Monday, February 13, 2012
Conference Power Rankings: Big East
By Dana O'Neil
The jockeying continues in the Big East, where nothing but the top spot ever seems to remain the same.
But finally there seems to be at least a little separation from the top of the pack, with Syracuse, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Marquette and Louisville pulling away.
After that, it’s open season on the bubble and the bottom.
1. Syracuse: The Orange face what could be their stiffest test of the season on Monday at Louisville. The Cardinals have had Syracuse’s number, winning seven in a row against the Orange, a string dating back to the 2006-07 season.
2. Georgetown: The Hoyas retooled after a hard-fought loss against Syracuse with a solid win over St. John’s. More importantly, Georgetown got big contributions from new faces: Nate Lubick and Greg Whittington. That’s the versatility the Hoyas will need as March nears.
3. Notre Dame: It took a while for the Irish to get going against DePaul, but ultimately they rolled to their sixth straight win. Luke Harangody look-alike Jack Cooley has 43 points and 26 rebounds in Notre Dame’s past two wins. In those games, he's a ridiculous 17-of-21 (81 percent) from the field.
4. Marquette: The Golden Eagles turned a 16-4 hole into a rout of Cincinnati, its fast-break offense exploding to a 17-point win. Darius Johnson-Odom is making a serious run at conference player of the year honors.
5. Louisville: Freshman Wayne Blackshear is back in the lineup at just the right time for the surging Cardinals. The freshman came off the bench against West Virginia but will be needed even more when the Cards host league-leading Syracuse on Monday.
6. Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ defense went AWOL against Marquette and so did a big lead. Cincinnati needs to start locking down if it’s going to assure itself an NCAA bid and keep its league record above .500.
7. South Florida: The Bulls are playing themselves onto the soft bubble, beating the teams they’re expected to beat. This team isn't great by any means, but 8-4 in the Big East is still 8-4 in the Big East. South Florida still could use a signature win, but this is a groundbreaking season for Stan Heath’s group.
8. Seton Hall: The Pirates ended a six-game skid with two wins this week, Sunday against Pitt and earlier in the week at Rutgers. But that victory against the Scarlet Knights only further sullied this rivalry with an endgame skirmish that included a Herb Pope head-butt.
9. West Virginia: The Mountaineers are going in the wrong direction in the standings with March right around the corner, losing five of their past six. This week’s Backyard Brawl with Pittsburgh is critical.
10. Connecticut: The Huskies played harder than the final score against Syracuse indicated, but UConn was supposed to be more than just competitive with the Orange. This once-promising season is threatening to spin out of control, with six losses in seven games dropping the league record to 5-7.
11. Villanova: The Wildcats slide ahead of some of the other teams with four league wins simply because they did fewer things wrong than the rest. That is to say, Villanova won a game, narrowly beating Providence after a 19-point rally.
12. Pittsburgh: Apparently news of the Panthers’ resurgence was a tad premature. Pitt’s promising four-game win streak was halted by South Florida and Seton Hall. The Panthers struggled to score in both. Looks like there will be no late surge to the bubble after all.
13. Rutgers: The schedule is not kind to the skidding Scarlet Knights. With three losses in a row, Rutgers now has to go to Notre Dame before hosting Syracuse. Ouch.
14. St. John’s: The Red Storm gave Georgetown all it could handle on the road before losing Sunday afternoon. That is the solace for a young team that needs to find a way to finish out a difficult season.
15. DePaul: Oliver Purnell earned himself a technical foul after slamming his clipboard in frustration in the loss to Notre Dame over the weekend. It’s an apt metaphor for the season, one in which the Blue Demons are better but simply cannot get over the hump.
16. Providence: The Friars have just two wins since the New Year and the schedule offers little in the way of optimism. This week, Providence has to face a hungry Cincinnati team before hosting Georgetown.