Yesterday, I looked at the Big East squads in the East & West. Today, I’m going to dissect teams in the Southeast and Southwest brackets. Personally, I think that the Southeast is the easiest region and I don’t see any team that could slow down the #1 Pittsburgh Panthers. #6 St. John’s has a tough first round match up against tournament darling, #11 Gonzaga. In the Southwest, Notre Dame is the #2 seed, Louisville is #4, and Georgetown is #6.
#1 Pittsburgh Panthers (27-5): The Pittsburgh Panthers were the regular season champions of the Big East. Pitt ranked second in the country in offensive rebounding (41.9%) and eighth in points per possession (1.14). Pitt checked in at 16th in Strength of Schedule and 14th in Non-Conference games. Pitt isn’t a good free-throw shooting team, ranking in the bottom 30% of teams. The Panthers will take on the #16 seed winner. UNC Asheville will battle the University of Little Rock Arkansas. I’m assuming that UNC Asheville wins and faces Pitt. UNC Asheville ranked 19th in opponent turnover percentage, but really struggled offensively, failing to rank in the Top 100 in any offensive category.
Predicted Winner: Pittsburgh
They shouldn’t have any problem taking care of business.
#6 St. John’s Red Storm (21-11): After a decade long dry spell, the Johnnies are back in the tournament. St. John’s played extremely well all-season long in the Big East under new head coach, Steve Lavin. St. John’s ranked sixth overall in strength of schedule and 13th in opponent turnover %. St. John’s struggles with outside shooting and that may be a problem against their opponent, #11 Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga (24-9) ranked 31st in points per possession (1.08) and 37th in effective field goal % (52.5%).
Predicted Winner: Gonzaga
St. John’s is currently a 1.5 point favorite, but this is a really, really tough match-up for the Johnnies. Senior DJ Kennedy (10.4 PPG) tore his ACL against Syracuse in the Big East tournament and will not play. This game will be played in Denver and Gonzaga is known to travel extremely well. As much as I hate to say it, St. John’s 15 minutes of fame will come to an end.
#2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (26-6): The Fighting Irish finished second during the Big East regular season. Led by senior guard, Ben Hansborough, the Irish will look to have a better showing than last season. As a sixth seed last year, the Irish were eliminated by #11 Old Dominion. This Notre Dame team though is a very strong, yet efficient offensive club. They rank seventh in points per possession (1.14) and 10th in turnover percentage (13.5%). The Irish will take on the #15 Akron Zips. Akron (23-12) failed to rank in the Top 50 of any offensive or defensive metric.
Predicted Winner: Notre Dame
The Irish are 13 point favorites and should have little trouble against Akron.
#4 Louisville Cardinals (25-9): The Cardinals finished fourth place during the Big East regular season and lost to UCONN in the Big East Championship. The Cardinals rely on their tight defense and shooting accuracy, ranking in the Top 40 in the nation. Louisville ranked 12th in Strength of Schedule and 13th in opponent field goal percentage (44.5%). They will face off against #13 Morehead State. The Eagles (24-9) rank third in the nation in offensive rebounding and 26th in turnover percentage (19.9%).
Predicted Winner: Lousville
The Cardinals are 9.5 point favorites and have one of the top coaches in Rick Pitino.
#6 Georgetown Hoyas (21-10): The Hoyas finished sixth during the Big East regular season. The Hoyas enter the tournament on a four game losing streak that includes two losses to Cincinnati and an embarassing loss to UCONN in the Big East Tournament. The Hoyas rank 11th in shooting accuracy (54.4%), but they commit a lot of turnovers and are not efficient on the defensive end. The Hoyas will play the winner of the play-in game between USC and VCU. VCU is the top rebounding team in the nation and could definitely cause a ton of issues from the Hoyas.
Predicted Winner: VCU (Play-in Winner)
I don’t trust Georgetown at all. They always seem to choke during tournament time. I really think VCU could give the Hoyas some big time issues inside. Plus, the team that wins the play-in game will have the momentum heading into the match-up.