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Big East Scenarios update

Everything went right for the Bearcats last week. They beat Pittsburgh while West Virginia lost to Louisville, giving them a game-and-a-half lead with four to play.

Here are the current standings:

Big East Conference Standings

(updated 11.6.2011 at 1:37 AM CDT)

Everyone has two losses except Louisville, and Cincinnati beat Louisville, which would give the Orange Bowl bid to UC if both go 6-1. So the Bearcats' lead is huge right now. After the break, I'll explain just how huge, and what every other Big East team has to do to get back in the race. Except USF, of course, who is now eliminated from even the zaniest tiebreaker scenarios.

Option 1: Win all remaining games to finish 7-0.
Option 2: Win all remaining games but one to finish 6-1.
Option 3: Split remaining games to finish 5-2, while Rutgers, Connecticut, West Virginia and Louisville all lose at least one game (which may include a game against Cincinnati).
Option 4: See "other scenarios" section below.

Last week I said Cincinnati could lose to Rutgers, UConn, or Syracuse and not be harmed. Now, they can lose one game to any team and not be harmed. That's right, the Bearcats have a full mulligan. However, they don't have two mulligans. If they end up 5-2, they could still win the league if no one else or only Louisville gets to 5-2 (that is Option 3 above). But they do not fare well in tiebreakers, because they would have lost to the teams they'd be tied with.

Win three of four and you're in, Bearcats. Simple as that.

Option 1: Win all remaining games while Cincinnati loses at least two games.
Option 2: Lose one game to end up 5-2, while Cincinnati loses at least three games, Pittsburgh loses at least one game, and Connecticut loses at least one game. (NOTE: Louisville has yet to play Connecticut, so if UofL wins that game, it counts as the one loss Connecticut would need in this scenario. If UofL's one loss is to UConn, UConn must lose one of its other games.)
Option 3: See "other scenarios" section below.

If Cincinnati blows it, the team most likely to benefit is Louisville, which is currently 3-1 in league play. Normally I would suggest this is a bad thing, with their home losses to FIU and Marshall, but it's hard to imagine the Big East getting any more abuse than it already does.

Option 1: Win both remaining games to go 5-2, while Louisville loses two other games. West Virginia loses at least one game. Cincinnati loses at least one other game.
Option 2: See "other scenarios" section below.

If you're looking for a true out-of-nowhere candidate, here's your best one. It just requires two wins from the Scarlet Knights and four losses from other teams, at least one which is guaranteed since Cincinnati has yet to play West Virginia.

When I say "Cincinnati must lose one other game", I mean "Cincinnati must lose one game in addition to the game that Rutgers has to win to get to 5-2." Cincinnati is two games ahead of Rutgers, but Rutgers hasn't played Cincinnati yet, so Rutgers can hand Cincinnati one of the two losses they need to catch up. "Other" means the same thing in subsequent scenarios.

Option 1: Win all three remaining games to go 5-2. Pittsburgh and West Virginia both lose at least one game. Cincinnati loses at least one other game.
Option 2: See "other scenarios" section below.

Oh boy, here we go again. That's right, UConn has the fourth-best chance of swiping the BCS bid, and need only three wins and three other losses to do it. And at least one of those losses is guaranteed, due to those teams still having to play each other.

Option 1: Win all three remaining games to go 5-2. Louisville loses two games. Cincinnati loses at least one other game.
Option 2: See "other scenarios" section below.

I considered putting "other scenarios" first for WVU, because I think that's their best option.

If three teams end up tied at 5-2, and those teams went 1-1 against each other, the tie is broken by BCS ranking. In such a tie, West Virginia would be up against Louisville, and UConn or Cincinnati. The Cards and Huskies have multiple bad non-conference losses, Cincy would have lost two of four, and WVU would have won three straight. The Mountaineers would almost certainly win this tiebreak. Note also that Louisville only has to lose once for this to happen.

Option 1: Win all three remaining games to go 5-2. Cincinnati loses at least three games. Rutgers loses at least one game.
Option 2: See "other scenarios" section below.

Pittsburgh's loss to Rutgers puts them lower in the pecking order, since that's one more team that has to take a loss for them to win a tiebreaker at 5-2. But what really killed the Panthers was losing to Cincinnati. Had they pulled that off, they'd have a 20% chance of winning the league. Without it, it's only 2%. Goes to show how much one game can mean in an eight-team league.

Option 1: See "That's Armageddon!" section below.

Syracuse can still get to 4-3, and it's possible that no one else will get to 5-2, so they could grab a share of the league championship. They'd be tied with at least four other teams. The Big East doesn't even have a published tiebreaker rule for ties of five teams or more. But we can't rule them out entirely.


In addition to the above, there are some other possibilities where the winner can't be predicted yet. But these give each of the top six candidates some additional hope:

Three-way tie that must be broken by BCS ranking. There are five different combinations of three teams that can end up 5-2, and 1-1 against each other, necessitating a tie that must be broken by BCS ranking:

  • Cincinnati/Connecticut/Pittsburgh
  • Cincinnati/Louisville/Rutgers
  • Cincinnati/Louisville/West Virginia
  • Connecticut/Louisville/West Virginia
  • Louisville/Pittsburgh/Rutgers

As I explained in the West Virginia section, I believe the Mountaineers will win any three-way tie they are involved in. As for the others, your guess is as good as mine. Note that the Rutgers-Army non-conference game will be a factor.

Four-way tie at 5-2. This can happen. If it does, two of the four teams will be 2-1 against other teams in the tie, and the highest ranked BCS team of those two would win. The contestants would be as follows:

  • Cincinnati/Connecticut/Louisville/West Virginia (predicted winner: West Virginia, as they would be 2-1 in the tie and the next tiebreaker, against UConn, is BCS ranking)
  • Cincinnati/Louisville/Pittsburgh/Rutgers (predicted winner: highest-ranked BCS team of Cincinnati or Rutgers)
  • Cincinnati/Louisville/Rutgers/West Virginia (predicted winner: West Virginia, as they would be 2-1 in the tie and the next tiebreaker, against Louisville, is BCS ranking)

That's Armageddon! If nobody wins five games in conference, there will be at least four, and as many as seven, teams tied at 4-3. Five- and six-way ties are also possible, with almost any combination of every team but USF. Lord knows how they'd sort that mess out. But if the Big East is going to go down, let's go down like the Hindenburg.