Big East Roundup

*NOTE* Every Monday, writers Mark Strotman, Andrei Greska and Mike Nelson will take a look back at the week that was in the Big East, as well as a look forward at each Big East team’s schedule for the next seven days.

Cincinnati (9-3)

Last Week: Win vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff 101-53, vs. Chicago State 95-60
This Week:  Oklahoma 12/29, at Pittsburgh 1/1

The Bearcats haven’t lived up to the expectations they had entering the season. But they are on a four game winning streak since their infamous brawl with in-state rival Xavier.

Cincinnati posted back-to-back 34-plus point victories in the past week, knocking off Arkansas-Pine Bluff 101-53 and Chicago State 95-60. In those two contests the Bearcats had a 42:22 assists to turnover ratio and forced more turnovers (47) than committed (22). But that’s to be expected against those two types of teams.

No. 9/9 Connecticut (10-1)

Last Week: Win vs. Fairfield 79-71
This Week: at South Florida 12/28, St. John’s 12/31

The Huskies extended their winning streak to five games since their 68-63 loss to future Big East partner Central Florida. In their latest victory the Huskies outlasted Faifield 79-71. Sophomore guard Shabazz Napier led the Huskies with 24 points – upping his season average to 15.5 per game (second most on the team).

The team’s leading scorer, sophomore forward Jeremy Lamb (18.9 points per game), chipped in 18 of his own. Freshman forward Andre Drummond added 16 points and nine rebounds.

DePaul (9-3)

Last Week: 63-58 vs. Cal Poly
This Week: at Syracuse 1/1,

With sophomore forward Melvin Cleveland leading the way (18.5 points per game) the Blue Demons are off to their best start since the 1990-2000 season when DePaul also started 9-3. The Blue Demons latest conquest was over Cal Poly in a tightly contested 63-58 battle. The win was DePaul’s fifth straight. Cleveland and sophomore guard Brandon Young led DePaul, as they have all season, in scoring with 16 points each. The two will be relied upon heavily for the Blue Demons this season.

No. 12/12 Georgetown Hoyas (10-1)

Last week: Win vs. Memphis 70-59
This week: 12/28 at No. 4 Louisville, 12/31 vs. Providence

Roundup: For the second time this season, the Hoyas took down coach Josh Pastner’s  Memphis Tigers. Senior guard Jason Clark led the way with 18 points and junior forward Hollis Thompson finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. Outside of a neutral-site loss to Kansas, the Hoyas have been perfect this season.

Traveling to Louisville will be no easy task but the Cardinals have been vulnerable at times. A win for the Hoyas would almost guarantee a top-10 rank next week.

No. 4/4 Louisville Cardinals (12-0)

Last week: Win vs. Charleston 69-62; Win vs. Western Kentucky 70-60
This week: 12/28 vs. No. 12 Georgetown, 12/31 at  No. 3 Kentucky

Roundup: Despite its underwhelming statistics and close games against questionable teams, Louisville just keeps winning and winning and winning. The Cardinals squeaked past the College of Charleston behind sophomore center Gorgui Dieng’s 14 points and 12 assists and then against Western Kentucky despite being down eight with 12 minutes to go. Defense has been what has kept the Cardinals unbeaten as they rank fourth defensively in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings but only 73rd offensively.

With games against two ranked opponents —Georgetown and Kentucky— coming up this week, the basketball world will finally see whether Louisville can live up to its ranking.

No. 14/13 Marquette (11-1)

Last week: Loss at LSU 67-59; Win vs. Milwaukee 64-50 OT
This week:
12/29 vs. Vanderbilt, 1/1 vs. Villanova

The Golden Eagles’ high-powered offense stuttered last week as Marquette dropped its first contest of the season against LSU in Baton Rouge. Although it did get the victory against its cross-town rival Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the offense looked stagnant in the process. Sophomore guard Vander Blue has been M.I.A on the attack scoring six points in two games while freshman guard Todd Mayo has also slowed, limited to matching Blue’s point total last week.

Up next is a stern test against a dangerous Vanderbilt team that is finally at full strength with the return of redshirt senior center Festus Ezeli (9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds). After that Villanova comes to the Bradley Center to open conference play.

Notre Dame (8-5)

Last Week: Win vs. Sacred Heart 106-65
This Week:
Pittsburgh 12/27

Losing senior forward Tim Abromaitis with a season ending injury altered the outlook for the Fighting Irish this season, but Notre Dame (8-5) has won the games it should win thus far this season – including its only game in the last week against Sacred Heart. In the 106-65 blowout, Notre Dame had five players post double figures and posted its season-high in points. It was the largest margin of victory on the season. Notre Dame committed a season-low four turnovers. We’ll get a better look at who the Fighting Irish are when they battle Pittsburgh in their season opener on Thursday Dec. 27.

No. 22/22 Pittsburgh (11-2)

Last week: Win vs. St. Francis 71-47; Loss vs. Wagner 59-54 

This week:
12/27 at Notre Dame, 1/1 vs. Seton Hall

Losing at home to a mid-major is never good. Doing it twice in one season is downright scary. Pittsburgh was shocked by Long Beach State 86-76 on Nov. 16 and by Wagner 59-54 last Friday. Ouch. More worrisome is the play of a preseason Big East Player of the Year candidate Ashton Gibbs. The senior guard shot 8-of-25 from the field last week only scoring 23 points in the process.

The Panthers have to rebound against a weak Notre Dame team to open Big East play and then against a shorthanded Cincinnati team who will still be without senior forward Yancy Gates.

Providence (11-2)

Last week: Win vs. New Hampshire 67-52; Win at Rhode Island 80-61
This week:
12/27 at St. John’s, 12/31 at Georgetown

Roundup: Although it’s still early in the season and they lack a good win, the Friars are a much better team than they were last year under Keno Davis. Wins over northeast rivals New Hampshire and Rhode Island may not open anyone’s eyes, but both came in commanding fashion.  The only question going into the Big East is whether the lack of depth will play a factor. Four, yes you read that right, four players average over 34.5 minutes per game. Any injury will put the Friars in a major hole.

Providence will hit the road to open Big East play, traveling to a struggling
St. John’s squad before heading to D.C. to play a very good Georgetown team. A split of these two games will be considered a great start for the Friars.

Rutgers (7-5)

Last Week: 77-53 Win vs. NJIT
This Week: at Florida 12/29, at South Florida 1/1

In its last contest, a 77-53 victory over New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers had four players in double figures – up from the three it averages. Guard Myles Mack led the way with 16 points in Thursday’s victory continuing his impressive freshman campaign – 10.5 points per game average. Mack was the No. 63 recruit according to ESPNU.  He is one of three Scarlet Knights to average double figures on the year (sophomore forward Gilvydas Biruta and freshman guard Eli Carter are the others).

Seton Hall (11-1)

Last week: Win at Dayton 69-64; Win at Longwood 87-61
This week: 12/27 at St. John’s, 12/31 at Georgetown

Roundup: A very surprising week for a very surprising squad. Seton Hall figured to be a middle of the pack Big East squad but may fight to finish in the top-eight. Winning at Dayton, even a down Flyers team, is a great win while simply playing at Longwood and not at home is puzzling. Herb Pope has been a double-double machine and is now averaging 20.3 and 11.4. Senior guard Jordan Theodore also shined last week, scoring a career high 26 points against Longwood.

It doesn’t get much tougher than the Pirate’s opening two conference games. How does a trip to the Carrier Dome to play the No. 1 team in the country sound? After Syracuse a sneaky good West Virginia teams will test the Hall in New Jersey.

South Florida Bulls (7-6)

Last week: Win vs. Cleveland State 70-55, Loss at Southern Miss 53-51
This week: 12/28 vs. No. 9/9 Connecticut, 12/1 vs. Rutgers

Roundup: South Florida picked up an impressive 14-point victory over Cleveland State before stumbling Thursday against Southern Mississippi. Inconsistencies have plagued the Bulls, who shot 48 percent from the field against the Vikings and then just 38 percent in the loss to the Golden Eagles.

South Florida won’t have many opportunities to pick up Big East wins, so Sunday afternoon’s contest against Rutgers is important for coach Stan Heath’s group.

St. John’s Red Storm (6-5)

Last week: Win vs. Texas-Pan American 66-61
This week:  12/27 vs. Providence, 12/31 at No. 9 Connecticut

Roundup: The Red Storm may not compete for an NCAA Tournament berth, but there is quite a future for coach Steve Lavin’s squad. Junior forward God’sgift Achiuwa has been one of the conference’s best newcomers and went for 22 points and nine rebounds on Wednesday. Freshman guard D’Angelo Harrison had 21 points as the Red Storm won for the second straight time since losing three in a row.

New Year’s Eve could get ugly for the Red Storm but if they want to have any hope of sneaking in the field of 68, they’ll need to beat the bottom feeders of the Big East, namely Providence on Tuesday.

No. 1/1 Syracuse Orange (13-0)

Last week: Win vs. Bucknell 80-61; Win vs. Tulane 80-61
This week: 12/28 vs. Seton Hall, 1/1 at DePaul

Roundup: The Orange continue to tout one of the most efficient offensives in the nation, shooting a combined 52 percent from the field and connecting on 18 3-pointers in two wins this week. Sophomore  guard Dion Waiters finished with 15 points in Thursday’s win and, off the bench, has been the Orange’s second leading scorer this year.

Seton Hall senior forward Herb Pope (21.4 points, 11.5 rebounds per game) will provide a tough test inside, but the top-ranked team in the nation should move to 15-0 this week.

Villanova Wildcats (6-5)

Last week: Win vs. American 73-52
This week: 12/28 at West Virginia, 1/1 at Marquette

Roundup: The Wildcats’ up-and-down season continued with a dominating win over American on Thursday. Villanova hit 10 three-point field goals in the win and used nine assists from junior guard Maalik Wayns to pull away in the second half. Before the win, Villanova had lost five of its last seven.

Two road contests to open Big East play won’t be easy for coach Jay Wright’s group, and at this point a split would be considered a major success.

West Virginia (9-3)

Last week: Win vs. Tennessee Tech 72-53; Win vs. Missouri State 70-68 OT; Loss vs. Baylor 83-81 OT

This week:
12/28 vs. Villanova, 12/3o at Seton Hall

Roundup: The Mountaineers were on the verge of a critical top-10 victory against No. 6/7 Baylor in Las Vegas but ultimately fell 83-81 in overtime, snapping a five game winning streak. Senior forward Kevin Jones has been playing like an All-American as of late posting 69 points and 44 rebounds last week alone. He averages 21.0 points and 11.9 boards for the season.

West Virginia will measure itself against two teams trending in opposite directions when it hosts a slumping Villanova team before traveling to New Jersey to face off against  surging Seton Hall.

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