Crazy week in the Big East with plenty of movement. Here we go.
1. Syracuse (18-2, 6-1) | Last week: 1 : The Orange had a bit of a let down week after the big road victory over then No. 1 Louisville. They had to claw back at home against Cincinnati before dropping their first conference game in a 75-71 overtime defeat at Villanova. A difficult trip to Pitt awaits Cuse, where we will see just how much they miss James Southerland.
2. Cincinnati (16-4, 4-3) | Last week: 3 : It’s hard to move up in the rankings on the heels of an 0-1 week, but that’s the Big East for you at the moment. The Bearcats’ only game was a respectable loss at Cuse where they blew a six point lead with under four minutes to go. Cashmere Wright was awful in his return from injury scoring 5 points on 2-13 shooting. Having him regain his form, or at least give it up to Sean Kilpatrick in crunch time, will be crucial.
3. Louisville (16-4, 4-3) | Last week: 2 : What just happened? One minute the Cards are on cruise control for a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, the next they are tied for 5th in the Big East with three other teams. Louisville dropped both contests last week, at Nova and at Georgetown, two respectable, but still surprising losses. Russ Smith was relegated to the bench and Peyton Siva was held scoreless. It’s too early to hit the panic button, though, as this veteran team will get a pass for now and keep a top-3 PT power ranking.
4. Marquette (14-4, 5-1) | Last week: 5 : Marquette moved into the top-4 again with its fairly convincing victory over Providence in the only contest last week. Now comes a possible trap game against South Florida with a daunting trip to Louisville lurking on Sunday. You know Buzz won’t let his team look ahead too far, but the Bulls have wreaked havoc on greater teams than this: see here (still don’t know how Zar missed that bunny).
5. Pittsburgh (17-4, 5-3) | Last week: 6 : The Panthers squeaked past Providence on the road before putting DePaul on blast with a 38-point victory. They are now winners of four straight games and seemed to have stabilized after a 1-3 start in conference play. The only game they have this week will be against a reeling Cardinals squad in Louisville. A win tonight and Pitt will once again be in contention for a double-bye in MSG.
6. Georgetown (14-4, 4-3) | Last week: 8 : The “good” Hoyas came out to play last week, taking down two ranked foes, Notre Dame on the road and Louisville at home. Otto Porter played all but two minutes of both games, scoring 36 points and grabbing 21 rebounds. It’s too soon to definitively get a read on this team, but anything less than a 2-0 week hosting Seton Hall and St. John’s will be a disappointment.
7. Notre Dame (16-4, 4-3) | Last week: 4 : Notre Dame was blown out at home by an up-and-down Georgetown team before taking care of business at South Florida. The light non-conference schedule as well as relatively soft start of conference play has the Irish needing to prove they can do more than just beat up on weak teams.
8. Villanova (13-7, 4-3) | Last week: 12 : Nova entered last week staring at a possible 2-5 conference record with two top-5 teams coming to town. Instead, the Wildcats had the best week of any team in the nation, giving its fans something to cheer about for the first time in two years with two huge upsets. It’s too soon to move them any further up, though, as losses to Columbia, Alabama and Providence have shown what this team is capable on off nights. A trip to South Bend and a visit from the Friars will tell us a lot more about tis squad.
9. Connecticut (13-5, 3-3) | Last week: 7 : This was a tough fall for the Huskies as they took care of business in their only game last week, but the weeks Georgetown and Villanova had vaulted them over this UConn team. The backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright is still lethal and they have two winnable games on the horizon this week, which should put them back in the top half of the rankings.
10. St. John’s (13-7, 5-3) | Last week: 10 : Another difficult team to rank as they quietly moved into a tie for second in the Big East with good wins over Cincinnati and Notre Dame. Chris Obepka leads the nation in block percentage while D’Angelo Harrison keeps hanging up 20-point games. The Johnnies deserve to be ranked higher, but the weeks Nova and Georgetown put up made it difficult to slide them up much further.
11. Rutgers (12-7, 3-5) | Last week: 9 : The Scarlet Knights put up a bagel last week against St. John’s and Connecticut and have now dropped three straight games. A tough trip to Cincinatti is all that awaits this week as Rutgers tries to get off the snide.
12. Providence (10-10, 2-6) | Last week: 11 : The Friars have played as tough an early slate in conference as any Big East team, but they seemed to have regressed in the process. Sidiki Johnson had a breakout game against the Golden Eagles, but they were killed on the boards as a team, leading to fast break and second chance points. Time is getting short for these talented players to get it together as a team.
13. Seton Hall (13-7, 2-5) | Last week: 15 : The Pirates grinded out a win against South Florida and made it interesting late at St. John’s last week, muchh needed progress for this beleaguered squad. It doesn’t get any easier though, with games against Cincinatti and Georgetown upcoming.
14. South Florida (10-9, 1-6) | Last week: 13 : The Bulls weren’t able to capitalize on any momentum gained from the big win over Georgetown, going 0-2 last week. Trips to to sunny Milwaukee and Storrs await this week, two games sure to brighten Stan Heath’s outlook …
15. DePaul (10-9, 1-5) | Last week: 14 : It’s not just the losing. It’s the absolute lack of effort that is very troublesome for Oliver Purnell’s squad. Running the fastest tempo in the country, the Blue Demons are simply playing ole defense on this four game slide. You don’t give up 90+ points twice in four games without a complete lack of effort. De Paul is in the cellar again, and it may be home for the rest of the year the way things are going.