How will the Big East and its nine teams fare?

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There seem to be vehement defenders on both sides of the argument. Some say the Big East is deserving of the nine bids it received this year. Some are quick to call it the most overrated conference in the nation.

Detractors approve of the committee’s denial of Seton Hall, though may not be so overjoyed about South Florida’s admittance. Some even went as far as to say Connecticut didn’t deserve a spot.

What’s the verdict? CollegeBasketballTalk breaks down what some Big East teams are looking at in the NCAA tournament:

Best Chance to End Up in New Orleans: No. 1 Syracuse

The Orange are ranked second in the nation and, despite losing in the Big East tournament to Cincinnati, you can’t deny what they bring to the table.

With their lethal transition attack and a future NBA lottery pick in Dion Waiters, Syracuse could make its way through the East region and make it to the Final Four. The biggest obstacle I see is Vanderbilt.

Just as Vanderbilt beat an athletic Kentucky team to win the SEC title, the Commodores could shoot well from the outside and Festus Ezeli could be the same type of inside presence as Yancy Gates, who powered Cincinnati to an upset over Syracuse in the Big East tournament.

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Toughest First Matchup: No. 9 Connecticut vs. No. 8 Iowa State

The Huskies had the toughest schedule in the nation this season, so it seems only right that they would draw a tough Iowa State team in the Round of 64.

With multi-talented Royce White running the show for the Cyclones and capable shooters from the outside, the Huskies won’t be able to relax on the defensive end.

The winner will most likely have a matchup with No. 1 Kentucky.

Most Likely to Get Upset: No. 3 Georgetown vs. No. 14 Belmont

Belmont is a high-scoring dark horse out of the Atlantic Sun Conference that, if they get in a shootout with Georgetown, could send the Hoyas home early.

The Bruins move the ball well and are in the top five in the country in assists per game and in the top thirty in field goal percentage. Kerron Johnson is a name to watch for Belmont.

Team That Barely Snuck In But Has Something To Prove: No. 12 South Florida

Analysts debated whether South Florida should get in, but they now find themselves in a First Four game against Pac 12 opponent California.

Coach Stan Heath said during the Big East tournament that he loves his team’s grinding, slow pace where no one player is averaging double figures in scoring.

If South Florida is able to beat Cal, they will meet Temple in the Round of 64. The Bulls have been written off so far because of their perceived lack of strength in scheduling, but this NCAA tournament will give them a chance to prove critics wrong.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.