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big east tournament

The Big East Tournament Begins Today

In an hour and a half, the Big East Conference Tournament begins at Madison Square Garden — our own Joe DeLessio will be there — and all sixteen teams will be playing. It's nice that they let all sixteen teams play, in the same way that in Little League everyone gets to play an inning. Obviously, the kid's not going to hit the ball, but sometimes it's good to get Jimmy out of the house.

Today, the little sisters of the Big East pool tip off at MSG, and that includes our own St. John's, which could very well be saying good-bye to coach Norm Roberts with a loss today. (They play Connecticut, an extremely tough draw, but a team with plenty of issues of its own.) That game's at 2:30, and we'll have a full report afterward.

The other games: At noon, it's South Florida versus DePaul; at 7 p.m. it's Seton Hall versus Providence; and at 9:30, it's Cincinnati versus Rutgers. If you don't finish in the top half of the Big East, you're faced with a nearly impossible situation: You have to win four games in four days just to reach the title game. If you finish in the top four, like Syracuse, you only have to win two games to make it that far. The Big East tournament is a meritocracy.

Nothing's ever going to match that wild Syracuse six-overtime thriller from a year ago, but the Big East tourney is one of the highlights of the sports slate around these parts. Five days of basketball, all day. Tough to beat that.

By the way, according to the great Ken Pomeroy, the favorite in this tournament is West Virginia, who has a 29.1 percent chance of winning. Syracuse is second at 28.9 percent. St. John's, you ask? 0.06 percent — which is higher than zero, and higher than Rutgers' 0.0009 percent.

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Photo: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images