College Basketball Nation: DePaul Blue Demons

Afternoon Links: The UK question

November, 20, 2014
What we're reading while we ponder the utopian benefits of a 3-hour work week. Submit links via Twitter.
  • As of this writing, 52 percent of SportsNation respondents believe the Kentucky Wildcats would beat the Philadelphia 76ers in a game of basketball. In case you're among that 52 percent, Rob Dauster is here to set you straight.
  • That said, Mike DeCourcy has some interesting thoughts on the topic, not so much a counterpoint as a dash of appropriate context:
    Here was my plan: Fed up with the constant assertions the Kentucky Wildcats could defeat an NBA team, and prompted by my editors to address this particular nuisance, I was going to search through the D-League and find a group of players not even good enough for the NBA who would defeat this UK squad. The hitch was, I’m not sure I could find 5 — or, given the whole two-platoon biz, 10 – D-League guys I could comfortably argue would defeat this Kentucky squad. … And thus we have the central problem with the debate over, “Could the Kentucky Wildcats defeat an NBA team?” — What constitutes an NBA team? If it’s merely that they wear the uniforms of an NBA team and are paid relatively handsomely to play the game, even if they bear no particular resemblance to any competitive team ever fielded in the NBA – in other words, if we’re talking about the 2014-15 Philadelphia 76ers – then it’s not ridiculous to assert Kentucky would have a chance to beat that team. It’s far more ridiculous to assert that these Sixers are, in fact, an NBA team.
  • Last week, Myron brought you the story of J.P. Honsinger, an 11-year-old member of Albany's 2014 recruiting class. Honsinger, a sixth-grader from Clifton, New York, is diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C disease, a extremely rare form of childhood Alzheimer's afflicting just 500 known sufferers worldwide. The program's release made Honsinger's dream come true, and Albany coach Will Brown's effusive praise ("As our point guard of the future, we are going to rely on his exceptional leadership qualities. Nobody in the country will be signing a player with JP’s toughness.") was enough to make at least one writer's apartment unusually dusty. On Thursday, DePaul unveiled a similar gesture, inking 11-year-old Brendan McMahon, who was diagnosed with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy when he was six, to a national letter of intent. "We are tremendously excited about announcing the addition of Brendan McMahon to our program," coach Oliver Purnell said in a release. "We have every confidence that bringing Brendan on board will strengthen the grit, the determination and the heart of our team." This is the best signing day trend in decades.
  • In advance of tonight's Indiana-SMU matchup Indiana freshman Emmitt Holt spoke exclusively to's Dana O'Neil about the Nov. 1 accident that left IU forward Devin Davis hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury: "It was just an awful night, to be honest, that probably changed my life forever. It did actually change my life forever. When I went to visit him in the hospital for the first time it was like ... it was ... crazy. Then when we talked the first time, I don't want to go into great detail, but he was trying to comfort me, telling me it wasn't my fault. But deep down, I'll always feel like it was my fault. It was one of those moments where you realize you have to be a better person."
  • The best game on Thursday night's schedule is undoubtedly No. 10 Texas's matchup with a deep, experienced and -- thanks to last season's collapse -- probably underrated Iowa team. Our old friend Ryan Clark may not be in Madison Square Garden, but he's still got a totally thorough preview for your pregame consumption.
This week, is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each team in nine of the nation's top leagues. Next up: the Big East.


Toughest: Old Spice Classic (Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in Orlando, Fla.), Purdue (Dec. 14 in Indianapolis)
Next toughest: Princeton (Nov. 16)
The rest: Lamar (Nov. 9), Vanderbilt (Nov. 19), at Ball State (Nov. 23), North Dakota (Dec. 7), Manchester (Dec. 9), at Evansville (Dec. 21), NJIT (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- This isn’t an overwhelming schedule for first-year coach Brandon Miller, but it’s not a complete cakewalk either -- especially since Roosevelt Jones is out for the year. The Old Spice Classic gives the Bulldogs some pop, with a potential date with Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State in the second round (with Washington State as the opener) or Memphis down the road.


Toughest: Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28-Dec.1 in Fullerton and Anaheim, Calif.)
Next toughest: at Saint Joseph’s (Nov. 16), California (Nov. 22), at Long Beach State (Dec. 3), Nebraska (Dec. 8)
The rest: Alcorn State (Nov. 8), UMKC (Nov. 11), Tulsa (Nov. 23), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 17)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The hefty Wooden Legacy gives the Bluejays a challenge. There’s a first-round date with Arizona State and Jahii Carson then possibly San Diego State and a potential matchup with either Marquette or Miami on the other side. But for a loaded lineup like Creighton has, I would have hoped to see a little more meat in the nonconference schedule.


Toughest: CBE Classic (Nov. 25-26 in Kansas City, Mo.), Arizona State (Dec. 6)
Next toughest: at Northwestern (Dec. 27)
The rest: Grambling State (Nov. 9), Southern Miss (Nov. 13), Wright State (Nov. 16), at Milwaukee (Nov. 19), Oregon State (Dec. 1), Florida Atlantic (Dec. 12), Chicago State (Dec. 15), Houston Baptist (Dec. 18), at Illinois State (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- If this is the year the Blue Demons turn the corner, they will have earned their stripes. This is a decent schedule, thanks largely to an opening date with Final Four participant Wichita State in the semis of the CBE Classic. (Texas and BYU are on the other side.) Tussles with Arizona State and Northwestern also add some muscle.


Toughest: Oregon (Nov. 8 in Seoul, South Korea), at Kansas (Dec. 21), Michigan State (Feb. 1 in New York)
Next toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-24)
The rest: Wright State (Nov. 13), Lipscomb (Nov. 30), High Point (Dec. 5), Colgate (Dec. 7), Elon (Dec. 17), Florida International (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- Short of matching up with Kentucky in Kabul, I’m not sure how John Thompson III could have made his schedule much more daunting. From South Korea to Lawrence, with a date with Michigan State for added fun, that’s literally anyone anywhere. There’s also a pretty decent Puerto Rico Tip-Off field, with VCU, Michigan, Kansas State and Florida State.


Toughest: Ohio State (Nov. 16), New Mexico (Nov. 21), at Wisconsin (Dec. 7)
Next toughest: Arizona State (Nov. 25), Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in Fullerton and Anaheim, Calif.)
The rest: Southern (Nov. 8), Grambling State (Nov. 12), New Hampshire (Nov. 21), IUPUI (Dec. 14), Ball State (Dec. 17), Samford (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- Love when a good team plays a good schedule. Buzz Williams has a delicious mix, traipsing across leagues (Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mountain West) and mixing in a decent tourney as well. The only oddity is that the Wooden Legacy title game might merely be a Big East preview, with Creighton and Marquette seemingly headed toward each other.


Toughest: Kentucky (Dec. 1 in Brooklyn)
Next toughest: Boston College (Nov. 8), Paradise Jam (Nov. 22-25 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands), UMass (Dec. 28)
The rest: Brown (Nov. 13), Marist (Nov. 16), Vermont (Nov. 18), Fairfield (Nov. 29), at Rhode Island (Dec. 5), Yale (Dec. 17), Maine (Dec. 21)

Toughness scale (1 to 10): 4 -- Yes, Kentucky is on the schedule, which is big, but one game does not a schedule make. The Paradise Jam is a bunch of meh, with Maryland and La Salle the only intriguing opponents available. The rest of the Friars’ schedule is just a trip through New England.


Toughest: Coaches vs. Cancer (Nov. 22-23 in New York)
Next toughest: at Rutgers (Dec. 8)
The rest: Niagara (Nov. 9), Kent State (Nov. 13), at Mercer (Nov. 16), Monmouth (Nov. 18), Fairleigh Dickinson (Dec. 1), LIU Brooklyn (Dec. 5), NJIT (Dec. 10), St. Peter’s (Dec. 14), Eastern Washington (Dec. 22), Lafayette (Dec. 27)

Toughness scale (1 to 10): 2 -- If the Pirates beat Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer, they might face Michigan State. Or they might not. And that’s about all there is to like about this schedule.


Toughest: Wisconsin (Nov. 8 in Sioux Falls, S.D.), Syracuse (Dec. 15)
Next toughest: Bucknell (Nov. 19), Barclays Center Classic (Nov. 29-30 in Brooklyn)
The rest: Wagner (Nov. 15), Monmouth (Nov. 22), Longwood (Nov. 26), Fordham (Dec. 7), San Francisco (Dec. 18), Youngstown State (Dec. 21), Columbia (Dec. 28), Dartmouth (Jan. 18)

Toughness scale (1 to 10): 6 -- The Red Storm’s top two games are pretty good, and bonus points for playing the Badgers in Sioux Falls. After Penn State in Brooklyn, they face a decent test from either Ole Miss or Georgia Tech. The rest isn’t much to look at.


Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30 in the Bahamas), at Syracuse (Dec. 28)
Next toughest: at Saint Joseph’s (Dec. 7), La Salle (Dec. 15), at Temple (Feb. 1)
The rest: Lafayette (Nov. 8), Mount St. Mary’s (Nov. 13), Towson (Nov. 17), Delaware (Nov. 22), Penn (Dec. 4), Rider (Dec. 21)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- To understand this ranking, you have to understand the Big Five. Even when the Philly schools are down, the games are brutal, and with La Salle, Penn and St. Joe’s on the uptick, the city series is a beast. Now mix in a Battle 4 Atlantis that opens with USC and then likely Kansas (with Tennessee, Iowa or Xavier as likely third opponents) plus a visit to the Carrier Dome and you have a solid slate for Jay Wright’s crew.


Toughest: Tennessee (Nov. 12), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30 in the Bahamas), Cincinnati (Dec. 14)
Next toughest: Alabama (Dec. 21)
The rest: Gardner-Webb (Nov. 8), Morehead State (Nov. 18), Miami (Ohio) (Nov. 20), Abilene Christian (Nov. 25), Bowling Green (Dec. 7), Evansville (Dec. 10), Wake Forest (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Like Villanova, the Musketeers get a nice boost from playing in Atlantis, taking on a good Iowa team in the opening round. An on-the-rise Tennessee offers bonus points (and they could face the Vols for a second time in the Bahamas), as does the annual Crosstown Classic with the Bearcats.
Never is the relative quiet of college basketball's offseason more apparent than in August. Summer recruiting is over. The draft is well behind us, as are most (if not all) coaching changes and transfers. Barring scandal or surprise, this is the part of the offseason where we resort, like weary desert travelers, to quenching our thirst with the mere mirage of schedule. It's pretty rough.

It is easy assume, given the quiet landscape, that most college coaches and their teams aren't doing much. That's actually the opposite of the truth. For years, incoming freshmen have arrived on campus during their school's second summer session, jump-starting their schoolwork, participating in conditioning drills, and running with program vets in unsupervised pick-up games. Two years ago, the NCAA passed a rule that allowed players to participate in limited individual summer workouts with coaches -- no more than eight hours a week, for no more than eight (non-consecutive) weeks -- provided they were enrolled in summer school at the time. This put the entire summer in play, but it made August more important than ever -- a natural head start for freshmen, a ramp-up for upperclassmen.

All of which may or may not be helpful clarification for this rather fun video DePaul posted on YouTube Wednesday:

Watching that and not knowing any better, you could assume that DePaul basketball was merely goofing off on another slow August day. Instead, the volleyball was a reprieve, and a surprise one at that; the Blue Demons went to the beach assuming they were in for another sand-stuck conditioning regimen. Sand hurts, and trainer Mac Calloway frequently utilizes that fact to his advantage. But coach Oliver Purnell proved merciful, and let his guys enjoy a little casual competition instead. Morale surely spiked.

In that way, this video was a helpful reminder (and not just of why so many of us stick out Chicago winters -- so we can enjoy that skyline and that beach!): College hoops' August may be slow from the outside, but on campuses everywhere, it might just be the most important month of the offseason.
Editor's note: Over two days, we're releasing the brackets/matchups for 11 of the top early-season events. A thread of previews and info for all 11 tourneys can be found here.

When and where: Nov. 25-26 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Semifinal schedule for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic:
Nov. 25: Texas vs. BYU (7:30 p.m., ESPNU); Wichita State vs. DePaul (10, ESPN3)
Nov. 26: Consolation game (7:30 p.m., ESPNU); Championship game (10, ESPN2)

Initial thoughts: Wichita State couldn’t have picked a better year to travel three hours northeast on Interstate 35 for a game in Kansas City. The Shockers, who have a large alumni base in the area, are riding high after last season’s Final Four appearance. And no one would be surprised if Gregg Marshall’s squad is even better this season. Wichita State returns three starters (Ron Baker, Cleanthony Early and Tekele Cotton) along with its top reserve (point guard Fred VanVleet) from its 30-win team. ... DePaul was a massive disappointment in 2012-13, when it won just 11 games. But the Blue Demons could be on the cusp of a breakthrough season thanks to the return of leading scorers Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young. ... BYU has reason for optimism as well. Led by Tyler Haws, the Cougars return nearly every key piece from the squad that won 24 games and reached last year’s NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. ... Texas went 16-18 last season and failed to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in Rick Barnes’ tenure. Things could get even worse in 2013-14. The Longhorns lost their top three scorers and signed a lackluster recruiting class compared to past seasons.

[+] EnlargeWichita State Shockers forward Cleanthony Early
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY SportsWichita State's Cleanthony Early gained national attention with his performance in the Final Four.
Matchup I can’t wait to see: DePaul is athletic and physical enough to upset Wichita State in the semifinals. Both teams feature veteran players, so chemistry won’t be as big of an issue as it will be for other schools this early in the season. I won’t be shocked if this is a competitive game, especially compared to the other semifinal.

Potential matchup I’d like to see: Wichita State vs. BYU. These are clearly the best two teams in the field, so it’d be fitting for them to end up in the title game. The Cougars averaged 76.5 points per game last season, a mark that ranked 18th in the country, but it will be interesting to see how they fare against an aggressive Wichita State squad that is known for its toughness and intensity on defense.

Five players to watch

Cleanthony Early, Wichita State: The top NBA prospect in this field averaged a team-high 13.9 points per game last season and ranked second on the squad in rebounds (5.4). The 6-foot-8 small forward is an incredibly difficult matchup because he spends most of his time outside the paint. Early scored 24 points against Louisville in the NCAA semifinals and was named to the All-Final Four team.

Tyler Haws, BYU: The guard averaged 21.7 points a game last season -- dropping 42 on Virginia Tech -- and 28.8 points in the NIT. Haws is a volume shooter who hoisted 15.9 attempts per game in 2012-13. He connected on 48 percent of his attempts, so for the most part he’s taking quality shots. He’s the type of guy who can beat a team by himself.

Cleveland Melvin, DePaul: The rising junior has hinted on Twitter that the 2013-14 season could be his last before entering the NBA draft. Melvin has certainly posted some head-turning numbers. He averaged 16.6 points a game as a sophomore last season along with a team-high 6.8 boards. Melvin, who is 6-foot-8, averaged 17.5 points and 7.4 rebounds a game as a freshman in 2011-12.

Ioannis Papapetrou, Texas: The 6-8 small forward was one of the few bright spots for Texas last season, when he averaged 8.3 points per game, which makes him the Longhorns’ leading returning scorer. He also snared 4.4 boards per contest. Along with producing on the court, Texas needs Papapetrou to assume more of a leadership role in 2013-14.

Fred VanVleet, Wichita State: The sophomore point guard will be under a lot of scrutiny early in the season as he moves into the starting lineup to replace graduated senior Malcolm Armstead. VanVleet certainly shouldn’t have any jitters. He averaged 16.2 minutes per game last season and logged 23 minutes in Wichita State’s NCAA semifinal loss to Louisville. VanVleet’s transition into a starting role needs to be seamless if the Shockers hope to avoid taking a step back.

Title game prediction: Wichita State over BYU

Along with the confidence gained from last season’s Final Four appearance, the Shockers will have something else going for them in the CBE Classic: home-court advantage. Wichita State already had a lot of supporters in the Kansas City area before last season. That number probably doubled following its magical postseason run. Still, even though the Shockers return four key players, they’ll also be incorporating some new pieces. This is a game BYU can win, especially because of the Cougars’ ability to score and the presence of a marquee player such as Haws. This should be a great game between two strong programs led by two of the country’s most underrated coaches (Wichita State’s Marshall and BYU’s Dave Rose). The Shockers are the slight favorite.

Who others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: Wichita State over BYU
Jeff Goodman: Texas over Wichita State
Andy Katz: Wichita State over Texas
Myron Medcalf: Wichita State over BYU
Dana O'Neil: Wichita State over BYU
The minute the plan was announced, you could already see the furor coming. Here was Chicago -- a city with longstanding budget woes, an even longer-standing reputation for corrupting taxpayer money in the face of urban decay, comprising a provincial citizenry reflexively (even annoyingly) skeptical of development -- ponying up $100 million of said taxpayer money for a new basketball arena for a private school whose basketball team happens to have won seven Big East games in the past five seasons.

The notable flaws are legion: DePaul turned down a widely reported rent free offer to play at the United Center. The arena would be a 30-minute train ride from campus. Neighborhood residents were preemptively planning protests. Of course this was going to be a thing.

Early messaging

[+] EnlargeRahm
Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.comChicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asserts the planned DePaul arena project would make Chicago second to none in attracting business conventions, large events and other forms of tourism.
When Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the planned DePaul arena project near the city's south loop McCormick Place convention property, a proposed part of a $1.1 billion tourism and trade show revitalization effort, the city's messaging broke through: That night, most every local television news broadcast led with Emanuel's assertion that the construction would create 10,000 construction jobs and 3,700 accessible permanent occupations in the city and would make Chicago second to none in attracting business conventions, large events and other forms of tourism. Emanuel even called Navy Pier, Chicago's top tourist destination, "cheesy," and no one disagreed because he's right.

DePaul officials were likewise prepared for the scrutiny. University president Father Dennis Holtschneider answered sharp questions about the use of public funds for a private school's basketball arena with a convincing framing: DePaul is paying $70 million of the roughly $170 million allocated for the arena, an arena in which it will pay rent and will use about 30 times a year, for men's and women's basketball games and convocation and graduation ceremonies. It will receive naming and ad rights for the arena, sure, but the building will be owned and operated by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (McPier), a public corporation created in 1989 by the Illinois General Assembly, which already manages McCormick Place and Navy Pier.

In Holtschneider's view, DePaul was contributing more than its fair share to ensure a publicly owned centerpiece of a planned convention and hotel development -- one that will ostensibly host concerts, comedy shows, trade events, and other random McCormick-adjacent events -- broke ground. He wasn't wrong.

Projections under question

Convincing as that argument might be, "taxpayer money" gets the public's blood boiling, and not without reason; public stadium financing in the name of development and economic growth almost always ends up like the Springfield monorail. The optics are tough. They're even tougher when the program everyone is focusing on fudges its attendance numbers at its current home.

On Wednesday afternoon, Crain's Chicago Business revealed DePaul did exactly that. Last season, DePaul announced average attendance of 7,938 over 16 home games, or 127,020; the real attendance numbers, recorded by Ticketmaster's scanners, was 41,771, or just 2,610 people per game. As Crain's points out, the discrepancy lies in the difference between the number of tickets the Blue Demons' sold (including ones the program purchases for students, who don't go to games) and the number of people who actually showed up in Rosemont.

This is not particularly surprising. Many college and professional teams hurting for engagement do the same thing. But it does raise a valid question: What if those numbers carry over to the new building? McPier's case that the arena will eventually be profitable relies on an average attendance projection of 9,500; what if those projections are off not by a couple thousand fans, but by $7,000? What if no one shows up, buys food and drink, or visits the surrounding area? What then?

As SI's Andy Glockner wrote this week:
If very few actual people are coming to the games, there’s no way for these projections of additional spend to come good. With the actual attendance figures in place, there’s no way DePaul basketball will hold up its share of the projection, meaning the arena will lose money unless it can significantly overshoot projections for other events in the building.

[...] So what’s going on here? Why would a city drowning in budget debt think tossing in $100 million to finance a new arena with a private school as the lead tenant would be a good idea? Why would DePaul, even with the ability to recoup some of its expenditure through a naming-rights deal, want to become a rent-payer in an arena far from campus when the United Center, with its pro amenities, was offered for free? Can DePaul, with its recent basketball track record, correctly rationalize a deal with more risk but more upside, even if the city is helping subsidize that gamble?

Despite the plan's flaws, there are a few answers.

For one, while $33 million of the $100 million comes from tax increment financing, a shady way to siphon taxes from various Chicago property taxpayers -- that's the part people should be angry about, by the way -- $70 million of the tax money comes directly from the McPier bond fund, which is supported by hotel taxes, which Chicago residents (mostly) don't pay. Even were that the case, McPier is not a strict government agency; the city can't take that bond fund and use it to build more parking meters, thank heavens. One way or the other, McPier will spend that fund on bricks and mortar. "Taxpayer funds" is the fingers on a chalkboard of modern political discourse, but not all taxpayer money is created equal. Nowhere is that more true than in Chicago.

Second, the United Center deal was not as good as it sounds. Though DePaul wouldn't have had to pay rent to play at the UC, it would still have had to pay for operating costs on a building which packs in 22,000 people for sold-out events and is the largest indoor arena in physical size in the United States. It already plays host to two professional teams and scores of other events, including a circus that forces both the Blackhawks and the Bulls on the road for two weeks every fall. (The "circus trip" is practically a local sports tradition). And if you're a program that barely manages to get 3,000 people to your games in the suburbs as it is, do you really feel great about the optics of playing in front of a cavernous 20,000-seat gym? I'm sure that would do wonders for recruiting.

Third, though the arena might not be walkable from campus, the location isn't as bad as you might think. A 10-stop trip on the Red Line -- which sits right on DePaul's campus and close to the proposed building location -- is handier than it might seem from the outside; I'd argue it's actually easier to get to by public transport than the United Center. (White Sox fans take the Red Line both ways to Sox-35th all the time).

Also, the majority of Chicago's most talented college prospects originate on the south side. The new arena is much more accessible for their families and friends. In that way, it's actually a good geographic compromise -- halfway between campus and the deep reservoir of talent the program needs to finally improve.

Two final points stand out:

1. The Chicago plan might or might not eventually lead to a much-discussed city-owned casino being built adjacent to McCormick Place. If that happens, all budget projections for the current plan are bunk, because casino arena events (see: MMA and boxing) mean big money. But even if that doesn't happen, with a new arena near the world's largest convention center, there's no reason the city shouldn't be able to maximize the 300-some days in the calendar in which DePaul won't be playing a men's or women's home basketball game. DePaul gets to pay rent and avoid raising tuition in the trade, but this is the city's building.

2. Success is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Has DePaul won seven Big East games in five seasons because the program is destined to be bad? Or is it because DePaul played its home games in a decrepit suburban arena that, as one person close to the program told me recently, it sometimes doesn't even show to recruits? If DePaul's new home can boost recruiting to the point that even a small fraction of local talent begins to consider the Blue Demons, the Blue Demons will improve. If they improve, more people will come to games.

Using Allstate Arena ticket data to dismiss the new project is reductive.

The best of all available options

The bottom line: DePaul's flagship athletics entity is its basketball team. That team is not competitive. It is borderline anti-competitive. It desperately needs to change that narrative. That would never happen in Allstate.

There are no guarantees on the new building. But the set of compromises it entails -- between public and private funding, between an arena on campus or in the suburbs, between rent and naming rights -- was the best deal it was going to get. Why wouldn't DePaul leap at the offer? There's no guarantee it won't be a loss-leading boondoggle at best, but if it is, that's on the city. Criticisms of the plan are legitimate. But they should focus on the right things.

In any case, this is, if you can't already tell, going to be a fascinating few years for DePaul hoops. Before May 16, the Blue Demons were little more than a lamentable losing program with crushingly apathetic fans. Now, for better or worse, they're inextricably tied to the vagaries of Chicago politics and public outrage over budget shortfalls and private subsidies.

On May 16, a reporter asked athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto what would happen on the off chance that state or local outrage at public spending prevented Emanuel's project from moving forward.

"Candidly," Ponsetto said, "we would go back to the drawing board."

That's probably not going to happen. But whatever does follow from here, DePaul, a private university, has cast its lot in with the most byzantine municipal government in recorded human history. In other words: stay tuned.
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.
1. At least one coach in the new Big East, filled with the Catholic 7 schools and likely Butler and Xavier, has been told to anticipate a 16-game schedule next season, according to one source with knowledge of the situation. That would force the seven Big East schools -- Georgetown, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova, DePaul and Marquette -- to get two more non-conference games after playing 18 in the Big East this season. Of course, if Creighton is chosen as the 10th member for next season instead of in 2014, the league can pull off a true round-robin, 18-game league schedule, much like the Big 12. That's what the league should do to have a major splash in Year 1. The league's new television partner, expected to be Fox, would probably like to have two more games per team to show.

2. I don't understand why four Stanford assistant coaches and Cal assistant Gregg Gottlieb were ejected from the Cal-Stanford game for coming onto the floor to break up a scuffle Wednesday night. The assistant coaches were acting as peacemakers and trying to ensure the situation didn't escalate. Gottlieb was reacting to a volatile situation. Were the assistant coaches expected to just sit there and watch a full-scale fight? At some point, common sense has to factor into some of these decisions. If the assistant coaches were doing more harm than good, fine. Gabriel Harris of Stanford and Richard Solomon of Cal were also ejected -- but not for fighting, meaning they wouldn't have to miss their respective teams' next games, in the Pac-12 tournament. The conference could always add to the discipline if warranted.

3. Give Washington State coach Ken Bone and Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory a lot of credit for ensuring their teams were still playing with purpose and passion in the final week of the regular season, despite no shot at the postseason (barring miraculous runs in the Pac-12 and ACC tournaments, respectively). The Cougars' victory over UCLA in Pullman on Wednesday had to give Bone such relief after a rough season. The Yellow Jackets, mired in the bottom third of the ACC, denied Miami the chance to clinch the league's regular-season title with a last-second putback. The same is true of Nebraska's Tim Miles, who had the Huskers ready to pounce on Minnesota in Lincoln. South Florida, meanwhile, has won two in a row at the bottom of the Big East. This final week of the season has proven to be as unpredictable as the season as a whole.
Four teams -- DePaul, Rutgers, Seton Hall and South Florida -- have guaranteed themselves Tuesday games in the Big East tournament. Nothing else is quite settled, though Georgetown is making a good case to think about closing the books. One case that has been closed -- Otto Porter Jr. is the league player of the year. There is no other candidate. He had 33 in the Hoyas’ win at Syracuse, 22 and the game winner at Connecticut and is, quite literally, in a league of his own.

1. Georgetown. While the rest of the top 25 spent the week losing on the road, the Hoyas kept winning. Georgetown did not close the Carrier Dome, but it walked out for the last time against its Big East rival with a victory and then followed it up with an impressive double-OT victory at Connecticut. Heading into the home stretch, the Hoyas have won 10 in a row and are the team to beat.

2. Louisville. No one is talking much about the Cardinals these days. That might change after this weekend, when Louisville heads to the Carrier Dome to face Syracuse. The Cards have won seven of their past eight -- the lone loss to Notre Dame in five overtimes -- but also have feasted on teams they should frankly beat. The stakes are higher from here out, with the Orange followed by a desperate Cincinnati team and the Irish once more.

3. Marquette. Buzz Williams is tired of hearing that his team works hard. Fine. It plays really hard, too. It is neither an insult to the Golden Eagles' talent nor a slap to their methods to say they are a blue-collar team. It's a fact. Williams doesn’t often get the stud recruits, but he builds top players, and that is what’s happening with this team. Marquette has won three of four and remains very much in play for the Big East regular-season title.

4. Syracuse. If Jim Boeheim is lashing out at the media (again) you can bet the Orange are having some troubles. Whether it’s a masterful distraction tactic or mere frustration, it’s also telling when Boeheim goes on a postgame rant. He did it again this week after Syracuse lost to Marquette on the heels of its loss to Georgetown in front of 35,012 Orange fans. Syracuse can still win this thing but the road isn’t easy -- with DePaul sandwiched between a home game against Louisville and a road game at Georgetown.

5. Notre Dame. The Irish’s defense continues to work its mastery, limiting Cincinnati to just 41 points after holding Pittsburgh to 42. Notre Dame’s methods may not be aesthetically pleasing, but they're working, as the Irish have won four of their past five and seven of their past nine heading into what should be an interesting game at Marquette.

6. Pittsburgh. Don’t count the Panthers out just yet. After backsliding against Marquette and Notre Dame, Pitt regrouped nicely to beat St. John’s and South Florida this week. The Panthers got their defense back in order in both games and Jamie Dixon eased the offensive reins just enough to allow the Panthers to breathe.

7. Villanova. The Wildcats simply need to decide what tournament they’d like to play in for the postseason and stick to it. Villanova put itself on the right side of the bubble with a gutsy win against Marquette and then found itself teetering a game later, after losing to feckless Seton Hall. The Wildcats have two games left to prove their worth before the Big East tournament and both have some oomph -- at Pittsburgh and home against Georgetown.

8. Connecticut. As the Huskies’ season heads toward its conclusion -- with no Big East tournament in sight -- they continue to impress with their effort. UConn lost in double overtime to Georgetown but will finish above .500 in the league. Considering how limited the lineup is, that’s a big plus for the Huskies.

9. St. John’s. The roller-coaster Red Storm appear destined to finish on the same up-and-down swing they've been on all year. St. John’s is a good team, but not quite yet an upper-echelon team. That said, this young lineup could pull off an upset of sorts in the Big East tournament.

10. Providence. The league’s best turnaround goes to the Friars and Ed Cooley, who have won five of their past six and could, with games against St. John’s, Seton Hall and Connecticut, finish above .500 in the league. That’s a huge step for a rebuilding team.

11. Cincinnati. And there’s the opposite of Providence, the Cincinnati Bearcats. They don’t look like an NCAA tournament team and they aren’t playing like one either, having lost five of their past six. This is a tailspin without rhyme or reason and one that may not end anytime soon, with Connecticut and Louisville on the schedule next.

12. Seton Hall. Give the Pirates their due. Mired in a nine-game losing streak, with a roster decimated by injuries and nothing much to fight for, Seton Hall still managed to play with gumption and oust Villanova. Fuquan Edwin especially ought to be lauded; he has carried the Pirates on his back all season.

13. DePaul. The Blue Demons aren’t really 13th in the league. They are essentially tied for last but, since we have to rank even the bottom, at least give credit to DePaul for trying. The Blue Demons put up a decent first-half fight against Louisville and actually led UConn at the break.

14. Rutgers. The good news for the Scarlet Knights -- the season is almost over. The bad news -- they still have to play Georgetown, Marquette and rival Seton Hall, all without leading scorer Eli Carter. That’s almost cruel.

15. South Florida. Last week the Bulls were 329th in scoring offense; this week they're 332nd and sadly for USF, this game is predicated on scoring more points than your opponent (just a tip). The good news -- the Bulls play DePaul next so someone actually has to win.
1. The Catholic 7 plus two or three to form the old/new Big East (you following?) needs to apply for new-conference status by June 1 and the NCAA board of directors has to vote the new league in by Sept. 1 so it could get an automatic qualifying spot in the 2014 NCAA tournament. All of that is doable. The remaining Big East would be eligible to keep its automatic-qualifier status since it would have at least seven members (even if it dropped below that number, since there is a two-year grace period). The teams don't have to have a history of playing together. If the split occurs -- as expected -- with Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence joining Butler and Xavier out of the Atlantic 10 and likely Creighton from the Missouri Valley to form a new league, the remaining Big East would have eight members. Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Central Florida, Houston, SMU, Memphis and Temple would populate the new league in 2014. The league is expecting Tulane in 2014 and possibly East Carolina for all sports (though just football for now). There is a chance those moves could be expedited. If the AQs go through, in 2014 there would be 32 automatic bids and one less at-large than now, at 36, for a 68-team NCAA tournament bracket.

2. If the Georgetown-Connecticut game was the last one between the two schools, the series ended with a bang. The Huskies are the big loser in fading rivalries with the Big East split after seeing quality games over the past 10-plus years with Pitt, Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova, Providence and St. John's. The ACC has always said it can take schools early, and that's why I wouldn't be surprised to see Notre Dame in the ACC in 2013-14 if this split occurs. Louisville and Rutgers are stuck in the Big East and Maryland in the ACC because it's too late to change for this fall. Louisville would have to play Connecticut, Cincinnati and Memphis in 2013-14 to at least keep those rivalries going for another year before they could get split up once the Cardinals move to the ACC.

3. UCLA coach Ben Howland said he's confident that the Pac-12 can become a destination conference tournament with the move to Las Vegas, much like the Big East was in New York. There is a chance. The Pac-10/12 was never a draw at Staples Center in Los Angeles; the league has a chance with the games in Las Vegas. The Big East had something unique in New York with the players wanting to play at Madison Square Garden. The ACC missed that opportunity by playing in Greensboro, N.C., (home to an arena and not much else for a destination) and not Charlotte or another major city in the region. The SEC should probably stick to Atlanta or New Orleans. The Big Ten should have made Chicago its tournament home annually (the event is there this season) and the Big 12 makes most sense in Kansas City, Mo. If the ACC were smart and thinking long-term, it should try to get into MSG with Syracuse, Pitt, North Carolina, Notre Dame and, of course, Duke as draws every year.

Conference Power Rankings: Big East

February, 22, 2013
Together they have won four of the past six Big East regular-season crowns and 11 overall, so no surprise first place is on the line when Syracuse and Georgetown meet for the final time as league members at the Carrier Dome. Marquette and Louisville might have something to say about who is the conference’s best, but for now, the Orange and the Hoyas, like they so often do, stand at the top of the Big East. Let’s enjoy it while we can.

1. Georgetown. John Thompson III was understandably worried that his Hoyas might look past basement-dwelling DePaul, what with the last game at the Carrier Dome next on the docket. He didn't need to be. His Georgetown team is clicking and now rides an eight-game win streak following a walkover of the Blue Demons.

2. Syracuse. The Orange already stopped one hot Big East team cold. Can they do it again? The task against Georgetown on Saturday will be a lot tougher. Still, what Syracuse did to Providence -- which had won four in a row including victories against Cincinnati and Notre Dame -- was impressive. It was an impolite beatdown, with the Orange leading 43-16 at the half.

3. Marquette. The Golden Eagles overcame a sluggish start to beat free-falling Seton Hall and remain tied atop the league standings. That’s probably a surprise to a lot of folks, but Marquette always is in the mix. Tough game Saturday at a hungry Villanova team.

4. Louisville. The game against South Florida wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty, but Russ Smith's game was a lot more palatable. That’s huge for the Cardinals. The mercurial guard is really the key to Louisville’s success. He has to find a way to remain electric but in control if the Cards are going to own March. He did it against USF, scoring as always but complementing his game with four assists, six rebounds and a more attentive focus on defense.

5. Notre Dame. The Irish remain a good, if unreliable team. They managed to score all of three points in the first 14 minutes against Pittsburgh and win the game anyway. So that’s something. And so is winning three of their past four, even if by just the slimmest of margins. A tough finish -- Cincinnati, at Marquette, St. John’s and at Louisville -- will determine a lot for Notre Dame.

6. Villanova. And they’re back. On the bubble, that is. The Wildcats went from in the tourney to out to back in again, courtesy of a good win at Connecticut and a survival victory against Rutgers. This Saturday’s game against Marquette isn’t a must-win, but a home game against a top-25 RPI team is the kind you want to get to solidify your spot.

7. Pittsburgh. Just when the Panthers got everyone’s attention. ... Back-to-back losses to Marquette and Notre Dame aren’t the end of the world, but Pitt remains something of a show-me team, needing to prove it belongs in the NCAA tournament and has found a consistent stride. Sunday's game against St. John’s is a pretty big one.

8. Connecticut. When Ryan Boatright couldn’t score against Villanova, the Huskies lost. When he couldn’t score against Cincinnati, UConn won. The difference? Shabazz Napier. He scored 27 against the Bearcats, helping a feisty UConn team stay competitive even when there’s little to compete for.

9. Cincinnati. A once promising season is slipping away for the Bearcats, who have lost four of their past five and are a very precarious .500 in the league. With a tough sprint to the finish -- at Notre Dame, Connecticut and at Louisville among the remaining four games -- Cincinnati is going to have to work to finish on the winning side of the league slate.

10. St. John’s. The Red Storm are good enough to beat the teams they are supposed to beat, such as South Florida this week. Now they have to figure out how to get over the hump and beat the top teams. Pitt is sort of a tweener game for St. John’s, tough because of the way the Panthers defend, but not completely unbeatable. It will be interesting to see how Steve Lavin’s group handles them.

11. Providence. Don’t jump off the Friars’ bandwagon altogether. Yes, the 25-point loss to Syracuse showed just how far Providence has to go, but remember how deep the hole was for the Friars. With a favorable schedule to finish the regular season -- at Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. John’s and at Connecticut -- there’s still plenty Providence can do in what should be a pivotal, turnaround season for the Friars.

12. DePaul. The Blue Demons won for the first time since Jan. 5, beating Rutgers in a game in which they led, trailed and then led again. DePaul followed it up with a blowout loss to Georgetown. So much for that.

13. Rutgers. From the "things can always get worse" file, the Scarlet Knights will finish the season without their leading scorer. Eli Carter has a fractured fibula. Give his remaining teammates credit for putting up a fight against Villanova in the first game without him, but with four games left, including Marquette and at Georgetown, uphill just got a lot steeper in Piscataway.

14. Seton Hall. The Pirates have been done in by injuries all season, and the record shows it. At 2-12, Seton Hall has its worst Big East record in 29 years. Seton Hall has tried a team meeting. Kevin Willard closed the locker room after the most recent loss. It’s probably time to ask those priests at the end of the bench to get to work.

15. South Florida. How low can they go? The Bulls in scoring, that is. USF is now 329th, averaging 59.2 points per game. There are only 16 teams beneath the Bulls and only two -- Vanderbilt and Nebraska -- from power conferences. And again we just have to ask ... how did the Bulls beat Georgetown?

Video: Georgetown 90, DePaul 66

February, 20, 2013

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scores a career-high 33 points in Hoyas' 90-66 win over Blue Demons.

3-point shot: Keys to Miami's success

February, 14, 2013
1. If you’re looking for one of the main reasons for Miami’s surge to the top of the ACC, go back to when Shane Larkin arrived and the relationship between new coach Jim Larranaga and school president Donna Shalala. Larranaga said Wednesday that when Larkin got his release from DePaul (he credits Oliver Purnell for helping here), Shalala didn’t hesitate in getting Larkin into school just in time. Larranaga told Shalala that Larkin had come from a terrific family and was exactly who Miami needed to represent the program -- and what the Hurricanes needed on the court. Larkin may turn out to be the team’s MVP.

2. Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said Wednesday that the Tigers been in contact with the NCAA every week since August 2011, seeking information on developments with the Miami case, yet have no idea what will happen, or when. The NCAA refers to Missouri -- which hired coach Frank Haith from Miami in 2011 -- as Institution B; it isn’t in jeopardy of having anything happen to the school or the basketball program. Mizzou could, however, suffer collateral damage in this process if the NCAA tries to do anything to Haith. But Alden said again Wednesday what he has said many times: Haith has done everything the NCAA and school have asked. Mizzou clearly supports Haith.

3. Wednesday's most surprising result came in Indianapolis, where it is clear Butler can’t afford to lose Andrew Smith for any longer than this week. With the big man out due to an abdominal injury, the Bulldogs lost at home to Charlotte, which has quietly put together an 18-6 season. The 49ers' victory shook up the Atlantic 10 race, with Butler dropping back into a four-way tie in the loss column (three) behind two-loss Saint Louis and VCU. The A-10 is now officially the most jumbled of any high-level conference.

Conference Power Rankings: Big East

February, 1, 2013
To death and taxes, I add Marquette. The Golden Eagles are the one thing you can count on annually. A year after losing the Big East’s player of the year and league’s leading scorer (and they were two different people) Buzz Williams’ team is back again, tied atop the leaderboard with Syracuse. Despite seven consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, Marquette still somehow manages to sneak up on people.

Maybe we ought to start paying closer attention.

1. Syracuse. That the Orange lost to Villanova in overtime isn’t the biggest worry right now. Even their bad shooting isn’t a big concern. Here’s the problem: Four of Syracuse’s starters played 41 minutes or more in that game. Without James Southerland (eligibility issue) and now DaJuan Coleman (injury), the rotation is minuscule for the Orange as they head into the home stretch.

2. Marquette. The Golden Eagles have won eight of nine to quietly slide into a first-place tie with Syracuse atop the standings. For those thinking Williams needs a steady scorer, Vander Blue might be the guy -- he had 30 against South Florida. But there’s a big test for both Blue and Marquette this weekend, at Louisville.

3. Louisville. The Cardinals ended their losing streak by beating Pittsburgh despite playing without Wayne Blackshear (shoulder injury) and Kevin Ware (suspension). Here’s the catch: Louisville is averaging just 61.8 points over its past four games. As good as the Cards’ defense is, their offense has to make life a little more bearable.

4. Georgetown. Without Greg Whittington, the Hoyas don’t have much room for error. Their bench is perilously short, so short that John Thompson III had to go to a walk-on against Seton Hall. But Georgetown is winning steadily after a sloppy start, three in a row and five of its past six.

5. Cincinnati. The Bearcats’ propensity for slow starts nearly cost them dearly at Rutgers. Sean Kilpatrick bailed them out then and has continued to be a backbone, especially with Cashmere Wright still getting over a balky knee. Cincinnati has winnable games in the coming week -- at Seton Hall and Providence -- but can ill afford to back into things again.

6. Notre Dame. The great tinkerer, Mike Brey, retooled his team practically overnight, debuting a bigger, tougher and stronger version of the Irish against red-hot Villanova. It worked. The Irish not only won, but got contributions from previously untapped resources such as senior Tom Knight and freshmen Cam Biedscheid and Zach Auguste.

7. St. John’s. The Red Storm could catapult up these rankings in a week. St. John’s has won five in a row, showing a streak of consistency few in this league can match. The catch? The Red Storm have feasted on the bottom of the standings (with the exception of Notre Dame) to get out on that run. I want to see how St. John’s does in upcoming games against Georgetown and Connecticut.

8. Pittsburgh. The Panthers’ four-game win streak came to an end at Louisville, but in the loss Pitt showed it could hang with the conference elite. And now the Panthers’ reward: They get to try to do it all over again when they host Syracuse on Saturday.

9. Villanova. That the Wildcats’ week of happy mayhem ended at South Bend did little to disprove that Villanova is arguably one of the most improved teams in the league. The Cats hung with Notre Dame despite a woeful 3-point shooting night. The next challenge: beating teams they are now expected to beat, including Providence and DePaul, next on the docket.

10. Connecticut. Nothing is easy for the Huskies these days, but at least they are finding a way to gut it out, beating Providence in overtime Thursday for their second victory in a row. For once, at least, UConn got some scoring from someone other than its backcourt, with Omar Calhoun and DeAndre Daniels hitting double figures. That needs to happen more often.

11. Seton Hall. We have now entered that portion of the rankings where you are debating among the least awful of the awful. So kudos to the Pirates, who at least have lost just two in a row, both on the road and to two decent teams in Georgetown and St. John’s. Not that the schedule gets any kinder, with a visit from Cincinnati and a trip to Pittsburgh in the coming week.

12. Providence. The Friars are oh-so-close to putting something together and oh-so-far-away from seeing the results. Providence lost to Pitt by four, to Marquette by 10 and to UConn in overtime. Can the Friars finally break through Sunday at Villanova?

13. Rutgers. If "almost" counted, the Scarlet Knights would be right there. They’ve lost four in a row, but were in the games against Notre Dame, Connecticut and Cincinnati. Alas, this is neither horseshoes nor hand grenades, and as Rutgers preps for a midweek visit from Louisville, it has won just once since Jan. 10.

14. South Florida. The Bulls’ skid is at three, but in their defense, it is against two quality teams -- Notre Dame and Marquette. But like Rutgers, USF’s quality losses don’t mean much, not when it has but one league victory to show for it.

15. DePaul. I’ve run out of ways to describe the Blue Demons’ doom and gloom, so just use the numbers: DePaul has lost five in a row and seven of its past eight.

Conference Power Rankings: Big East

January, 25, 2013
For the first month of the season, one thing was certain in the Big East -- Louisville and Syracuse were the best teams in the conference.

Funny how quickly things can change. Louisville had a bad week, knocking it from the top of the standings. The Cardinals are still an elite team but also need to regroup to prove it.

1. Syracuse. As impressive as the Orange’s victory at Louisville was, I was almost more impressed with Syracuse’s win over Cincinnati two days later. That’s a lethal back-to-back, and the fact that the Orange pulled out the victory says as much about this team’s intestinal fortitude as it does its talent.

2. Cincinnati. The Bearcats had a brutal back-to-back -- against Marquette and at Syracuse -- and emerged with a more than respectable split. Most important, Cashmere Wright returned to the lineup against Syracuse.

3. Marquette. After winning plenty of close ones, the Golden Eagles were due for a heartbreaking loss. It came at Cincinnati -- in overtime. There’s no real shame in losing that game, not on the road and in OT -- and it is only Marquette’s second defeat in a month.

4. Louisville. I honestly still believe the Cardinals are the second-best (if not ultimately the best) team in the Big East, but when you lose two, you gotta pay for it. The hard loss to Syracuse was forgivable (even if Peyton Siva's errant pass was not); the lackluster performance against Villanova entirely less so.

5. Georgetown. Enigma, thy name is Hoya. Someone please explain Georgetown to me -- how can the same team lose to South Florida and then coast past Notre Dame? This is a good team, but go all-in at your own risk.

6. Notre Dame. This isn’t exactly wheels-flying-off-the-bus time for the Irish, but the lug nuts are loosened. Notre Dame has lost three of its past four -- the lone win a squeaker against Rutgers -- and until the Irish shore up their defense, that isn’t going to get much better.

7. Pittsburgh. The Panthers have quietly won three in a row (games they should have won) to redirect toward respectable, but the team that once was unbeatable at home, is now 3-1 on the road in conference play and just 1-2 at home. They’ve got DePaul home this weekend.

8. Villanova. The question is simple: Will the upset of Louisville, which ended a three-game skid, reignite the Wildcats and head them back toward relevance, or is it merely a flash in a pan? We’ll know after this week when Villanova hosts Syracuse on Saturday and is at Notre Dame on Wednesday.

9. St. John’s. All of a sudden, the Red Storm are figuring things out. St. John’s has won three in a row, including two games on the road to push into the top half of the league. What does it need? Staying power. It should win both games this week -- against Seton Hall and DePaul -- but "should" is a big word.

10. Connecticut. The Huskies are simply a team trying to figure out who they are and what they will be after back-to-back losses to Louisville and Pittsburgh. Now 2-3 in its past five games, UConn still has talent; it just needs to find consistency.

11. Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have lost three of four, struggling to score in each loss. The road doesn’t get any easier this week, with games at Connecticut and Cincinnati.

12. Seton Hall. The Pirates stopped the bleeding with a win against South Florida, halting their four-game skid. More important, both Brandon Mobley and Brian Oliver returned to the lineup in that game, critical needs for coach Kevin Willard.

13. South Florida. Count the Bulls among the weird teams in this league that are good enough to beat better teams (such as Georgetown) and bad enough to lack the ability to string anything together. USF failed to capitalize on the win against the Hoyas, losing at Seton Hall four nights later.

14. Providence. The Friars have the league’s leading scorer and very little to show for it. Bryce Cotton is averaging 21.9 points per game and yet Providence is mired near the bottom of the standings.

15. DePaul. Until the Blue Demons can stop people -- they rank last in the conference in scoring defense -- it’s going to be uphill sledding.

Top brother duos in college hoops history

January, 23, 2013
On Wednesday at Miami (7 ET on ESPN), Seth Curry needs 12 points for the Curry brothers to pass Larry and Eddie Bird for the second-most by a pair of brothers in Division I history.

Barring injury, the Curry brothers should pass the Hansbroughs in February for the most ever.

Below is one man’s opinion on the top 10 pairs of brothers to play college basketball. Just missing the list? Tyler and Cody Zeller.

10. Dominique and Gerald Wilkins
Both Wilkins brothers were more successful NBA players, but that shouldn’t diminish what they accomplished in the college ranks. Dominique is arguably the best player in Georgia history, and its only player to win SEC Player of the Year. Younger brother Gerald helped guide Chattanooga to the NCAA Tournament in his first season, and his 21.0 points per game as a senior is the highest in school history.

9. Tom and Dick Van Arsdale
The most accomplished twins to ever play basketball, it wasn’t just looks that made the two difficult to distinguish. Tom averaged 17.4 points and 10.0 rebounds in his three seasons at Indiana, while Dick averaged 17.2 points and 10.0 rebounds.

8. Chuck and Wesley Person
Only three players in Auburn history have scored 2,000 points. Two of them were brothers. Chuck is the school’s all-time leader with 2,311 points, while Wesley is third at 2,066. While both were elite at Auburn, it’s worth noting that neither won SEC Player of the Year.

7. Mark and Brent Price
At a school famous for producing guards, no one had a better career at Georgia Tech than Mark Price. He was the first freshman to lead the ACC in scoring, and was the Yellow Jackets’ leading scorer in all four seasons. Brent Price split his college career between South Carolina and Oklahoma. He was an All-Big Eight selection as senior, once scoring 56 points in a game.

6. George and Ed Mikan
Named of ESPN’s 25 greatest college basketball players in 2008, George Mikan helped revolutionize the game with his height. A two-time national player of the year, he led DePaul to the NIT title in 1945, averaging 40.0 PPG in that tournament. A year younger, Ed was also a member of that championship team. He also went on to become a member of DePaul’s Hall of Fame and play in the NBA.

5. Ed and Charles O’Bannon
The O’Bannon brothers combined to bring UCLA a national title in 1995. Ed won the Wooden Award that year, as well as the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Charles was an All-Pac-10 selection in each of the two years after Ed left, making it five consecutive years than an O’Bannon was so honored.

4. Larry and Eddie Bird
No two brothers have scored more points at the same school. Larry Bird requires no introduction. Over three seasons at Indiana State, he averaged 30.3 PPG and 13.3 RPG. In 2008, ESPN’s panel of experts named him the ninth-greatest college player of all-time. But did you know he had a brother? Eddie Bird came to Indiana State a decade later and averaged double figures in all four seasons with the Sycamores. He’s still sixth on their all-time scoring list.

3. Stephen and Seth Curry
Barring injury, the Curry brothers will be the highest-scoring duo of brothers in Division I history. Older brother Stephen led Davidson to the Elite Eight as a sophomore and finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer despite playing for only three years. In fact, only five players have scored more total points in a three-year college career. Seth’s career at Duke isn’t nearly as prolific, but the senior captain could help lead the Blue Devils to a national title.

2. Bernard and Albert King
The best player in Tennessee history, Bernard King won SEC Player of the Year in all three seasons in Knoxville. He averaged more than 25 PPG in all three seasons. Overshadowed by his older brother, Albert was certainly no slouch. He averaged in double figures in all four seasons at Maryland and is the fourth-leading scorer in school history. Albert garnered ACC Player of the Year honors as a junior.

1. Tyler and Ben Hansbrough
No pair of brothers has scored more combined points than the 4,485 from the Hansbroughs. Tyler Hansbrough finished his North Carolina career as the ACC’s all-time leading scorer (2,872 points) and eighth all-time with 1,219 rebounds. One of only five players with 2,800 points and 1,200 rebounds, it’s no stretch to call him one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. But younger brother Ben was no slouch. In 2011, he averaged 18.4 PPG at Notre Dame and was named Big East Player of the Year.

Honorable Mention
George and Derrick Gervin, Horace and Harvey Grant, Blake and Taylor Griffin, Brook and Robin Lopez, Jay and Sam Vincent, Gus and Ray Williams, Cody and Tyler Zeller.