Once again the Big East is loaded with talented teams. Marquette, Cincinnati and Louisville, among others, came aboard back in 2006, joining powerhouse schools like UConn, Syracuse, Villanova and Pitt to form a 16-team Super Conference.
Connecticut won college basketball’s national championship twice in the last 10 years (2004, 2011) and several will be knocking on the door again.
The Orange were the darlings of college hoops…until losing back to back games two weeks ago, at Villanova in OT (75-71) and at Pitt (65-55). Still, don’t overlook this talented group, one that knocked off then-No. 1 Louisville (70-68) and plays that suffocating Boeheim zone.
The Orange have a surprisingly veteran team for this day with senior guard Brandon Triche (14.5 ppg), 6-8 junior C.J. Fair (14 ppg, 7 rpg) and 6-9 soph Rakeem Christmas. But the guy who makes the offense hum is 6-6 sophomore Michael Carter-Williams and his 8.5 assists per contest. The defense is tops in the Big East in shooting percentage (36.6% allowed):
Note: UNDER is 6-2 versus a team with a winning percentage above .600. SU hosts Providence and Georgetown this week.
The Panthers do a lot of things well. They rank No. 15 nationally in shooting (.48%), 6 in assists, plus the defense topped No. 6 Syracuse two weeks ago (65-55). Senior G Tray Woodall (10.8 ppg, 5.5 apg) leads in scoring, with 6-9 junior Talib Zanna (10.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and 7-0, 250-pound freshman Steven Adams (7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) up front.
Pittsburgh is on a 14-5 run OVER the total, though the offense shoots just 66% from the free throw line (No. 13 in Big East).
They win with defense, allowing 54.5 ppg in Big East play (No. 1), and are No. 5 in FG allowed (39%). The Panthers rank third in 3-point percentage, but 11 in 3’s attempted.
Note: The OVER is 6-2 in the Panthers last eight road games, 20-7 following a win and 54-26-1 in Saturday games!
The Golden Eagles have been getting hot at the right time, riding a recent 9-2 SU, 6-4 ATS run. They beat Georgetown (49-48) in a slowdown game, but got bombed by Florida (82-49) when the Gators controlled the tempo. They are No. 4 in the Big East in shooting (45.7%), second in free throws (73%), but are hitting only 29% from 3-point land for Coach Buzz Williams.
The offense is led by 6-4 junior G Vander Blue (15 ppg), who leads in scoring but comes off the bench, so he’s seen as the best sixth man in the nation. Also solid are 6-9, 290-pound junior Davante Gardner (12 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and 6-5 senior Trent Lockett (7.7 ppg, 5 rpg). Marquette’s reserves average 29.9 points, No. 5 nationally. The bench scoring accounts for 42.1% of the team’s total offense, No. 4 in the nation.
Note: The OVER is a solid 41-18 in the Golden Eagles last 59 Saturday college basketball games.
Rick Pitino’s troops are doing it again with defense, third in the Big East in points allowed and yielding just 39.6% shooting in conference play. He has an ace scorer in junior guard Russ Smith (18 ppg) and senior Peyton Siva (10.6 ppg, 6 apg) plus a pair of board bangers in 6-11 junior Gorgui Dieng and 6-6 soph Chane Behanan (10 ppg, 7.2 rpg).
The loss to Syracuse started a stunning three-game skid, including losses at Villanova and Georgetown, before getting back on course with a 70-51 rout of No. 25 Marquette. Next week starts a tough stretch to end the regular season with games at Syracuse, then at home against Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
Note: The Cardinals are 25-9 ATS following a win.
The Hoyas don’t dazzle on offense, as the way to win the rugged Big East is with Big D. They do, allowing 55.4 ppg in conference play (second) and 37% shooting (also second). Georgetown lost to No. 1 Indiana earlier in the season in OT. The frontcourt leads the way with 6-8 sophomore Otto Porter Jr. (14.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and 6-8 junior Nate Lubick.
A key blow appeared to be the loss of 6-8 soph Greg Whittington (12 ppg, 7 rpg) in January to academic issues, but the Hoyas kept winning.
Note: This weekend Georgetown heads to Syracuse, one of two meetings with the Orange still on deck. Good luck!
Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Reach him at [email protected]