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2011 Big East Tournament Predictions; Panthers To Hoist Championship Trophy

The bracket for the 2011 Big East Tournament seedings were set yesterday, but already it's time to look into the crystal ball and see how next week's tournament will play out. We here at SBNation Pittsburgh think that the local teams, the Panthers and the Mountaineers, will both do just fine. The rest of the field? Not so much.


Tuesday, March 8

Connecticut - 75, DePaul - 60: The Blue Demons only managed to net one win in the conference this season, and they won't get number two against the Huskies. Kemba Walker and company roll easily through the tournament's opening game.

Seton Hall - 66, Rutgers - 59: The battle of the turnpike won't be pretty but Jeremy Hazell's crew should come out on top. Seton Hall had another lackluster season this year, but seem to be playing better down the stretch.

Villanova - 81, South Florida - 68: Another of the conference's premier teams find themselves playing on the first day of the tournament, but it shouldn't bother the Wildcats. South Florida hasn't beaten a team not named DePaul since mid-January, which doesn't bode well for the Bulls.

Providence - 69, Marquette - 66: The first day's only upset, Marshon Brooks will lead the Friars into day two of tourney. The Golden Eagles have had plenty of chances to play their way into the big dance, and have blown all of them. Add this one to the pile.


Wednesday, March 9

Connecticut - 75, Georgetown - 74: Two evenly matched teams will play an evenly matched game, but the Huskies will come out on top. Late-game heroics from freshman Shabazz Napier will seal the deal and propel UConn into the third round. John Thompson III's squad has been slumping lately and coming into this one cold will put them off of their game.

St. John's - 65, Seton Hall - 54: St. John's got blown out by the Hall last week, putting a slight tarnish on their Cinderella season. They won't let that happen again. St. John's marches on.

Cincinnati - 67, Villanova - 59: Mick Cronin's squad punched their ticket to the NCAA's this weekend when the knocked off the Hoyas. They'll wipe away any doubts the committee might have bye stymieing 'Nova with tough defense and and a physical presence in the paint.

West Virginia - 60, Providence - 51: Marshon Brooks is no match for West Virginia's physical defense, and the Mountaineers win their fourth straight game the way they've won twenty games this season: ugly. The steady hand of Joe Mazzulla will keep the ship from taking in water during some cold stretches, and the Mountaineers pull away at the end.


Thursday, March 10

Pitt - 70, Connecticut - 62: The Panthers climbed to the top of the conference this season with size, defense and depth. By the time the Huskies make it to Thursday, they'll be playing their third game in five days. The Panthers' depth will wear down UConn's tired legs, and put Pitt into the semi-finals.

St. John's 65, Syracuse - 59: The Orange have won five in a row, and seven of nine, but their mojo stops in the Garden. Lavin's squad have their finest moment of the season and Dwight Hardy scintillates the hometown crowd by raining threes over the 'Cuse's patented zone defense.

Notre Dame - 71, Cincinnati - 55: Sometimes talent outweighs grit, and Mike Brey's squad will dispatch the Bearcats with ease in their first tournament game. The Irish are the real deal, a lesson Cincy learns the hard way.

West Virginia - 64, Louisville - 55: The season's first two meetings between the Mountaineers and the Cardinals had wild finishes.  In this one, the Mountaineers use their size to create second looks in paint and Kevin Jones and John Flowers have standout games. Joe Mazzulla's tough defense creates havoc for Peyton Siva and the Mountaineers move on without much drama.


Friday, March 11

Pitt - 72, St. John's - 66: St. John's will hold close for most of this one, but will have no match for Gilbert Brown and Brad Wanamaker in the game's waning minutes. The Panthers' experience will trump the Johnnies' emotion, and Pitt will make a return to a very familiar place: the Big East title game.

Notre Dame - 71, West Virginia - 59: The Mountaineers blew by the Irish by shooting lights out a week ago in Morgantown. Unfortunately for Bob Huggins' squad, their hot hand can't last forever. Tough defense and a dominant shooting performance from Ben Hansbrough put the Irish in the title game, and foil the opportunity for a third Backyard Brawl.


Saturday, March 12

Pitt - 69,  Notre Dame - 63: There may have been a few upsets along the way, but the conference's two best teams will chalk their way into Saturday night's final.  Pitt's senior leadership and depth make them a tough out in any tournament, and Notre Dame won't be able to dislodge the Panthers.  The only question remaining for Jamie Dixon's crew is if Big East tournament success will translate to NCAA tournament success?  A Big East title will wrap up a Number One seed for Pitt, and the remaining question will be what the Panthers can do with it.


Make sure to follow SBNation Pittsburgh all week for updates on the 2011 Big East Tournament, with a heavy emphasis on the Pitt Panthers and West Virginia Mountaineers.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.