Weekly Wrap: Whole lotta Big East
That’s how many Big East teams might get into the NCAA tournament when the field is unveiled in less than two weeks.
There already are nine teams set in stone — no matter what they do down the stretch and in the Big East tourney.
It starts with Pittsburgh and goes on down the line: Notre Dame, Georgetown, UConn, Syracuse, St. John’s, Louisville, Villanova and West Virginia.
That’s nine that are assured of a spot — and Marquette and Cincinnati are moving awfully close to shattering the NCAA tournament mark of eight teams represented, set by the Big East in 2006 and again in 2008.
That will make the Big East the bad guy come March.
They’ll talk about how the league hasn’t had a national champion since 2004 — and how other teams, especially mid-majors — were left out in favor of teams such as Marquette and Cincinnati.
But it’s hard to argue with the fact the Big East is clearly the elite league in America this year and that it deserves a record-setting amount of bids.
Maybe even 11.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: BYU – The Cougars went to the Viejas Arena and proved they were legit by pulling off a second convincing win against San Diego State to sweep the season series. The Jimmer was terrific – scoring 25 points and, more important, dishing off nine assists and consistently setting up his teammates for wide-open looks.
STUD (PLAYER OF WEEK): UCLA’s undersized sophomore forward Reeves Nelson went for 27 points and 16 rebounds in a win against Arizona, moving the Bruins into a first-place tie for the Pac-10 lead with two games remaining. Nelson also had a double-double, 12 points and 12 boards, in a victory over Arizona State.
SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE: I was in attendance in Providence as underrated senior Marshon Brooks set a Big East record with 52 points in a loss to Notre Dame. Brooks was extremely efficient and didn’t force a lot of bad shots, going 20 of 28 from the field in the game.
SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE, PART II: Hard to argue with what Colorado’s Alec Burks did against a Texas team that has been terrific defensively all season. Burks finished with 33 points and 10 boards in the upset in Boulder, going to the free-throw line 20 times in the game. The victory put the Buffs back in the mix as a legitimate bubble team.
BEST WIN: Virginia Tech knocking off top-ranked Duke. (How the Blue Devils were voted No. 1 is still a mystery.) The win puts Seth Greenberg and the Hokies on the right side of the bubble.
MOST OVERLOOKED: Purdue – The Boilermakers quietly moved into the top 10. Matt Painter has done a phenomenal job putting Purdue in position to compete for the Big Ten title despite losing All-American candidate Robbie Hummel to another torn ACL before the season.
MID-MAJOR TEAM OF WEEK: Missouri State won its first regular-season title since it joined the Missouri Valley two decades ago. In the title-clinching, 69-64 victory against Wichita State over the weekend. Adam Leonard hit a huge 3-pointer in the final minutes and finished with 17 points for the Bears.
WEEK TO FORGET: This one goes to Georgetown, running away. The Hoyas didn’t just lose a pair of games – at home to Cincinnati and also against Syracuse – but they also lost their floor leader, Chris Wright, for at least the next few weeks. Georgetown is hopeful that Wright (broken wrist) will return for the NCAA tournament, but it’s up in the air.
DUD: Villanova laid a couple of them this past week. First, it was a home loss to Syracuse and then again at home to St. John’s. Nova now sits in a five-way tie for seventh place in the Big East.
FEELING SORRY FOR: Louisville sophomore Rakeem Buckles – The Cardinals forward tore his ACL in the first half of the win against Pittsburgh on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season. Buckles had missed six weeks earlier this season after breaking his left index finger during practice on Dec. 30. He had been back for five games before the season-ending knee injury.
WEEK’S TOP MATCHUPS
1. Duke at North Carolina, Saturday at 8 p.m. ET – It’s highly unlikely Kyrie Irving will be back, but it’s still Duke vs. North Carolina – and the first round was plenty entertaining.
2. Wisconsin at Ohio State, Sunday at 4 p.m. – The Badgers delivered Thad Matta’s group its first loss of the season in Madison. Can the Buckeyes get revenge?
3. Kentucky at Tennessee, Sunday at noon – This one is always entertaining. Calipari vs. Pearl. Two guys who cant stand each other. The added bonus is that the Vols may need this one.
4. Villanova at Pittsburgh, Saturday at 4 p.m. – These were the two teams picked to finish atop the Big East before the season. The Panthers have lived up to expectations, but Nova has struggled of late.
5. UCLA at Washington, Thursday at 9 p.m. – If the Bruins can get this one, they have a shot at winning or sharing the Pac-10 regular-season title. For the Huskies, they need some momentum going into the Pac-10 tourney.
6. Kansas State at Texas, Monday at 9 p.m. – The Wildcats have turned it on lately, and Rick Barnes’ team has fallen off a bit.