The Big East Tournament starts tonight, folks!
That's right, tonight! Really, we've made it!
With that fact in mind, we had the opportunity to talk to three college basketball personalities from CBS Sports in preparation for this extravaganza. Doug Gottlieb, Jon Rothstein and Steve Lappas were gracious enough to take time to answer a few questions about the looming Big East Tournament and what may lie ahead for the teams in the conference at Madison Square Garden over the next few days.
Doug Gottlieb, Steve Lappas and Jon Rothstein are college basketball analysts for CBS Sports. You can watch them on the CBS Sports Network, as well as CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV throughout the month of March as they will bring you the latest news, highlights and analysis from around the country.
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1. Who has the most to gain and the most to lose in the Big East Tournament?
Doug Gottlieb: Xavier has the most to gain. Xavier is close to being "in." Although if you watched them last weekend, the eye test was not terribly kind to them. X winning a couple games moves their seed to something more manageable.
Steve Lappas: Villanova. They are a one-seed right now and if they lose they probably won't be. There is a significant advantage to being a top-seed, one of which is that you are guaranteed to not see Kentucky until the Final Four.
Jon Rothstein: It's definitely Villanova. Jay Wright's team has the inside track at a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament and it's going to be awfully tough for them to stay atop that perch if they don't win the Big East Tournament. The ironic thing about all of this? I actually think Villanova would have a better chance to reach a Final Four if it lost out on a one-seed and was the number two seed in the East Region instead of going out West. If I'm Villanova, I'd rather potentially play Virginia in the Elite Eight in Syracuse instead of playing Arizona in Los Angeles for the right to go to the Final Four. At that point in the tournament seeding doesn't matter. And Villanova matches up much better with Virginia than they do Arizona. And the Cats would also be playing much closer to Philadelphia.
2. Which player, that perhaps isn't on the radar right now, can be an X-Factor in this tournament?
Doug Gottlieb: Rysheed Jordan. When Jordan is "right" he is as good of a guard as there is in the league. When he tries to do too much, the Johnnies struggle.
Steve Lappas: Chris Obepka of St. John's. He is capable of dominating the paint, especially on defense.
Jon Rothstein: Kameron Woods from Butler. This guy is easily the least appreciated rebounder in the country. Woods has 28 rebounds in his last two games and nobody talks about him. People from the periphery always talk about Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones when they discuss the Bulldogs, but Woods is the anchor in this team's foundation. If he rebounds the ball as well as he has all season, Butler could be a dark horse to cut down the nets at the Garden.
3. If Villanova wins the Big East tournament, should they be a No. 1 seed, and will they be a No. 1 seed?
DG: I don't think they should be, but they likely will be. Nova hasn't beaten anyone who is a one-, two-, three-, and possibly four-seed all season. The Big East has very good numbers overall, but I just don't see them being a top-four team in the country. Their soft schedule should hurt them. But, their name and reputation (though they haven't been out of the round of 32 in six years) should help them, as should their RPI.
SL: Villanova is a one-seed right now. They deserve to be based on their record and quality of wins.
JR: If the Cats win the Big East Tournament, they'll be a one seed. I still feel that Wisconsin is more deserving of that title though. If the Badgers win the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, they should be a number one seed. People need to look at Wisconsin's non-conference schedule as well. Bo Ryan's team beat Boise State, has wins over Oklahoma and Georgetown on a neutral court and also beat Green Bay and Buffalo who are two quality mid-major teams. One thing to keep in mind regarding the Badgers? One of their losses - at Rutgers - came when Frank Kaminsky wasn't in the lineup. That's big.
4. We know Villanova is the favorite. But who is a dark horse that could surprise and win the tourney?
Doug Gottlieb: PC. They play a unique style with unique stars. They don't have a bench, but might not need a bench early in the tourney. Hinton and Dunn can both carry them.
Steve Lappas: St. John's is a dark horse to win because MSG is their home floor and they finished the year on a roll. Rysheed Jordan is playing the way everyone thought he would play when he decided to go to SJU. Sir'Dominic Pointer is the most versatile player in the league.
Jon Rothstein: Providence. There is absolutely no reason to like the Friars' draw, but isn't that what makes March so fun? Providence has had serious issues with St. John's twice this season and they have to play the Red Storm on their home floor in the quarterfinals. There's no reason to like them in that matchup but I expect them to play loose and play well. Ed Cooley still doesn't get enough credit for how good of a game coach he's become and if there was a draft regarding players in the Big East Conference, I'd probably take Kris Dunn first overall. If there's one person that can make Madison Square Garden his own personal sanctuary this week, it's Dunn. The combination of he and LaDontae Henton make Providence a legitimate sleeper considering their draw.
5. Who wins the Big East Tournament, and who is your Big East Tournament MVP?
Doug Gottlieb: Villanova. They are far and away the best team. I saw Darrun Hilliard go off in The Garden against St. John's. I think he will do the same this week.
Steve Lappas: Villanova will win it this year. They have proven over the long haul that they are clearly the best team. They have so much balance and smarts. Darrun Hilliard will be the most outstanding player.
Jon Rothstein: Georgetown and my MVP is Jabril Trawick. Not many people have noticed how much Jabril has improved offensively this season. He's shooting the ball with significantly more confidence and he's playing like someone who knows the hour glass is running out on his college career. It's been eight years since the Hoyas won the Big East Tournament. I believe that drought ends this week at the World's Most Famous Arena.