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Monday, January 30, 2012
Conference Power Rankings: Big East

By Dana O'Neil

It's a crapshoot after No. 1, but I'll give another shot to ranking all 16 Big East teams ...

1. Syracuse: Good bounce back by the Orange, who rallied from their first loss of the season to beat Cincinnati on the road and West Virginia, with some controversy, at home. Syracuse still does not have Fab Melo, and with each game it's more evident how critical the big man is.

2. Marquette: It is time to give the Golden Eagles their due. Marquette lacks the pizzazz of some other names in the league, but this team is rock solid. Darius Johnson-Odom won’t let the Golden Eagles stray too far off script.

3. Notre Dame: There’s the luck of the Irish and there’s good basketball. This isn’t luck. Mike Brey has done it again, reconfiguring his team after a serious injury. Notre Dame, an average team even before Tim Abromaitis was lost for the season, is now 6-3 after beating Syracuse and Connecticut.

4. West Virginia: Yes, the Mountaineers lost two this week but we’re calling it two with an asterisk. If you’re looking for a team to count on in this weird conference, one coached by Bob Huggins is always a good bet.

5. Georgetown: The Hoyas’ lack of defensive intensity and their rebounding issues cost them against Pittsburgh. Georgetown will have to fix both in a hurry, with suddenly desperate UConn coming to D.C. on Wednesday.

6. South Florida: Feel free to criticize the Bulls for not beating the toughest the Big East has to offer, but remember South Florida can only play the schedule it was handed. For a team that has been struggling to win since joining the conference, this 6-3 start is a huge step.

7. Louisville: The Cards quietly have turned things around by taking advantage of the middle and bottom of the Big East pack. Soon it gets interesting. Starting Feb. 6, Louisville gets Connecticut, West Virginia and Syracuse.

8. Connecticut: The NCAA has cleared guard Ryan Boatright but that hasn’t fixed what ails UConn. The Huskies dropped their third in a row, a 50-48 loss to Notre Dame on Sunday. A season once full of promise needs to be repaired in a hurry.

9. Cincinnati: The Bearcats have lost three in a row. Cincinnati needs to find a way to score when it doesn’t hit 3-pointers. The Bearcats were 7-of-20 from 3-point range in a 61-54 loss to Rutgers on Saturday.

10. Rutgers: If any team sums up the inconsistency that is the Big East it is the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers lost to DePaul 69-64 and then beat Cincinnati 61-54. Mike Rice’s team is clearly talented enough to beat anyone and young enough to lose to anyone.

11. Seton Hall: Just when you thought it was time to believe in the Pirates, they drop four straight. Kevin Willard is looking for offense. Seton Hall scored 18 in the first half against Notre Dame and 21 in the opening 20 against Louisville.

12. St. John's: The baby-faced Red Storm have put together back-to-back good games, even if they don’t have the results to show for it. St. John's beat West Virginia 78-62 and then fell to Duke 83-76.

13. Villanova: The Wildcats look better. They’re getting scoring from guys not named Maalik Wayns and playing tougher on defense. That’s the good news. The bad news is, while they look better, they aren't winning games.

14. DePaul: The Blue Demons ended a five-game skid with a road win against Rutgers but need to make hay to crawl out of the league basement once again.

15. Pittsburgh: A strong salutation to the Panthers, who emerge from the basement with wins against Providence and Georgetown. Is Pitt on the mend? Tune in Monday night for the backyard brawl against WVU to find out.

16. Providence: The young Friars have lost seven of their past eight and three in a row. To get out of the cellar, Providence needs to up the ante on defense.