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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 02/ 8/2011

NCAA tournament 2011: Sizing up the Big East

By Eric Prisbell

Let's take a snapshot of the Big East as we close in on one month until selection Sunday:

Big East

Conference rank: 1

NCAA tournament bids: 9-11

Locks: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Louisville, Georgetown, Villanova, Connecticut, Syracuse

Probable: West Virginia

Bubble: Marquette, St. John's, Cincinnati

Most likely to fade:
Cincinnati. The Bearcats could be an interesting case for the selection committee. They played the 284th-best nonleague schedule (ugh), but their worst loss is against Syracuse (good). After tonight's game at DePaul, the schedule is daunting the rest of the way.

Sleeper: St. John's. The Red Storm is a tantalizing pick. It is a veteran team that is battle-tested and capable of beating a quality team like Duke handily. But it is also capable of failing to hold off UCLA out in LA or - worse - losing to Fordham.

Player to watch: Kemba Walker. The unlikely national player of the year candidate had a sensational first two-plus months of the season. While he has cooled off some of late, there is no player who is more clutch in the waning moments of a tight game.

Most impressive coaching job: Rick Pitino. Louisville's coach has had rosters oozing with talent in the past. Not this season. And the Cardinals, who were predicted to finish eighth, have overcome a slew of injuries (at least eight) to contend for a top-four NCAA tournament seed. No lead is safe against the Cardinals.

Biggest disappointment: None.

Most compelling story line: Can the league get 11 bids? No league has ever gotten more than eight. But the Big East should break its own record in that category this season. If the league does claim 11 bids, can anyone really argue? Most other leagues are in the midst of down years or rebuilding campaigns.

By Eric Prisbell  | February 8, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
 
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