State Of the Big East AddressPosted by mlemaire on January 27th, 2012
It has been nearly three full days since President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address to the country, and it has also been nearly three full days since our brethren covering the SEC did their State of the SEC post. Since we are both slightly behind and also not creative enough to come up with our own ideas, we decided to take a belated look at the Big East in a similar (read: exactly the same) post.
We would love to report that the state of the conference is strong, but as a whole, it has not been a good season for the Big East. The 2007-08 season was the last time the conference had only one team finish in the Top 10 but it is in danger of having that happen again. Syracuse will undoubtedly finish in the Top 10 and is a worthy national title contender, but after that, things get murkier. Last season the conference had five teams finish the regular season ranked inside the Top 15. As of now, the conference only has four teams in the Top 25. The reason for the slip is that consistent winners like Villanova and Pittsburgh have been really bad, and teams like Connecticut and Louisville lost a lot of key talent. But let’s take a closer look as well.
Despite the swirling off-the-court issues, the Carrier Dome has been rocking all season and for good reason. The Orange are an excellent blend of experience, talent and depth. Star forward Kris Joseph is going to end up on the All-Big East team and sophomore combo guard Dion Waiters could find himself on the short list for that team as well. Their lone blemish is an ugly road loss to Notre Dame and that looks more like an aberration that signs of a regression.
Georgetown hasn’t been impressive in some of their wins, but instead of sliding into the middle of the pack after getting hit hard by graduation, Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson III, and Henry Sims have, with the help of an unheralded but impressive group of underclassmen, led the Hoyas to a 16-3 record thus far. They look like they should get into the Tournament easily, but they have been sliding some lately.
Marquette has dealt with the injury to center and only true big man, Chris Otule, admirably, and the Golden Eagles have won their last five games. But their only truly impressive win came almost two months ago against a Wisconsin team that was scuffling at the time. They still have plenty to prove as they head into the home part of their conference slate.
West Virginia, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, and South Florida all have identical 5-3 conference records, but expect these teams to separate from each other in the coming weeks. The Mountaineers have the best player in the conference in Kevin Jones but still lack the consistency that will get them to the second weekend of the Tournament. Cincinnati was streaking after their now-infamous scuffle with Xavier and beat Georgetown and UConn on the road, but they have lost two straight and don’t have a lot of room for error down the stretch because of a weak non-conference schedule.
The Fighting Irish deserve credit for weathering the loss of star Tim Abromaitis and they are riding high after beating then-No. 1 Syracuse at home and a tough Seton Hall team on the road. But there are still plenty of questions about whether Mike Brey has enough depth and talent to end up on the right side of the bubble. South Florida is off to a great start in conference play, but they have done it by beating the lesser teams and it would be an astonishing turn of events in they caught fire down the stretch and made the tournament, especially given how difficult it gets.
UConn is still waiting for freshman Andre Drummond to blossom into a star and center Alex Oriakhi to rediscover any semblance of the talent and effort he exhibited during last season’s title run. They will probably make the Tournament, but they have lost four of their last six games and will need to turn things around quickly. Rick Pitino and his Cardinals have been dealing with injuries and offensive struggles all season long. Their defense will probably push them into the tournament as well but they don’t have the look of a Sweet Sixteen team.
Seton Hall has been a pleasant surprise this season, but they have lost their last three games and have the look of a team going in reverse. They will need seniors Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore to elevate their games if the Pirates are going to go dancing.
Now we are getting into the teams that should probably start looking towards next season, like Rutgers and St. John’s, both of whom have had some nice wins this season at home, but don’t have enough depth or experience to make a run. But Mike Rice and Steve Lavin (assuming he eventually returns to the sidelines) have their programs headed in the right direction.
Jay Wright‘s Wildcats have experience and talent, but they have not played well at all this season. The silver lining is that Wright will welcome an excellent recruiting class to campus next season and loses only one irrelevant walk-on to graduation. Assuming Maalik Wayns and Mouphtao Yarou don’t do something stupid and declare for the NBA Draft, the Wildcats should bounce back quickly.
DePaul and Providence have been looking towards next season since the beginning of this year and have some decent young pieces that should give fans’ of both programs hope. Meanwhile the once-mighty Panthers of Pittsburgh are in the midst of a nightmare season and one has to wonder if the immediate future holds any hope. Mainstays Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson will be gone next season and the reinforcements might take a year or two to get acclimated to the college game. It could be a little while longer before Jamie Dixon can get his program back to its former heights.