Nine months removed from becoming the first conference to earn three #1 seeds in a NCAA Tournament, the Big East is looking to break its own record and send as many as nine teams to the Dance come March.
Through November, the conference has three teams ranked in the top 10, with seven ranked teams overall and sporting a 79-12 record.
Friday afternoon's meeting between #7 Duke and #13 Connecticut had all the pregame hype of a championship bout. With the all-time series tied at four wins apiece (Connecticut having won the last four meetings) this was seen as the latest chapter in the short yet captivating novel being written by these two national powers. But by the end of the game it felt as if this were a hardwood replay of Manny Pacquiao soundly whipping Miguel Cotto.
A lot of attention has been sent the way of Friday's NIT Season Tip-Off final, which matches Connecticut and Duke in their ninth all-time meeting. The Huskies have won the last four in the series and are coming off of their most impressive showing of the season. The small forward matchup of Kyle Singler (Duke) and Stanley Robinson (UConn) should be worth the price of admission but there are also issues that both teams would like answers to both now as well as down the line.
The #13 Connecticut Huskies arrived in New York concerned about their rebounding; heading into the game with LSU the Huskies had a rebounding margin average of +2, a far cry from what those both within and outside of the program had come to expect. Head coach Jim Calhoun felt that changes needed to be made, beginning with moving senior Gavin Edwards to the bench. The motivational ploy worked for Edwards, who went for fifteen points and seven rebounds, and as a team the Huskies won the battle on the boards 43-27.
A champion will be crowned out in Maui when Gonzaga takes on Cincinnati on ESPN. Both teams played well in semifinal wins on Tuesday, and there are some intriguing matchups to be seen. Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray going up against Deonta Vaughn and Cashmere Wright, Yancy Gates and Robert Sacre banging inside and a pair of talented freshmen (Lance Stephenson and Elias Harris) can all be seen in this one.
ESPN's somewhat ridiculous but somewhat awesome 24 hours of college basketball tips off tonight, as we enter the first full week of action. Four Top 20 teams are in action, though none should be tested. Most eyes will be on the young freshmen stars on the likes of Duke & Kentucky, especially the debut of UK's John Wall.
Ranking players is more art then science. How do you compare the potential of freshmen with seniors who have already peaked? How much does physical talent come into play versus intangibles and experience? How big a role do numbers play?