Checking in on the… Big EastPosted by rtmsf on January 28th, 2009
Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.
I’m not sure if anyone actually noticed, but Checking in on the… Big East was absent from RTC last week (amazing the blog could survive, right?). Long story short, I work in the restaurant industry in DC, and last week there was some big, citywide party for some guy who just won some election or something. Did anyone hear about that? Needless to say, I was a bit short on time, which meant my blogging efforts took a serious hit.
But you can sleep easy kiddies and kiddettes. Your favorite RTC correspondent is back to fill you in on the inner-workings of the biggest and baddest conference in all the land. We’re going to mix things up a bit this week, as a lot has happened in the past two weeks and, frankly, I was a little bored with the old format. So without further ado, let’s get you caught up on all the Big East action:
The way that I see it, there are ten teams that can seriously be considered for a spot in the NCAA’s. Of those ten teams, there are essentially two tiers they can be broken into – UConn, Louisville and Pitt (and maybe Marquette, but more on this in a second) in one; Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, Providence, West Virginia and Notre Dame in the other.
To be completely honest, the teams in that second tier all are beginning to look very average. The question I am stuck trying to answer is whether these teams are actually mediocre on a national scale, or if it just seems that way because they are getting pounded by excellent teams night in and night out in the Big East.
Take Notre Dame as an example. Once thought to be a top ten team, the Irish have dropped out of the AP Poll after four straight losses. But those losses are to Louisville, Syracuse, UConn and Marquette and the Irish also own a win over Texas and Georgetown (again, more on the Irish in a bit).
As the conference season moves on, one thing everyone needs to be keeping in mind is the way the Big East Tournament is going to work this year. All 16 teams are going to reach Madison Square Garden, but it is not going to be a typical 16 team tournament. The way it is scheduled is that teams ranked 9-16 will all play on Tuesday (9 vs. 16, etc.). On Wednesday, the winners of the Tuesday games will play the teams ranked 5-8 (8 vs. 9/16 winner). From there on, the tournament bracket is normal (1 vs. 8/9 winner, etc.).
Looking at the conference standings, it is going to be tough for anyone to crack the top four and get the double bye.
2008-09 Big East Standings
TEAM RNK BE GB OVR
- Marquette #8 (7-0 – 18-2)
- Louisville #7 (6-0 ½ 15-3)
- UConn #2 (7-1 ½ 18-1)
- Pittsburgh #3 (6-1 1 18-1)
- Providence (5-2 2 13-6)
- Syracuse #15 (5-3 2½ 17-4)
- Villanova #21 (3-3 3 ½ 15-4)
- West Virginia (3-3 3½ 14-5)
- G’Town #23 (3-4 4 12-6)
- Cincinnati (3-4 4 13-7)
- No. Dame #22 (3-5 4½ 12-7)
- St. John’s (2-5 5 11-8)
- South Florida (2-5 5 7-12)
- Seton Hall (1-6 6 10-9)
- Rutgers (0-7 7 9-11)
- DePaul (0-7 7 8-12)
Any team with a realistic shot is already at least two games out of fourth in the loss column, and that is to UConn and Pitt (who are ranked higher than undefeated league leaders Louisville and Marquette). So that means the battle is going to be for eighth place and the first round bye.
Now take a minute and think about how important that first round bye is. Up until 2006, when Gerry McNamara led Syracuse on that ridiculous run through MSG, no team had ever won the Big East tournament playing four games in four days. This year, at least one of Villanova, Notre Dame, Georgetown, or West Virginia (all teams ranked in the top 25 at some point during the season) will have to win five straight games in five days if they plan on taking home the BET crown. To quote Mac from Super Troopers: “there is no f-ing way that is happening”.
The Golden Eagles are now sitting at 7-0 in league play, 18-2 overall, and have won 10 in a row. This team is winning games, but I am still not 100% sold on them yet. Why? Because their best wins in league play are against West Virginia, @ Notre Dame (which came as the Irish’s fourth consecutive loss, after UConn snapped the winning streak), and Villanova, and their two best non-conference wins are against Northern Iowa and Wisconsin. You know this team’s top four are immensely talented, but I need to see them knock off one of the other top five teams before I am fully convinced. That won’t happen until Feb. 24th, because Marquette doesn’t play one of those four teams until their last four games (UConn, @ Louisville, @ Pitt, Syracuse). Crazy stat of the day: Against Notre Dame, Marquette players other than McNeal, Matthews, Hayward, and James had a grand total of 0 points, 2 shots, 1 assists, and 9 rebounds.
The Cardinals may in fact be the best team in this conference (right now, they are easily playing the best basketball). In their last four games, they’ve ended Pitt’s undefeated season, beat Notre Dame, and gone into the Carrier Dome and handled the Orange. That’s a far cry from the team that started out the season 7-3. The play of Terrence Williams and Earl Clark is the biggest reason for that improvement. Much the way David Padgett had to step up and be the leader and focal point of the Cardinal’s offense last season, E5 and T-Will are doing that this year. Williams has been absolutely sensational in his last five games – 18.4 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 4.4 apg, and 2.8 spg while shooting over 50% from the field. Perhaps the most telling statistic is the way the Cardinals closed out games against the three teams mentioned above – 16-2 run in OT versus the Irish; a 24-8 closing run to erase a ten point deficit against Pitt; 15-3 run to close out the ‘Cuse.
The Huskies are back on track again after scoring 89 on the tough defense of Villanova, then going into the Joyce Center and ending the 45-game Notre Dame winning streak. What made last week so impressive for the Huskies isn’t that they knocked off two top 25 teams (Nova, ND), it is how they did it. Villanova is going to hound you on the defensive end, but UConn turned their game into a shootout. Notre Dame is a high scoring group of shooters that can’t play all that much defense. UConn turned that game into a defensive battle, holding ND shooters Kyle McAlarney and Ryan Ayers to 4-25 shooting.
The Irish may be playing themselves right out of the NCAA tournament. They are currently sitting at 12-7 and 3-5 in the Big east, good for 11th place. They have lost four in row, and while those four losses have come against incredible competition, Notre Dame was supposed to be just as good, if not better, than those teams. There are two reasons for this – Luke Harangody has decided that he is a shooter while K-Mac and Ryan Ayers have decided that they, well, aren’t. So while the big fella roams the perimeter, casting up step-back fadeaways, K-Mac and Ayers have gone 7-44 from the floor and 4-25 from deep in their last two combined. Their schedule doesn’t get too much easier the rest of the way, as they still have roadies against UConn, UCLA, Pitt, and West Virginia, and home dates with Louisville and Villanova. If they don’t figure it out soon, this could end up being a 13 loss team that is below .500 in the league. If a team with Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney misses the NCAA tournament, Mike Brey should be fired on the spot.
The Hoyas have been a completely different team from the one that smacked UConn in Hartford to start conference play. They’ve lost five of seven and three in a row, including their last one against Seton Hall. The issue is that they aren’t getting good shots in the flow of their offense, Georgetown relies heavily on being able to create good shots through movement, back door cuts, and crisply run offense. When they aren’t is when they get into trouble. They don’t really have anyone that can consistently create their own shot, and when forced too they start turning the ball over and missing good looks
The Orange have now lost three of their last four games, although going 1-3 versus Georgetown, Pitt, Louisville, and Notre Dame is not terrible. Jonny Flynn has not been playing great, shooting 34% from the field and under 30% from three. But the good news for the Orange is that they are now past the toughest part of their schedule. It would not surprise me in the least if the Orange finished the season going 9-2 (losing only at UConn and Marquette).
The Barack Obama All-Last-Two-Weeks Team
G – Jerel McNeal, Marquette: Marquette went 3-0 while McNeal averaged 24.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.7 spg, while shooting 48% from the field and 53% from three.
G – AJ Price, UConn: Price led the Huskies to a 4-0 mark while posting averages of 18.3 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.5 rpg, while hitting 10 3s in that span.
F – Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia: Butler averaged 23 ppg in a 3-1 two weeks, adding 6.3 rpg while shooting 55% from the floor.
F – Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall: the sophomore scored 24.3 ppg in a 1-2 week, but what was most impressive was the 23 points the shooter had while going 0-10 from deep to lead Seton Hall to a win over Georgetown.
F – Terrence Williams and Earl Clark, Louisville: Together, the two averaged 35 ppg, 19.3 rpg, 6.3 apg, 4.7 spg, and 2.0 bpg in a 3-0 stretch.
1a. (2) UConn 18-1, 7-1 (2, 2)
Last Two Weeks: 1/15 @ St. John’s 67-55, 1/18 vs. Seton Hall 76-61, 1/21 vs. Villanova 89-83, 1/24 @ Notre Dame 69-61
Next Week: 1/28 @ DePaul, 1/31 vs. Providence, 2/2 @ Louisville
1b. (1) Pitt 18-1, 6-1 (3, 3)
Last Two Weeks: 1/14 @ South Florida 75-62, 1/17 @ Louisville 63-69, 1/19 vs. Syracuse 78-60, 1/25 @ West Virginia 79-67
Next Week: 1/28 @ Villanova, 1/31 vs. Notre Dame, 2/2 vs. Robert Morris
1c. (4) Louisville 15-3, 6-0 (7, 7)
Last Two Weeks: 1/17 vs. Pitt 69-63, 1/21 @ Rutgers 78-59, 1/25 @ Syracuse 67-57
Next Week: 1/28 vs. South Florida, 1/31 vs. West Virginia, 2/2 vs. UConn
4. (5) Marquette 18-2, 7-0 (8, 8)
Last Two Weeks: 1/17 @ Providence 91-82, 1/24 vs. DePaul 79-70, 1/26 @ Notre Dame 71-64
Next Week: 1/31 vs. Georgetown, 2/3 @ DePaul
SLIDING TOWARDS MEDIOCRITY
5. (3) Syracuse 17-4, 5-3 (15, 15)
Last Two Weeks: 1/14 @ Georgetown 74-88, 1/17 vs. Notre Dame 93-74, 1/19 @ Pitt 60-78, 1/25 Louisville 57-67
Next Week: 1/28 @ Providence
6. (8) West Virginia 14-5, 3-3
Last Two Weeks: 1/14 vs. Marshall 87-76, 1/17 vs. South Florida 62-59, 1/22 @ Georgetown 75-58, 1/25 vs. Pitt 67-79
Next Week: 1/28 vs. St. John’s, 1/31 @ Louisville
9a. (6) Georgetown 12-6, 3-4 (25, 23)
Last Two Weeks: 1/14 vs. Syracuse 88-74, 1/17 @ Duke 57-76, 1/22 vs. West Virginia 58-75, 1/25 @ Seton Hall 50-65
9b. (7) Notre Dame 12-7, 3-5 (NR, 22)
Last Two Weeks: 1/17 @ Syracuse 74-93, 1/24 vs. UConn 61-69, 1/26 vs. Marquette 64-71
Next Week: 1/31 @ Pitt
9c. (9) Villanova 15-4, 3-3 (21, 21)
Last Two Weeks: 1/18 vs. St. John’s 76-57, 1/21 @ UConn 83-89, 1/24 @ South Florida
Next Week: 1/28 vs. Pitt, 2/1 vs. Cincinnati
MEDIOCRITY AT ITS FINEST
10. (10) Providence 13-6, 5-2
Last Two Weeks: 1/17 vs. Marquette 82-91, 1/19 vs. Cincinnati 72-63, 1/22 @ Seton Hall 98-93 OT
Next Week: 1/28 vs. Syracuse, 1/31 @ UConn
Providence plays 11 more games this season – four against top tier teams (Syracuse, @ UConn, Pitt, @ Louisville), four against middle of the road teams (Villanova twice, @ West Virginia, Notre Dame), and three against bottom of the pack teams (Rutgers twice, @ South Florida). Right now, the Friars’ best wins are the two against Cincy and their home win over Rhode Island, and they have no bad losses (Northeastern and BC are the worst, and both could end up in the tourney). Let me paint you a hypothetical: say Providence goes 1-3 against the top tier, 2-2 against the middle of the road, and sweeps the bottom feeders. That puts them at 19-11, 11-7 in the Big East, with home wins over (worst case scenario) Syracuse, Villanova, and Notre Dame. Their RPI and SOS are both in the mid 60’s right now, but after playing this schedule (and assuming they win the games), both should go up. If this happens (and it isn’t too much of a stretch – Providence gave away games against Marquette and at Georgetown already this year) and Providence ends up with computer numbers in, say, the mid 40’s, are they a tourney team?
Side note on PC: Friar guard Jeff Xavier’s brother, you remember him – he’s the fan who walked on the court a few weeks ago to protest a no-call against Jeff, may have violated his probation (for a prior drug conviction) by taking the court. He has a hearing Feb. 10th to determine if he will serve the remaining 5+ years of his sentence. I’m sure there’s a joke to be made here, but I’m still in shock by the sheer stupidity of it all.
RISING TOWARDS MEDIOCRITY
11. (14) Cincinnati 13-7, 3-4
Last Two Weeks: 1/14 vs. Rutgers 71-59, 1/17 @ DePaul 59-55, 1/19 @ Providence 63-72, 1/22 @ St. John’s 71-60
Next Week: 1/28 vs. Georgetown, 2/1 @ Villanova
Getting swept by Providence really, really hurts the Bearcats hopes of reaching the NCAAs. Even just defending their home court would have been huge. Instead, the Bearcats are going to need to win at the very least six more games to even have a shot, and that is going to be a task in itself with eight of their remaining 11 games coming against Georgetown (twice), Villanova, Notre Dame, Pitt, Louisville, West Virginia, and Syracuse.
12. (12) South Florida 7-12, 2-5
Last Two Weeks: 1/14 @ Pitt 62-75, 1/17 @ West Virginia 59-62, 1/20 vs. DePaul 70-61, 1/24 vs. Villanova 61-70
Next Week: 1/28 @ Louisville, 2/1 @ St. John’s
I’m sticking to my guns in saying that the Bulls are going to upset at least one upper echelon Big East foe.
13. (11) St. John’s 11-8, 2-5
Last Two Weeks: 1/15 vs. UConn 55-67, 1/18 @ Villanova 57-76, 1/22 vs. Cincinnati 60-71, 1/24 vs. Rutgers 70-59
Next Week: 1/28 @ West Virginia, 2/1 vs. South Florida
DJ Kennedy was tossed from the game in the second half against Cincinnati for jawing with Rashad Bishop. SJU was up eight at the time. They lost by 11.
14. (15) Seton Hall 10-9, 1-6
Last Two Weeks: 1/18 @ UConn 61-76, 1/22 vs. Providence 93-98 OT, 1/25 vs. Georgetown 65-60
Next Week 1/29 vs. Rutgers
The Pirates are the latest team to win in the Big East as they knocked off the Hoyas on Sunday. Ironically enough, they did it without the benefit of hitting a three – leading scorer Jeremy Hazell was 0-10 alone.
15. (13) Rutgers 9-11, 0-7
Last Two Weeks: 1/14 @ Cincinnati 59-71, 1/21 vs. Louisville 59-78, 1/24 @ St. John’s 59-70
Next Week: 1/29 @ Seton Hall, 1/31 vs. DePaul
It’s too bad that the goal of basketball isn’t to score 59 points. While the Scarlet Knights are not too good this year, Mike Rosario is, and it is definitely worth watching him play.
16. (16) DePaul 8-12, 0-7
Last Two Weeks: 1/17 vs. Cincinnati 55-59, 1/20 @ South Florida 61-70, 1/24 @ Marquette 70-79
Next Week: 1/28 vs. UConn, 1/31 @ Rutgers
Does Quentin Richardson still have any eligibility left?