The final power rankings of 2012 have arrived, and a major upset shook up the top five. Louisville has only 11 wins and has tallied a loss while there is still an undefeated team remaining and three teams with 12 wins, but the Cardinals will stay in the top spot until a top-5 (in these rankings) team has a major win. That likely won’t happen until Big East play, so expect the Cardinals to stand atop the rankings next week before conference play begins.
1. Louisville (11-1) | Last week: 1 : Another week, another perfect record as the Cardinals remain perfect minus a loss to No. 1 Duke. Guard Russ Smith is unstoppable at the moment, averaging 19.7 points in less than 28 minutes per game. He can be a headache at times, but in 2012 he’s proving to be the key that will have the Cardinals playing deep into March.
2. Cincinnati (12-1) | Last week: 3 : The Bearcats finally make a move in the rankings thanks to Syracuse’s loss, and they’re closer to Louisville and the top than they are to Pittsburgh below. The biggest story for Mick Cronin’s group is a dominant inside presence, as teams are shooting just 36.4 percent inside the arc, the best mark in the nation. In fact, their opponents’ effective field goal percentage (39.1) is second best in the country. Led by Justin Jackson and Cashmere Wright, the Bearcats are one of the best defensive teams in the NCAA.
3. Pittsburgh (12-1) | Last week: 4 : Perhaps because of last year’s debacle of a season, the Panthers have flown under the radar all season long but continue to torch opponents at a ridiculously efficient pace. They have held six of their last seven opponents under 50 points — granted those teams were mid-major cupcakes, but it’s an impressive feat nonetheless. They don’t play this week, but will have a full week to prepare for Cincinnati on New Year’s Eve.
4. Syracuse (10-1) | Last week: 2 : Rough sledding for the Orange, who surprisingly fell to Temple, 83-79, last week in Madison Square Garden. James Southerland had just six points, and it seems as though Syracuse may go as he does. Temple making 29-of-36 free throws had plenty to do with the win, and it wasn’t a terrible loss, but it drops the Orange for now.
5. Notre Dame (12-1) | Last week: 5 : Jack Cooley seemed to be an underwhelming candidate for Big East preseason player of the year, but he has lived up to the hype during non-conference action. He double-doubled in both games (two wins) for the Irish this week and is averaging a cool (no pun) 15.2 points on 64 percent shooting, 11.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
6. Georgetown (10-1) | Last week: 6 : It was a quick week for the Hoyas, who won their only game, 65-48, over American. The Hoyas were hot from outside, making 10-of-21 3-pointers. Otto Porter had 16 points and 13 rebounds.
7. Connecticut (9-2) | Last week: 7 : Kevin Ollie’s group is heating up offensively, scoring 84 and 88 points in two wins this week. Ryan Boatright averaged 23.5 points in the two contests, and Omar Calhoun exploded for 22 points in the win over Fordham. The Huskies have a date with Washington on Dec. 29 before opening the Big East against Marquette on New Year’s Day.
8. Seton Hall (10-2) | Last week: 11 : The Pirates’ offense is beginning to balance out, as all five starters scored in double-figures in a win against Long Island last week. Fuquan Edwin continued his hot pace, and Seton Hall has quietly won five in a row to get to 10-2. Don’t look now, but the Pirates could be fighting for a top-8 seed in the Big East Tournament come March.
9. Rutgers (8-2) | Last week: 10 : Nothing big from Rutgers this week, but a 24-point win over Howard earns the Scarlet Knights a slight bump in the rankings. Eli Carter scored 20 points in the win and is now averaging 17.1 points on the year. He’s leading the way for a streaky yet efficient offense that will be tough to beat when it gets hot
10. Marquette (8-3) | Last week: 8 : The worst loss of the week, a 49-47 defeat at Green Bay, drops the Golden Eagles two spots. They rebounded by hanging on in the second half to beat LSU, but there are still question marks about the offense. Getting Todd Mayo back helps, but they still need more efficient outside shooting.
11. Providence (8-3) | Last week: 9 : The loss of Vincent Council finally bit the Friars, who fell to Boston College, 71-68, last week. Bryce Cotton has played well as the de-facto point guard, but the real story is freshman Kris Dunn’s return from a shoulder injury. In two games back, Dunn is averaging 9.5 assists and, along with Council when he returns, will form the best point guard duo in the Big East, and maybe one of the best in the country.
12. DePaul (9-3) | Last week: 12 : A major tip of the cap to Oliver Purnell, whose Blue Demons have reeled off seven straight wins for the first time in almost a decade. They fought off Brett Roseboro and UMBC last week behind 24 points from Cleveland Melvin, who is really starting to put all his tools together.
13. South Florida (7-3) | Last week: 13 : One of the slowest-paced teams in the country, the Bulls put up 87 points in a triple-overtime win over Bowling Green last week. The game shouldn’t have been that close, but that makes two straight wins. Anthony Collins is averaging 7.8 assists and 2.2 steals to pace them, and he and the Bulls won’t play in-conference until Jan. 6.
14. Villanova (8-4) | Last week: 15 : It was good to see the Wildcats pick up their biggest win of the season last week, an 83-86 win over Monmouth. They are out of the bottom spot for the first time this season and hopefully can stay there and hopefully can stay there with a relatively easy schedule to open Big East play (St. John’s, South Florida).
15. St. John’s (8-4) | Last week: 14 : Welcome to the gutter, Red Storm. A second half debacle in Queens led to a 72-65 loss against UNC-Asheville, and it’s becoming apparent they can’t rely on just D’Angelo Harrison and Jakkar Sampson. St. John’s is really hurting on the inside, having been outrebounded by 10 to the Bulldogs. Not a good look for Steve Lavin’s group.