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Monday, February 6, 2012
Conference Power Rankings: Big East

By Dana O'Neil

Is Notre Dame really the second-best team in the Big East? At this point in time, it's tough to argue with the results on the court...

1. Syracuse: With Fab Melo back in the fold, the Orange cruised to an easy win against St. John’s. The big man changes things aplenty for Syracuse, all in a good way.

2. Notre Dame: The Irish’s unexpected run continues, with a pasting of a previously rising Marquette team. Notre Dame is dangerous at home and downright lethal when it can hit 3-pointers, like it did against the Golden Eagles.

3. Georgetown: John Thompson III got the Hoyas back to basics on defense. The result has been two opponents who got stuck in the 40s, Connecticut and South Florida. Now for the rivalry game against Syracuse.

4. Marquette: Notre Dame snapped the Golden Eagles’ seven-game win streak in decisive fashion, but it should be noted Davante Gardner was out with a knee injury. That changes things significantly for Marquette’s defense.

5. Louisville: Finally some good news for the Cardinals — Gorgui Dieng's ankle injury wasn’t so bad after all. Dieng returned to the game against Rutgers and Louisville returned to order. The Cards have now won four in a row.

6. West Virginia: The Mountaineers stopped what could have been a disastrous skid by beating Providence in overtime. That won’t do a lot to restore confidence to WVU fans, but hey, a win is a win. The Mountaineers need more this week, against either red-hot Notre Dame or improving Louisville.

7. Connecticut: Perhaps the Huskies prefer turmoil. A day after Jim Calhoun announced an indefinite leave, UConn topped a depleted Seton Hall team to end a four-game slide.

8. Cincinnati: The Bearcats got a cure for what ails them — a visit from DePaul. Now things get more critical for the bubble dwellers as they take trips to St. John’s and Marquette.

9. South Florida: The Bulls finally faced one of the league’s more established teams and it didn’t go well. Georgetown claimed a 30-point win. USF is better, but to convince folks it belongs in the upper half of the league, it needs to beat some good teams.

10. Pittsburgh: Don’t look now but here come the Panthers. With Tray Woodall back in the lineup, Pitt has now won four in a row, including a gut-check victory against Villanova. With a favorable end-season schedule, keep Pitt very close on the radar.

11. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights lost the game and their coach in Louisville, with an exasperated Mike Rice earning an ejection before halftime. The young Knights remain a tough out and expect them to be especially tough when they host in-state rival Seton Hall this week.

12. Seton Hall: The Pirates are a mess, and there's no other way to put it. Forced to play without Herb Pope (rib injury), Seton Hall barely mustered a fight in a loss to Connecticut. That’s their sixth loss in a row, not exactly the momentum the Pirates want to face rival Rutgers this week.

13. St. John’s: The Fresh Five, as the starting freshmen for the Red Storm like to be called, got a fresh look at what they’re up against in a 25-point loss to Syracuse. There is upside for this team, plenty of it, but right now it’s an uphill battle against top-25 teams.

14. Villanova: The good news is the Wildcats fought back from an 18-point deficit. The bad news is the 18-point deficit. Villanova’s loss to Pittsburgh was its third in a row and fifth in seven games. The only meaningful goal right now: a .500 finish.

15. DePaul: Some things are just hard to change and Big East results are among them for the Blue Demons. DePaul has lost seven of its past eight and the schedule is not kind for the Blue Demons – Marquette, Notre Dame, Connecticut and Louisville await.

16. Providence: There are no moral victories, so no solace for the Friars in taking West Virginia to OT. But that’s really all Ed Cooley is aiming for right now — building confidence and a new attitude in his program.