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Oracle Insight: Previewing the Big East Tournament

With an unpredictable regular season in the rearview mirror, the top eight baseball teams in the Big East have advanced to the conference tournament at Bright House Field in Clearwater. For the next four days, these eight teams will duke it out in a double-elimination bracket to claim the title of Big East champion, and with it, an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament Regional round.

With the conference champion ready to be decided, The Oracle takes a look at the eight teams that will battle in Clearwater.

Louisville (38-18, 18-9)
Regular Season: 1st place
A year after the Cardinals made a run to the semifinals despite finishing in sixth place, Louisville used a final weekend series win over Pittsburgh to take a share of the regular season conference crown.
Led by righty pitcher Justin Amlung, who was named the Big East Pitcher of the Year, the Cardinals won their third regular season title in four years.

St. Johns (33-21, 18-9)
Regular Season: 2nd place
Losing a series to Seton Hall to end the season was all that prevented the Red Storm from winning the top seed in the Big East tournament.
St. Johns is a nightmare for both pitchers and catchers, thanks to senior speedster Matt Wessinger, who has 32 steals in 34 attempts this season, the most for any Red Storm player since 1988.

Seton Hall (33-22, 17-10)
Regular season: 3rd place
The Pirates come to Florida with momentum on their side, coming off a series win over St. Johns. They will look to capture lighting in a bottle for the second straight season, after becoming the lowest seed, a fifth seed, to win the Big East Tournament, defeating the Red Storm in the title game last year. Their 17 conference wins were good enough to give them their best conference record since 2000.

USF (34-20, 17-10)
Regular season: 4th place
A near-home field advantage awaits the Bulls, who will play 27 miles from the USF Baseball Stadium. USF boasts a 3-0 record in neutral site affairs, with wins over Ohio State, Minnesota and Michigan State to start the season in the Big East/Big Ten challenge. Led by all-Big East first teamer Andrew Barbosa, the Bulls return to play in Clearwater after missing the tournament last season.

Connecticut (29-25-1, 16-11)
Regular season: 5th place
The 2011 Big East regular season champions were unable to capture the same success this year, dropping to fifth place, including a sweep at the hands of USF in the second to last series of the season. The Huskies enter the tournament with four all-Big East team honorees suiting up. Theyre led by junior Billy Ferriter, who batted .327 on the season and led the team with 41 runs scored.

Rutgers (31-23, 16-11)
Regular season: 6th place
Rutgers makes its return to Clearwater after missing out last season because of a 10th-place finish. The Knights resurgence was led by junior third baseman Patrick Kivlehan. Kivlehan made history with the first triple crown in Big East history, leading the conference with a .410 batting average, 10 home runs and 36 RBIs during conference play. He also led the league for the entire season, with a .390 average and 14 home runs.

Notre Dame (29-25, 14-13)
Regular season: 7th place
After barely making the conference tournament a season ago, slipping in with the last spot, the Irish gave themselves some breathing room, finishing four games ahead of eighth-place Pittsburgh, a larger gap than the difference between sixth place Rutgers and first place Louisville. Notre Dame will look to improve on a run to the semifinals last season, when it lost to top-seeded Connecticut.

Pittsburgh (28-26, 10-17)
Regular season: 8th place
It was not a pretty run to the Big East Tournament, but the Panthers have sealed themselves a spot in Clearwater. Despite the large drop off for the final spot, the Panthers can throw out their regular season record by making a run to the title game. The Panthers are led by senior Rick Devereaux, an all-Big East first teamer.