- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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And so here we are at the end of the Big East regular season, and yet we're back where we started. The league is still unsettled and undecided, but the same team picked at the beginning is back at the top, and that’s Louisville.
1. Louisville. Don’t look now, but the Cardinals are getting hot again, as in red-hot. Louisville has won six in a row and nine of 10. The Cardinals have a shot at a Big East regular-season title and possibly a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. First, though, is the regular-season finale against Notre Dame. Expect overtime.
2. Marquette. And on the Cardinals’ heels, here come the Golden Eagles. Marquette has won three in a row and five of six to clinch a double-bye in the Big East tournament. By now we ought to expect this from the Golden Eagles, but after losing the league’s leading scorer and player of the year, it’s a pretty impressive run.
3. Georgetown. The Hoyas’ 11-game streak came crashing to an end due to (depending on your point of view) 22 turnovers or an insanely lopsided foul disparity against Villanova. It’s not the end of the world. Georgetown can still claim a Big East title and make a case for a No. 1 seed. Of course, there’s a pesky little game Saturday against rival Syracuse, officially the last league game between the two.
4. Notre Dame. The Irish have one game left. Or four, depending on how many overtimes Notre Dame and Louisville decide to play. Regardless of the result, Notre Dame is assured of a solid finish in the Big East thanks largely to Mike Brey’s ability to once again redefine his team in the wake of an injury. Without Scott Martin, Notre Dame has gone all-in on defense.
5. Syracuse. Nothing like a game against DePaul to cure what ails you. The bottom-of-the-league-dwelling Blue Demons were the perfect antidote for the reeling Orange, which had lost three in a row. Now it’s time to see if Syracuse’s issues are really solved or if that game was merely a mask. It’s time for the last dance with Georgetown.
6. Pittsburgh. The Panthers will be a very dangerous team heading into New York. With DePaul as their last game, they'll likely be riding a four-game winning streak and, most importantly, surging confidence. Credit Tray Woodall with keeping this team on track all season.
7. Villanova. Enough bubble and roller coaster. The Wildcats are in the NCAA tournament after a ticket-sealing win against Georgetown. Now it’s about momentum. Villanova has been up and down all season, and while the Wildcats have shown remarkable resiliency, a little consistency would do them a world of good.
8. Providence. That people are even asking if the Friars have a shot at an at-large bid says everything about the job Ed Cooley has done. Providence could claim its 10th league win when it faces Connecticut to finish the regular season. Regardless, the Friars head to New York as a team no one wants to play.
9. Connecticut. The wheels are coming off a little bit here for UConn, which is trying to finish out the regular season without Shabazz Napier. The Huskies have lost three in a row, including a bad loss to South Florida. Connecticut’s season is over this weekend because of APR penalties.
10. Cincinnati. The best news for the Bearcats: They get a second chance. This season went off track in the past month, with six losses in eight games. Cincinnati finishes with South Florida, but it has to hope for good things in New York to turn around its postseason fate.
11. St. John’s. And the drama continues for the Red Storm. Steve Lavin suspended leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison for the rest of the regular season due to, he said, repeated failure to live up to the team’s standards. Then a game later, St. John’s and Notre Dame exchanged haymakers in a game-ending brawl. Lost in the confusion -- a three-game losing streak.
12. Rutgers. Give the Scarlet Knights credit. Without their leading scorer and with little left to fight for, they did just that -- they fought. Rutgers gave both Georgetown and Marquette plenty to handle before eventually losing each game. The Scarlet Knights close out the season against rival Seton Hall.
13. Seton Hall. The Pirates have won just once in the month of February. After an injury-plagued season, they probably won’t mind putting this year behind them. But if there is something to motivate them, it is this -- a game against Rutgers, the team that beat them by two earlier in the season.
14. South Florida. The Bulls are doing their best to have a good finish to erase the taste of a bad season. South Florida has won two in a row heading into its finale at Cincinnati. The difference in both Bulls victories: USF scored points.
15. DePaul. The Blue Demons have assumed their customary place in the Big East standings -- at the bottom. DePaul must beat Pitt and hope USF doesn’t beat Cincinnati if it wants to crawl out of last place in the league.