Monday, January 16, 2012
Conference power rankings: Big East
By Dana O'Neil
Ranking this mega-league is not an easy task, but we'll give it another shot ...
1. Syracuse: Someone on Twitter suggested that the Orange’s second five be ranked as the second-best team in the Big East. It’s not crazy, considering the bench accounted for 41 of Syracuse’s 78 points against Providence.
2. Connecticut: Another difficult week for the Huskies. With Jim Calhoun’s suspension over, now UConn is dealing with the uncertainty of Ryan Boatright's status for the rest of the season as the NCAA looks into his eligibility again. That the Huskies were able to deal with the immediate news and win at Notre Dame is a credit to the team. The long-term effects, however, remain to be seen.
3. West Virginia: Interesting week for the Mountaineers, who appear headed in the right direction. They play against in-state rival Marshall, a dangerous game against a good team in Conference USA, and then host Cincinnati.
4. Georgetown: The Hoyas hopped off their losing streak in convincing fashion by toasting St. John’s by 20. That should -- at least temporarily -- silence critics who wondered if Georgetown was heading to another midseason slide.
5. Seton Hall: So was the loss to South Florida a hiccup or a more serious problem? That’s the question that needs to be answered for the Pirates, who had a chance to win the game, but Jordan Theodore missed the front end of a one-and-one. Seton Hall is good, but until the Hall avoids upset losses, fans will be leery to go all-in.
6. Cincinnati: Just how good are the Bearcats? We’ll know by the middle of next week. This is Cincinnati’s gauntlet: at Connecticut, at West Virginia and then home against Syracuse. One win would be good, two huge and three a reason for serious joy in the streets.
7. Marquette: The Golden Eagles went back to their bread and butter, their defense, to beat skidding Pittsburgh. But one thing that’s becoming obvious: The margin for error for Marquette is slim.
8. Notre Dame:Tim Abromaitis remains the Irish’s leading scorer, despite not playing since tearing his ACL after Game 2. That tells you all you need to do know about the good job Mike Brey has done retooling this team into something respectable. The sledding gets harder now, with ranked opponents in three of Notre Dame’s next five games.
9. Louisville: The reeling Cardinals got exactly what the doctor ordered: a game against DePaul, one of the league’s lower-tier teams. Russ Smith looks like the key puzzle piece for a team that struggles offensively. The sixth man makes his coach crazy, but Louisville needs to afford Smith some freedom if it’s going to score. It also needs Kyle Kuric back.
10. South Florida: Success for the Bulls has to come in increments, and beating a ranked opponent for the first time in 11 years counts. South Florida’s inability to score makes nothing easy.
11. Rutgers: This is just the way it’s going to be for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are young and so the same team that can beat Florida and Connecticut and hold Pitt to 39 points can, in fact, lose by 24 to West Virginia.
12. St. John's: Here’s what you can know for sure about the Red Storm: Moe Harkless and D'Angelo Harrison are terrific. After that, how do you fairly judge a team with a roster full of freshmen, no head coach and players transferring? St. John’s is skidding (losing four of its last five) with little reason to believe it can right itself.
13. Villanova: The Wildcats just aren’t very good. There’s a host of reasons -- youth, inexperience -- but bottom line, Maalik Wayns is left to do everything on his own. He’s trying, scoring 39 in Villanova’s loss to Cincinnati, but it’s just not enough.
14. DePaul: The Blue Demons are better. But better still isn’t equating to improved results, especially on the road. A victim of tough scheduling, DePaul has lost its past three games away from home. With two now back in Chicago, the Blue Demons need to get back on track.
15. Providence: The Friars lost to Syracuse and lost badly, but credit Ed Cooley for benching leading scorer Vincent Council. As he tries to rebuild Providence, Cooley has to set a standard regardless of what it might do to the win-loss column.
16. Pittsburgh: Put the Panthers right up there next to the pyramids as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. One of the most consistent teams in the country is now consistently awful. Fans are now looking for respectable losses, like ones in which Pitt scores more than 39.