Noon #1 Georgetown (14-4) vs. #8 Cincinnati (9-9)
The Hoyas overcame poor outside shooting and a minus-nine differential on the glass to hold off Cincinnati, 62-55 in their lone regular season meeting. Georgetown led by a comfortable margin for approximately half the game before withstanding a rally by the host Bearcats in a game the Hoyas trailed with six minutes remaining after previously leading by 12.
The Bearcats beat Georgetown in double overtime a year ago, also in a Thursday afternoon matchup, later advancing to the Big East Championship game.
More relevant to the present, Georgetown will in no way resemble the meek Providence team that showed up yesterday afternoon to take its beating from the bigger Bearcats. Cincinnati was 2-6 during the season vs. the league's top six teams. Georgetown is the best of the bunch, and too tough over 40 minutes.
Favorite: Georgetown -5
Prediction: Georgetown 58 Cincinnati 51
2:00 pm #5 Syracuse (11-7) vs. #4 Pittsburgh (12-6)
The Panthers contained Syracuse in the teams' only regular season meeting, dominating the Orange on the glass (a 37-21 advantage) en route to a 65-55 win at the Peterson Events Center in early February. Said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim of Pittsburgh following the thorough beating, "They're the best team we've played, without any question. It's not even close."
That's unlikely the case now, not after the Panthers' chief offensive weakness: no reliable jump shooters, came to the fore.
The Panthers should again win on the glass, and their depth could outlast the 'Cuse if the contest is extended into extra sessions, but Syracuse found its offensive rhythm yesterday in a second half surge vs. Seton Hall -- look for the Orange zone to keep Pittsburgh at bay and offer an early exit for the Panthers in this, their final Big East Tournament.
Favorite: Pittsburgh -2
Prediction: Syracuse 62 Pittsburgh 55 -- The Panthers haven't advanced past Thursday in the Big East Tournament since taking home the championship in 2008.
7:00 pm #7 Villanova (10-8) vs. #2 Louisville (14-4)
The Wildcats upset then-#5 Louisville in Philadelphia in late January, one of three wins vs. top five teams recorded by Villanova on its home floor this season. Rick Pitino's Cardinals are doubtless one of the nation's best defensive squads and a team well-built for a three-day, three-game tournament run.
Look for Louisville's half court execution with point guard Peyton Siva on the high screen-and-roll, Luke Hancock on the perimeter, and the overall play of Cardinals center Gorgui Dieng vs. Villanvoa big man Mouphtaou Yarou to provide the difference.
Favorite: Louisville -9.5
Prediction: Louisville 70 Villanova 60
9:00 - #6 Notre Dame (11-7) vs. #3 Marquette (14-4)
The league's second-worst three-point shooting team was on fire when the team's squared off less than two weeks ago at the Bradley Center, Marquette scoring a wire-to-wire win, 72-64 after beginning 6 for 6 from the field and 3 for 3 from long range.
Notre Dame did little right in the first half of that loss, but battled back throughout the second stanza, eventually trimming a 16-point lead to six with 30 seconds remaining.
All-league center Jack Cooley played 11 minutes without scoring thanks to the flu, and two of his three main support staff inside -- Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman -- showed poorly as Golden Eagles big men Chris Otule and Davante Gardner dominated the paint.
A game prediction and full personnel preview of the contest will be published Thursday afternoon.
Look for a similarly quick pace today as the Irish fared far better in the open court than when Marquette was able to dig in, defensively.
Favorite: Marquette -2
Prediction: Full game preview forthcoming