Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.
I am so glad that I don’t have to coach in the Big East. As of today, UConn is 1-2 in the Big East after losing games at Pitt and at Notre Dame. Georgetown is 1-2 with losses coming at Notre Dame and at St. John’s. The Irish have beaten both the Hoyas and the Huskies, but they aren’t at the top of the league right now because sandwiched in between those two was a loss at Syracuse. What about Providence? They are now 0-3 in the conference despite having the look and the feel of a team that is much better than an 0-3 Big East team. Why? Because they opened conference play with a trip to the Carrier Dome to take on the Orange before returning home to face suddenly-awesome St. John’s and Pitt. All of that pales in comparison to the Johnnies*, however.
*For the record, I will note here that every of-the-week award– player, team, coach, rookie, cheerleader, mascot, and fan — that this here blogger has been foolishly delegated by the powers that be at RTC headquarters to give out to the Big East this week is going to St. John’s. I grew up on the Big East. There is nothing better than Big East basketball. And the Big East doesn’t feel right unless the Johnnies are good. Here’s to hoping it stays that way.
The next seven games on St. John’s schedule are brutal. They go to Notre Dame. Then they host Syracuse and Notre Dame. Next is a trip to Louisville before Cincinnati comes to town. To finish out January, the Johnnies head down south for a jaunt to Georgetown and then Duke (Duke!) on the 30th. And this is coming off of trips to West Virginia and Providence before they knocked off Georgetown in the Garden. Right now, St. John’s is 3-0 in the Big East. Justin Brownlee and DJ Kennedy make up arguably the most versatile pair of forwards in the conference. Dwight Hardy‘s nickname is Buckets, and if you’ve seen him play, you know why. Paris Horne is an excellent perimeter defender while Justin Burrell, Dele Coker, and Sean Evans are all big and athletic. And, keep in mind, point guard Malik Booth has been hampered by a hamstring injury this entire time. This team is good. How good? Ask me January 31st.
Power Rankings (overall and conference records, and last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. Syracuse (15-0, 2-0) (3)
Last Week: 12/28 vs. Providence 81-74, 1/1 vs. Notre Dame 70-58
Next Week: 1/8 @ Seton Hall
James Southerland is a name you are going to want to remember. Lost in Kris Joseph‘s surge of late and Rick Jackson‘s season-long DeJuan Blair impersonation, Southerland has become a very important piece for Jim Boeheim. He’s athletic, lengthy, and stands 6’8. He’s a competent defender — although he’s not great on the perimeter just yet, he blocks shots and makes steals — but more importantly he’s a sharpshooter that can spread the floor offensively. Remember the Orange’s weakness? (Hint: perimeter shooting.)
2. Pittsburgh (14-1, 2-0) (2)
Last Week: 1/4 @ Providence 83-79
Next Week: 1/8 vs. Marquette
This is why Pitt is so good: against Providence, they turned the ball over 22 times as the Friars’ press wreaked havoc. Pitt was in bad foul trouble, even being forced into a zone defense in the second half. Brad Wanamaker fouled out with a few minutes left with Pitt losing after blowing a ten-point lead. And the Panthers still pulled one out on the road, thanks in large part to Wanamaker’s sub, Travon Woodall, making a couple of huge plays late, including hitting the go-ahead three.
3. Villanova (12-1, 1-0) (4)
Last Week: 12/30 @ Temple 78-74, 1/2 vs. Rutgers 81-65
Next Week: 1/6 @ South Florida, 1/9 vs. Cincinnati
I can’t say enough about how good Corey Stokes has been this season. He’s a “role” player according to KenPom’s usage stats, but he leads the teams in scoring and in a stat I like to call “clutch, gutsy jumpers.” He led the team in scoring both games this week, including a very good second half against Temple.
4. Notre Dame (12-2, 2-1) (6)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. Georgetown 69-55, 1/1 @ Syracuse 58-70, 1/4 vs. UConn 73-70
Next Week: None
The Irish are legit, folks. Two solid wins to start the Big East season. Experienced, heady group of players. Lots of shooting, multiple scoring threats, versatile lineup. They aren’t that deep, and they will be without Carleton Scott for a while as he deals with a hamstring injury, but, like I said, this team is legit.
5. Georgetown (12-3, 1-2) (1)
Last Week: 12/29 @ Notre Dame 55-69, 1/1 vs. DePaul 86-75, 1/3 @ St. John’s 58-61
Next Week: 1/8 vs. West Virginia
Hmm. Did I overrate the Hoyas when I called them the Big East favorite? Three games in, it looks like it. I’m not ready to back off of that yet, but the way their backcourt played in losses to Notre Dame and St. John’s concerns me. They get dropped this week, but I expect a rebound.
6. Connecticut (11-1, 1-2) (5)
Last Week: 12/31 vs. South Florida 66-61 OT, 1/4 @ Notre Dame 70-73
Next Week: 1/8 @ Texas
Yes, UConn lost to Notre Dame, but there were some positive signs. The Huskies got 46 points out of Shabazz Napier, Roscoe Smith, Jeremy Lamb, and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. Alex Oriakhi gave them nothing. Literally, zero points. Kemba Walker struggled, going 8-23 against a swarming defense while also missing some shots he normally makes. And UConn still lost by just three at the Joyce Center after blowing two chances to tie the game with under 30 seconds left.
7. Louisville (11-2, 0-0) (7)
Last Week: 12/31 @ Kentucky 63-78
Next Week: 1/5 vs. Seton Hall, 1/9 @ South Florida
The Cardinals had an embarrassing loss to Kentucky. That said, Kentucky is, in my opinion, underrated this season. More concerning for me is the fact that Rakeem Buckles is now out with a broken finger.
8. Cincinnati (14-0, 2-0) (8)
Last Week: 12/28 vs. DePaul 76-60, 12/31 vs. Seton Hall 70-53
Next Week: 1/6 vs. Xavier
Still reserving judgement (Xavier on Thursday will be my marker), but that win over Seton Hall resonated in these parts.
9. St. John’s (10-3, 3-0) (12)
Last Week: 12/29 @ West Virginia 81-71, 1/1 @ Providence 67-65, 1/3 vs. Georgetown 61-58
Next Week: 1/8 @ Notre Dame
See the introduction for my take on the Red Storm.
10. Marquette (10-4, 0-1) (9)
Last Week: 12/29 @ Vanderbilt 76-77, 1/1 vs. West Virginia 79-74
Next Week: 1/5 @ Rutgers, 1/8 @ Pitt, 1/10 vs. Notre Dame
I just don’t think this program will ever change. And I love it. Every game they play is exciting. Their guards are always talented and unafraid of taking a big shot. Their forwards are always versatile scorers. Honestly, I believe this is one of the top six teams in this conference. Now they just have to prove it.
11. West Virginia (8-4, 1-2) (10)
Last Week: 12/29 vs. St. John’s 71-81, 1/1 @ Marquette 74-79, 1/4 @ DePaul 67-65
Next Week: 1/8 @ Georgetown
I don’t know what’s going on with the Mountaineers. They are now 1-2 in the Big East after nearly blowing a 14-point lead in the last 10 minutes against DePaul. Right now, this is not a tournament-caliber team.
12. Providence (11-4, 0-3) (11)
Last Week: 12/28 @ Syracuse 74-81, 1/1 vs. St. John’s 65-67, 1/4 vs. Pitt 79-83
Next Week: 1/8 @ Rutgers
Providence, I believe, is a tournament caliber team. See the introduction for a look at what’s going on in the Big East headquarters’ city.
13. Seton Hall (6-6) (12)
Last Week: 12/31 @ Cincinnati 53-70
Next Week: 1/5 @ Louisville, 1/8 vs. Syracuse
I feel for the Pirate players. So much talent coming in, but one star gets shot after breaking his wrist and the other isn’t the same after literally dying for a few minutes over the summer.
14. Rutgers (9-4, 0-1) (13)
Last Week: 12/28 vs. UNC 55-78, 1/2 @ Villanova 65-81
Next Week: 1/5 vs. Marquette, 1/8 vs. Providence
Liked Gil Baruta. Then he threw a reverse hammer fist at Dominic Cheek and got tossed against Villanova. Now, not as much.
15. DePaul (6-8, 0-2) (16)
Last Week: 12/28 @ Cincinnati 60-76, 1/1 @ Georgetown 75-86, 1/4 vs. West Virginia 65-67
Next Week: None
DePaul getting the bump! Oliver Purnell has his kids playing hard. Cleveland Melvin is going to be a star in this league, as well as Brandon Young.
16. South Florida (6-9, 0-2) (15)
Last Week: 12/28 @ Seton Hall 55-64, 12/31 @ UConn 61-66 OT
Next Week: 1/6 vs. Villanova
I’m embarrassed to say I’m a UConn fan when I see them get taken to overtime by USF.
There will be some terrific Big East basketball to close out the week. Thursday, Cincinnati takes on city rival Xavier. Saturday, West Virginia heads to Georgetown, Marquette heads to Pitt, UConn travels to Texas, and St. John’s has a date at Notre Dame. Sunday, Cincy gets their second test of the week as they visit Villanova.