Some preseason prognostications had as many as 10 Big East schools going to this year's Big Dance, but that is not going to happen following the demise of both Georgetown and Notre Dame during regular season play.  Despite the numbers being down, the conference remains the best in the nation at the top where top-seeded Louisville is tailed closely by the Connecticut Huskies and Pittsburgh Panthers.

The Big East was supposed to be about quantity this year – as in, how many bids they’d get in the NCAA men’s basketball Tournament. Nine? Ten?

That won’t be the case after some disappointing results by the likes of Georgetown and Notre Dame. But there’s certainly no shortage of quality in the Big East. Three teams could legitimately lay claim to a No. 1 seed at the Big Dance. But first, they have to perform well at the conference tournament.

Let’s start with the schedule for the first three rounds (all times Eastern):

First Round (Tuesday)
Game 1: No. 9 Cincinnati vs. No. 16 DePaul, 12:00 p.m.
Game 2: No. 12 Georgetown vs. No. 13 St. John’s, 2:00 p.m.
Game 3: No. 10 Notre Dame vs. No. 15 Rutgers, 7:00 p.m.
Game 4: No. 11 Seton Hall vs. No. 14 USF, 9:00 p.m.

Second Round (Wednesday)
Game 5: No. 8 Providence vs. Game 1 winner, 12:00 p.m.
Game 6: No. 5 Marquette vs. Game 2 winner, 2:00 p.m.
Game 7: No. 7 West Virginia vs. Game 3 winner, 7:00 p.m.
Game 8: No. 6 Syracuse vs. Game 4 winner, 9:00 p.m.

Quarterfinals (Thursday)
Game 9: No. 1 Louisville vs. Game 5 winner, 12:00 p.m.
Game 10: No. 4 Villanova vs. Game 6 winner, 2:00 p.m.
Game 11: No. 2 Pittsburgh vs. Game 7 winner, 7:00 p.m.
Game 12: No. 3 UConn vs. Game 8 winner, 9:00 p.m.

The semis are on Friday and the Big East championship will be decided Saturday, all at Madison Square Garden in New York. The great thing about this format: Everyone gets to play, even DePaul. Great for handicappers, at least.

Cincinnati vs. DePaul
Tuesday, Mar 10, 12:00 p.m.
DePaul (8-23 SU, 7-17 ATS) failed to win a single conference game this year. The Blue Demons were so bad that they were the most profitable team in the Big East – provided you faded them every time. But the well ran dry on DePaul three weeks ago. The Demons are 4-1 ATS in their last five and came within a bucket of beating Villanova (-13). Cincinnati (18-13 SU, 11-14 ATS), on the other hand, is 1-5 SU and ATS in its last six. The Bearcats won this matchup 59-55 at DePaul (+1.5) on Jan. 17, then beat Georgetown home and away before hitting the skids.

Georgetown vs. St. John’s
Tuesday, Mar 10, 2:00 p.m.
Ah, the Hoyas (16-13 SU, 8-16-1 ATS). Their record against the betting odds speaks volumes for how poorly they did after earning a No. 2 seed in the 2008 Tournament. However, Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency numbers have Georgetown ranked No. 24 in Division I. The difference? Youth. Georgetown has one of the least experienced rosters in the nation with just two seniors (Jessie Sapp, Bryon Jansen) and one junior in star forward DaJuan Summers. As the saying goes, they need to learn how to win. The Red Storm (15-16 SU, 11-13-1 ATS) out-rebounded Georgetown 42-22 to win last Tuesday’s regular season matchup 59-56 as 6-point home dogs.

Notre Dame vs. Rutgers
Tuesday, Mar 10, 7: 00 p.m.
The Fighting Irish (17-13 SU, 8-16 ATS) have been equally as poor (and rewarding for faders) as Georgetown. Notre Dame had a No. 5 seed at last year’s Tournament and one of this year’s Wooden Award candidates in forward Luke Harangody. He did his job with 23.7 points and 12.1 rebounds per game, but the Irish played substandard team defense, generating the lowest level of turnovers (14.4 percent) in all of Division I. Rutgers (11-20 SU, 11-11 ATS) only won two Big East games, but the Scarlet Knights were scrappy against the Irish in South Bend, losing 70-65 as 14-point puppies.

Seton Hall vs. USF
Tuesday, Mar 10, 9:00 p.m.
The Bulls (9-21 SU, 16-13 ATS) were one of the teams Rutgers defeated – the other was DePaul. This group of three is living deep within the Big East basement. Seton Hall (16-14 SU, 16-9 ATS) finished 7-11 in conference play, only three games up on USF, but the Pirates have a lot more going for them, especially on offense. Seton Hall cruised to a 75-60 win as a 7-point home favorite when they met last month; guard Jeremy Hazell led the way as he often does with 20 points, including 4-of-9 from long range. Yar, matey.

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