 seed.

However, the two outright "beasts" of the Big East reside in the West, Pitt and Syracuse. Notre Dame, the West's #4 seed, is arguably stronger than both BC and Connecticut. Common thought has Pitt and Syracuse meeting in the final and I'm not one to necessarily disagree.

Syracuse has an easier road to the final. The only team in their half of the bracket that may pose problems would be Connecticut. Syracuse also gets to open against a decimated Villanova squad or a Georgetown team that can only wish their horrid season was over.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, should be able to dispatch the winner of Providence-West Virginia, but will in all likelihood meet either Boston College or Notre Dame. There is also the outside possibility that the Panthers would face St. John's. The Red Storm would need to defeat Notre Dame and Boston College, and should they do so, would have an already pro-Johnnie crowd fiercely behind them.

The three players to watch are Brandin Knight, Troy Bell, and Carmelo Anthony.

The Panthers will go as far as Knight's leadership can take them. The Panthers may have won games without solid efforts from Knight at times this season, but no one on the team wants to try that experiment again, at this time of the season. He'll be at the line in pressure situations this week and he can't afford to miss 5 free throws in a row again, or this time the Panthers may get bit.

Troy Bell is making a case for player of the year. That said, he can't afford to disappear in the tournament. The Eagles received a wake-up call at the hands of Uconn in the regular-season finale, a game where Bell went 4 - 20 from the field and scored 15 points, 13 below his average.

And finally, Carmelo Anthony is perhaps the most talented player in the league. It will be important for him to make good decisions in his shot selection. He doesn't need to win all by himself, and he shouldn't force the team onto his shoulders.

There's also a gamut of wonderful stories to watch in this tournament:

  • Can Troy Bell carry the Eagles to win his second championship in two years?
  • Will the third time be the charm for the Pitt Panthers?
  • Will this be Carmelo Anthony's last visit to Madison Square Garden as a collegiate player?
  • Can Notre Dame ride the hot shooting of Matt Carroll or will they die by the 3-pointer?
  • How many games do the Seton Hall Pirates need to win for an NCAA berth?
  • Will Georgetown finally win a game in the final seconds? And who will be the victim?
  • Brandin Knight? Troy Bell? Matt Carroll? Carmelo Anthony? Who will win the tournament MVP? Or could it be Andre Barrett or Ben Gorden or Mike Sweetney?

First Round
Wednesday, March 12
Quarter Finals
Thursday, March 13
Semifinals
Friday, March 14
Championship
Saturday, March 15
Notre Dame (W4)
Noon ESPN
St. John's (E5)

Noon ESPN 2
Boston College (E1)
Providence (E3)
2;30 PM ESPN
WVU (W6)

7:00 PM ESPN


2 :30 PM ESPN 2
Pittsburgh (W2)

8:00 PM ESPN

Villanova (E4)
7:00 PM ESPN
Georgetown (W5)

7:00 PM ESPN 2
Syracuse (W1)
Seton Hall (W3)
9:30 PM ESPN
Miami (E6)

9:30 PM ESPN


9:30 PM ESPN
Connecticut (E2)

Predictions:

First Round
Notre Dame over St. John's
Providence over West Virginia
Georgetown over Villanova
Seton Hall over Miami

Quarterfinals
Notre Dame over Boston College
Pittsburgh over Providence
Syracuse over Georgetown
Connecticut over Seton Hall

Semifinals
Pittsburgh over Notre Dame
Syracuse over Connecticut

Finals
Syracuse over Pittsburgh

Tournament MVP: Carmelo Anthony

--John Biles (formerly the Steel Apple)


Panther More Top Stories