Since we’re already a day behind, let’s get right into this week’s rankings.
1. Louisville (16-1, 4-0) | Last week: 1 : Received a first half scare at Connecticut yesterday, but Russ Smith led a giant comeback to help keep the new No. 1 Cardinals atop the college basketball rankings. Smith firmly planted himself into the conversation for player of the year. On deck? Oh, just a Saturday home matchup with No. 6 Syracuse.
2. Syracuse (16-1, 4-0) | Last week: 2 : The Orange were tested this week in close wins over Providence and Rutgers, and will take on Louisville without one of their most important players. Forward James Southerland was ruled academically ineligible on Saturday, meaning his 13.6 points and 33 3-pointers must be replaced. Luckily Syracuse has depth, but it won’t fully replace what it loses without the 6-foot-8 senior.
3. Marquette (12-3, 3-0) | Last week: 5 : Forget that Tray Woodall played just a few minutes — Marquette’s win over Pittsburgh Saturday solidified them as contenders in a rather weak Big East. Their schedule gets pretty easy the next month or so, which means the Golden Eagles could be staying a while near the top of the standings.
4. Notre Dame (14-2, 2-1) | Last week: 3 : A loss to Connecticut isn’t all that bad of a defeat, but it’s never good to drop a home game as a favorite, and the Irish did just that against the Huskies. They did, however, pick up a big road win against Cincinnati, which keeps them from falling too far in the rankings. Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant continue to dominate in the backcourt.
5. Cincinnati (14-3, 2-2) | Last week: 4 : Mick Cronin’s group can’t seem to figure out its identity. We had them ranked as high as No. 2 in the Big East during non-conference play, but a tough loss to Notre Dame at home and an expected road win over Rutgers means the verdict is still out. The defense remains one of the best statistical units in the country, but the offense hasn’t topped the 70-point mark since Dec. 15.
6. Connecticut (12-4, 2-2) | Last week: 8 : Oh, what could have been. The Huskies led newly-dubbed No. 1 Louisville by six at halftime before an implosion in the final 20 minutes. Still, the Huskies took care of business against DePaul and remain a force with a lethal backcourt. Freshman Omar Calhoun bounced back with 20 points against the Cardinals after failing to reach double-digits in his last three. The Huskies aren’t playing for anything, but they sure aren’t acting like it.
7. Georgetown (11-3, 1-2) | Last week: 6 : That instant classic against then-No. 1 Indiana seems like forever ago. The Hoyas managed a measly 45 points in a 27-point blowout loss to Pittsburgh and, thought, they handled St. John’s, are now out of the AP top 25 poll. The defense has been good, but the Hoyas rank 196th in offensive efficiency, and 13th in the Big East during conference play. Greg Whittington’s suspension won’t help matters on that end.
8. Pittsburgh (13-4, 1-3) | Last week: 7 : The Panthers had themselves a mixed bag this week, crushing Georgetown and falling to Marquette in overtime at home. Tray Woodall suffered a concussion early against the Golden Eagles, but this is still a team oozing with talent. If the freshmen — Adams and Robinson — continue to produce, they’ll get back on track. This is a big week for them, playing Villanova and Connecticut. 2-0 is a near-must.
9. Villanova (11-5, 2-1) | Last week: 10 : A seven-game win streak was broken by Syracuse, but the Wildcats hung around inside the Carrier Dome. It’s tough to get a read on them, as their Big East wins have come against St. John’s (overtime) and South Florida. JayVaughn Pinkston is rounding into a solid No. 1 option, and his ability to get to the free throw line will be key moving forward.
10. Rutgers (11-4, 2-2) | Last week: 9 : The Scarlet Knights’ “four factors,” Ken Pomeroy’s keys to success, aren’t great, but this week they took care of business against St. John’s and hung with Cincinnati. They could do a lot worse than 2-2, but the defense needs to improve and the turnovers need to be cut down if they have any shot at an NCAA Tournament berth, something this author hasn’t given up on. A win at Notre Dame this week would be a signature win.
11. DePaul (10-6, 1-2) | Last week: 12 : The Blue Demons move up a spot in the rankings despite an 0-1 record, which featured a 99-78 shellacking at the hands of Connecticut. Cleveland Melvin continues to struggle, though Brandon Young was outstanding against the Huskies, going for 35 points and 5 assists against a very tough backcourt in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright.
12. Providence (9-7, 1-3) | Last week: 15 : The Friars had a decent week to move themselves out from the bottom of the rankings, hanging tight with Syracuse and defeating a weak Seton Hall team on the road. If only Ed Cooley’s squad could stay the healthy they have the talent to make some real noise in the Big East. It’s a big if, but don’t sleep on the Friars.
13. Seton Hall (12-5, 1-3) | Last week: 11 : In what began as a promising non-conference start to the season, injuries have crippled any shot the Pirates had at an NCAA Tournament bid. With just seven healthy scholarship players, they have lost three straight in conference and have just a one-point win against DePaul to their Big East name. Not good at all.
14. St. John’s (9-7, 1-3) | Last week: 14 : Not a good week for the Red Storm, who lost both matchups against Rutgers and Georgetown. D’Angelo Harrison and Jakarr Sampson have accounted for more than half of the team’s points, and while Jamal Branch’s eligible status — he transferred from Texas A&M a year ago — helps, they’ll need more than those three to pick up wins.
15. South Florida (9-6, 0-3) | Last week: 13 : The Bulls likely aren’t the worst team in the Big East, but they fall here as the only team yet to win a conference game. Sure, dates with Syracuse and Louisville make things difficult, but they also dropped a home contest with Villanova. Anthony Collins is healthy, but he’ll need more help for USF to get out of the cellar.