The Last Shot: Breaking Down The Final Big East Tournament

In the last chapter of the storied conference, which team will claim the throne?

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Whether you live in Seattle or Storrs, you have to appreciate the Big East. Sure, it's become a bit cumbersome and heavy in recent years - what thirty-year-old hasn't, am I right? - but the conference has delivered top-notch basketball year in and year out since its inception. Time marches on though; sports is no place for the static, and in the final year, a few elite teams will battle it out with some great teams, some good teams... and DePaul.

The Favorites

Ranked No. 4 in the nation, you first have to look at the Louisville Cardinals when you're looking at favorites. This is a loaded team, starting with Peyton Siva, who feels like he's been kicking around the Yum Center for a decade. Like any Rick Pitino squad, their strength is on the defensive side of the ball; they're No. 3 in defensive efficiency with a ridiculous 99.4% percentile strength. Blessed with the double-bye, they're looking at either Villanova, who needs a signature win desperately, or St. Johns, sneakily treacherous out on their home floor.

Ranked just behind the Cardinals are the Georgetown Hoyas, who along with Syracuse are the most identifiable Big East school. Like his father, JTIII has his team playing physical, bruising ball; you just have to wonder which team will show up - the one who got blown out at home by Pitt, or the team that just blew out the Orange? Like the Cardinals, this team makes its bones on defense, but even with Otto Porter Jr. heating up, their offense only ranks No. 126 in efficiency, a huge problem given the death march of this conference. Both Cincy's toughness and Providence's skill will be problems for them, again proving there is no easy matchup in this conference.

You would be foolish to sleep on Marquette here or in the Big Dance; this team is flying high after their first regular-season crown and is a very difficult out with Vander Blue leading the way. Although their resume features a few bizarre losses (at Wisconsin-Green Bay, for example) and a difficult time handling the top of the conference, their offense is one of the stronger in the BEast, ranking No. 44 in total overall efficiency. The play-in winner Rutgers should be a cakewalk for them if they can top the inconsistent Notre Dame squad, but if they can't, the Marquette-Notre Dame tilt should be the highlight of the double-bye round.

The Sleepers

Back after a truly strange year in the ether, the Pittsburgh Panthers are coming in on the strength of four straight conference wins, even though they came against some of the weaker teams in the conference. Still, only two teams sit in the top 20 for both offensive and defensive efficiency: Louisville and Pitt. Their pace is truly plodding - 97% of teams play faster - which leads a lot of people to think of them as offensively-challenged. But you can't sleep on this squad, even if the conventional wisdom holds that Jamie Dixon's teams don't get it done when it counts.

If you're a believer in momentum and that teams who truly need a win are at an advantage in a tournament where a lot of the top teams aren't focused, you're going to love the Providence Friars. In their past ten games, they've knocked off two ranked opponents (Cincinnati, Notre Dame) and rolled through the softer teams with ease. Sitting at 17-13 (9-9), they're in desperate need of two wins to vault them into at least some conversation about the show; they've got Cincinnati up first in what is a must-win for both teams before heading on to Georgetown, who may just be rusty off the double-bye and looking ahead to the Dance. Some bad news though: unlike Cincinnati, who features the No. 13 defense in the country, the Friars only barely make the top 100 in offense and are even worse on defense.

The Overrated

Of all the locked and loaded tournament teams out of the BEast, Cincinnati is by far the most vulnerable. Featuring a resume that contains six losses in their last nine games - and ugly, squeaker wins against bottom-feeders Seton Hall and South Florida - this team is not a team riding high into the dance. Match that with the #143 offense in terms of efficiency and a first-round date with a team in the Friars who desperately need a win, they're not looking like a great match to head deep into the bracket.

The Predictions

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