Pitt Goes For The Regular-Season Crown
Pittsburgh will win the BIG EAST regular-season title outright Saturday if it beats visiting Villanova at the Petersen Events Center. CBS Sports will carry the game at 4 p.m. Eastern. The Panthers are 14-3 in the league standings, one game ahead of Notre Dame, which is 13-4. Pitt is aiming to become the No. 1 seed at The BIG EAST Championship for the first time since 2003-04. If the Panthers lose and Notre Dame wins at Connecticut, the two teams will be co-champions and Notre Dame will be the top seed because it defeated Pitt during the regular season.
All 16 Teams Play Saturday
Each BIG EAST squad will play Saturday, the final day of the regular season. Six of the eight games are repeat matchups. The league standings are incredibly crowded in the middle. West Virginia, Cincinnati and Georgetown are tied for sixth place with 10-7 records. Connecticut, Villanova and Marquette are locked in a ninth-place tie at 9-8. The possibilities for ties are too many to mention. Cincinnati and Georgetown, which play each other, have 22 possible combinations each.
Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Louisville Have Clinched Double Byes
The top four seeds in The BIG EAST Championship automatically advance to the quarterfinal round on Thursday, March 10. Pitt, Notre Dame and Louisville have nailed down three of the four spots. The fourth will go to St. John's or Syracuse. The last two tournament champions, West Virginia last year and Louisville in 2009, have won their respective crowns by only having to play three games.
Can The Tournament Be Better Than The Regular Season?
The BIG EAST has enjoyed an outstanding 2010-11 season to date. Eight teams are ranked in this week's national polls. Media speculation has focused on whether the BIG EAST can receive as many as 11 invitations to the NCAA Championship. The BIG EAST holds the record with eight bids in 2010, 2008 and 2006. Last year, West Virginia won the tourney title by winning three games by a total of seven points. This year, the BIG EAST could have ranked teams playing Tuesday when seeds No. 9 through No. 16 play.
Mega-Coverage Next Week In New York
The BIG EAST Championship Presented by American Eagle Outfitters begins Tuesday, March 8 at Madison Square Garden in New York, the largest media market in the world. As usual, ESPN has the tournament blanketed. ESPN2 and ESPNU have the Tuesday action. ESPN will carry all of the remaining rounds which end with the championship game Saturday, March 12 at 9 p.m. ESPN 3D also will telecast the entire tournament. IMG College will syndicate radio coverage throughout the nation.