Big East Tournament 2013: Elite Squads That Are Locks to Make Semifinals

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IMarch 14, 2013

February 17, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino talks with guard Peyton Siva (3) during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at the Sun Dome. Louisville Cardinals defeated the South Florida Bulls 59-41. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Big East tournament is in full swing, and some teams are definite locks to make the semifinals. Just which ones reach that level will be determined in today's quarterfinal matchups.

One team that definitely has a strong shot at reaching the semis are the top-ranked Georgetown Hoyas. Head coach John Thompson III's squad went from being a low-expectation team at the start of the season to one that ran the table in the Big East, and slowing this tough defensive team down has proved to be a tough task for any team.

Similarly, the Louisville Cardinals will be out to defend their title after winning last year's Big East tournament. They may not seem that strong compared to their rival teams, but still can easily make a lot of noise en route to another appearance in the championship game.

The fact is that this year's Big East tournament is chock-full of elite teams, and this small handful are locks for spots in Friday's semifinals.

Marquette

The Golden Eagles have continued to be a solid squad under head coach Buzz Williams, and this year was no exception. Marquette went 23-7 overall and 14-4 in conference play, coming away with key wins against Georgetown on Jan. 5 and Syracuse on Feb. 25.

The team also ranks 34th in the nation in field-goal percentage and closed out the regular season having won six of seven, led by junior guard Vander Blue and his 14.4 points per game.

Blue also proved to be clutch in Marquette's final game of the season against St. John's. With the buzzer fast approaching, in overtime, he hit a crucial layup to give his team both the lead and the win.

This squad knows how to play together and succeed. With a No. 3 seed in the Big East tournament, they are a near-definite lock for the semis.

Louisville

Rick Pitino has once again guided the Cardinals to a solid season, going 26-5 overall and 14-4 in conference play. Louisville also ranks 46th in scoring, 40th in rebounding and 44th in assists.

Needless to say, this team is definitely one to watch in this year's Big East tournament.

However, though the Cardinals could surely make the semifinals under solid scoring from Russ Smith (17.9 PPG) and great rebounding from Gorgui Dieng (10.1 RPG, 2.6 BPG), they will make the Big East semifinals for one reason alone: They want to defend their title.

Louisville did indeed win last year's Big East tournament, defeating Cincinnati by a score of 50-44. They are in an even greater position to get to the semifinals and perhaps the championship game this season, as they are a No. 2 seed in the tournament as opposed to last year's No. 7 seeding.

Long story short, no champion ever gives up its crown easily, and Louisville will be no exception.

Georgetown

The Hoyas are the top-ranked team in this year's Big East tournament, and rightfully so. Not only did the Hoyas surprise everyone by becoming the team to beat in the conference, but they also went 24-5 overall and 14-4 in conference play.

Head coach John Thompson III's Princeton offense does not allow much in terms of scoring opportunities, which would explain the team ranking 236th in points per game, but that hasn't stopped sophomore Otto Porter from becoming an excellent finisher with a knack for carrying the team to victory in the second half.

This season, Porter led the team with 16.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, showing a fine ability to drive to the hoop as well as marked improvement with his jumper. Moreover, he and his teammates have turned the Hoyas into one of the best defensive squads in the country, with two key wins over Syracuse highlighting their magical season.

With a favorable quarterfinal matchup against No. 9 Cincinnati, it's a near-certainty that the Hoyas will continue their great run into a semifinals berth.

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