Big East Basketball Notebook 1.27.12: SB Nation New York's State Of The Union

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a East Room event to honor the Boston Bruins at the White House January 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. The six-time Stanley Cup champions were honored by the President for winning the 2011 Stanley Cup last June. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The league play in the Big East Conference is just past the halfway mark. SB Nation New York's Jared Smith gives a State Of The Union address on the local men's college hoops teams.

President Barack Obama's State Of The Union address Tuesday got Americans buzzing for the past couple of days, and while writing about Big East Conference men's basketball may not be as important as being the leader of the free world -- I would disagree -- I figured I'd give it a shot.

So, as of Friday, Jan. 27, 2012, here's the local college hoops/Big East basketball State Of The Union address -- please, hold your applause to the end. (First, here's the Big East basketball standings.)


Big East Conference Standings

(updated 1.24.2012 at 2:10 AM EST)


Syracuse Orange -- Ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll; 21-1 overall, 8-1 Big East

What a tumultuous ride it has been for the Syracuse program this season. The Orange sit atop of the Big East standings and are clearly the best team in the league, but had to go through hell and back to get to there.

The year began with high expectations and a 3-0 record, before ESPN aired, Nov. 17, its report and interview with Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, who claim that former long-time assistant coach Bernie Fine had sexually abused them. Amongst the hoopla, SU easily defeated Colgate two nights later and cruised to three more victories, including an NIT Tipoff title.

On Dec. 2, behind senior point guard Scoop Jardine's 16 points Syracuse downed (then) No. 4-ranked Florida Gators, 72-68, at the Carrier Dome. In the post-game, SU head coach Jim Boeheim gave a emotional presser that featured him apologizing for his insensitive remarks directed at Davis and Lang, whose claims had gained credibility and led to the dismissal of Fine.

From there, Syracuse continued to roll winning its next 12 contests which helped the Orange set a school record for consecutive victories to begin a season (20). SU's only stumble came Saturday in a loss at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who took advantage of the Orange's lack of big man inside as sophomore center Fab Melo didn't make the trip to South Bend, IN because of, "an unresolved academic issue".

However, two days later, still without Melo, who leads the Big East Conference in blocks (3.0 per game) and is the team's top rebounder (5.4 per game), SU earned a road victory at the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Going forward, there's a possibility that Melo's academic issues are not resolved and the 7-footer could be done for the season. If that happens, SU goes from a national title contender to a program that is still very good but missing that extra piece that could put them over the top (sorry, couldn't resist).

There's hope that Melo will be back; or if not, freshman forward Rakeem Christmas, sophomore center Baye Moussa Keita, junior forward James Southerland and sophomore forward C.J. Faircan all step up their game together to make up for the missing piece of Melo. If that happens, the Orange are still a championship caliber program just not a favorite for to win it all.

Seton Hall Pirates -- 15-4 overall, 4-3 Big East

Not a whole lot was expected out of the Pirates coming into the season as Seton Hall was predicted by league coaches to finish 13th in the 16-team conference. However, the Pirates proved doubters wrong as they raced out to their best start (11-1) since 1992-93 when they won the Big East crown.

Despite a shellacking against No. 1 Syracuse, Dec. 28, the Pirates started their league schedule 4-1 and moved into the college basketball rankings' top 25 (No. 24 in the AP Poll) for the first time since January of 2001.

At the time, it seemed as if the Pirates were a shoo-in for na NCAA Tournament bid, however, Wednesday's 55-42 loss to Notre Dame was their third straight and now Seton Hall fans are looking for answers.

The solution to the Pirates' problem is simple, however, as seniors, guard Jordan Theodore and forward Herb Pope need to be play better. In the last three games, Theodore, who on the season is averaging 16.3 ppg and 7.5 assists per game, has a mean of just 13.3 ppg and 4.3 apg. Meanwhile, Pope (16.7 ppg and 10.5 rpg) has averaged just 8.3 ppg and 7.3 rpg during the three losses.

If Theodore and Pope can make adjustments to get back to the way they were playing during the early part of the season, then Seton Hall should be able to patch the hole in its sinking ship. If not, then Pirates fans can say good bye to the NCAA Tournament and hello to the NIT.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights -- 11-9 overall, 3-4 Big East

Currently, the Rutgers basketball program is about where the preseason polls thought it would be -- coaches said 11th place and that's where they stand. However, there is some frustration amongst the Scarlet Knight fanbase, who just witnessed their team fall to the DePaul Blue Demons Wednesday, 69-64.

The frustration doesn't stem from knocking off two top 10 programs at home this season -- Florida, Dec. 29, and the Georgetown Hoyas, Jan. 21 -- but from everyone who can see the potential of the players who're just not ready to reach it.

So far, freshman guards Eli Carter (13.4 ppg) and Myles Mack (10.3 ppg) have proved second-year head coach Mike Rice can recruit and is getting good players to come to Piscataway, NJ. However, there's just not enough talent inside for the Knights to be a strong Big East contender.

Rutgers could make a splash in the Big East Tournament and earn their way into the NIT. Will that be good enough for the Scarlet Knight fanbase? It should.

St. John's Red Storm -- 9-11, 3-6 Big East

After losing 10 seniors to graduation, including senior point guard Dwight Hardy, the Red Storm entered the season with minimal expectations. However, there was a lot of excitement regarding the Jonnies incoming freshmen class, which helped get St. John's Class of 2011-12 ranked third overall in the nation.

Even before the season started, however, there was bad news: In April, head coach Steve Lavin announced that he had to undergo treatment for prostate cancer, which led to the 47-year-old having surgery in October. Lavin returned briefly to the sidelines but regretted the decision quickly and since hasn't returned as assistant coach Mike Dunlap has taken over as coach.

Then, amidst Lavin's uncertain future, those highly touted recruits began to decommit and starting point guard Nurideen Lindsey decided to transfer in early December.

On the court, the Johnnies have played like a young squad -- just the other night St. John's started five freshmen -- but has shown that there could be a possible bright future.

Currently, freshman guard Moe Harkless is leading the team in scoring (16.0 ppg) and rebounding (8.6 rpg), while teammate D'Angelo Harrison, also a freshman, is netting 15.5 ppg.

JUCO transfer God'sgift Achiuwa has also been a solid presence for St. John's, which Wednesday dominated West Virginia, 78-62. Meanwhile, second-semester addition, freshman forward Amir Garrett, is slowly starting to fit into the mix.

The Johnnies could be a few years away from actually being a threat in the Big East, but they will eventually get there.

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