The Big East Conference men's basketball regular-season play is almost two weeks old and already the 16 teams in the league are doing what they always do -- kill each other. It's been an interesting week, so let's look as some of the biggest Big East stories so far.
Syracuse Orange: 'Cuse Currently Only Elite Team In League
Right before league play began, Big East followers thought four teams -- Syracuse, the Marquette Golden Eagles, Louisville Cardinals and Connecticut Huskies -- were among the nation's elite teams and national championship contenders.
Thirteen days later, a lot has changed as the Orange (17-0, 4-0) remain the only unbeaten school and have knocked off both No. 24 Seton Hall and No. 25 Marquette.
Not only that, but Syracuse leads the league in making opposing Big East head coaches use the words "ass" and "beat" in the same sentence during a post-game conference (twice -- Seton Hall's Kevin Willard and Marquette's Buzz Williams).
However, if you need statisically proof, here you go:
"The Syracuse Orange have been obviously dominant, and no other team is close," wrote Rumble In The Garden's 'Pico Dulce, who posts a cool weekly-efficiency column, which I am still having a hard time understanding.
Meanwhile, Sean Keeley of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician may be a homer when it comes to the Orange, however, he uses facts to support the argument about SU's recent greatness.
According to Real Time RPI, Syracuse is not only No. 1 but their schedule is No. 1 in the S.O.S. rankings. Four of the five top SOS rankings are Big East schools.
Now, is it possible that by the time the Big East Tournament rolls around in March that Syracuse falls a bit, while other teams -- mainly, Louisville and UConn -- figure out their issues? Of course, but for right now there's a clear No. 1 squad in this league and the nation -- the Orange.
Who's No. 2 In The Big East?
Seton Hall? Georgetown? UConn? Louisville? West Virginia? The Notre Dame Fighting Irish? The Cincinnati Bearcats? One could make a case for each school being the conference's No. 2 squad because, well, just look ...
On Monday night, UConn knocked off West Virginia, 64-57, while Cincinnati defeated Georgetown, 68-64, to hand the Hoyas their second straight loss. Those results make the Big East standings look like this:
Big East Conference Standings
(updated 1.10.2012 at 2:41 AM EST)
|Seton Hall Pirates||3||1||14||2|
|Notre Dame Fighting Irish||2||1||10||6|
|South Florida Bulls||2||1||9||7|
|West Virginia Mountaineers||3||2||12||5|
|St. John's Red Storm||2||2||8||7|
|Marquette Golden Eagles||1||2||12||4|
|DePaul Blue Demons||1||2||10||5|
|Rutgers Scarlet Knights||1||2||9||7|
So, if you notice the two Big East teams that were in the top 10 in the AP Poll's preseason rankings-- UConn (No. 4), Louisville (9) -- in less than two weeks have two conference losses . (Huh?)
Meanwhile, Georgetown had a solid non-conference, began league play 3-0, which allowed them to sneak into the top 10 last week, but has now lost to West Virginia and Cincinnati in back-to-back games. (What?)
And, let's not forget about Marquette, which cracked the top 10 but then decided to lose four of its last six games. (We know the Golden Eagles aren't that bad.)
What does this all mean? Basically, all of the teams -- besides Syracuse -- that experts/fans thought were good are now either: not that good or are just struggling in a deep conference. Fact is, there are no nights off in this conference and if a squad is struggling or not playing a complete game, then it will lose, especially on the road.
It could also mean that the Big East is having a down year but I am not willing to buy into that theory just yet, as Seton Hall is much better than expected; the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who knocked off UConn at the RAC, St. John's Red Storm (Cincinnati) and DePaul Blue Demons (Pittsburgh) each have enough talent to win at home; while one has to think that Ashton Gibbs and Jamie Dixon will figure things out by the end of the year -- I am not comparing Gibbs to Kemba Walker, but last year we all saw what a very good player and a very good coach can do.
My conclusion? I believe, right now UConn is the No. 2 program in a league that may not have a bunch of elite teams, but has a lot of very solid ones.
UConn's Lack Of Leadership
Sandwiched between the Huskies 67-60 loss to Rutgers Saturday and Monday's victory against West Virginia came this story from David Borges of the New Haven Register, who got sophomore guard Shabazz Napier to talk into a recording device about UConn's lack of leadership.
"I hate losing games as much as anybody in the world," said Napier after Saturday's loss. "I try my best to be a leader, even though guys don’t give me a chance to be that person. It shows in the game, I can’t lie. When we have a tipped ball and big guys get the ball and I’m yelling for the ball back out, we’ve got a new shot clock and they go back up … that shows I’m not that much of a leader. When a play starts breaking down and I’m yelling, ‘Bring it out, bring it out,’ and Boat or Jeremy takes a shot, that just shows that I’m not a leader. It sucks, because we lose games like that."
Now, with quotes like that it's hard to not dive into Napier's words and dissect them. However, those words might have done something, as the Huskies ended a two-game losing streak with a victory against West Virginia Monday night.
Napier failed to tally a point but registered eight assists in the win.
- No love for WVU's Kevin Jones?: The senior forward leads the league in scoring (19.9 points per game) and rebounds (11.9 per game), but seems to be not getting a lot of love nationally. Why is that?
- Jordan Theodore: After Seton Hall was manhandled by Syracuse, Dec. 28, the senior point guard has played exceptionally well averaging 17.0 ppg., a conference-best 9.3 assists per game and 3.7 steals per game.
- Peter Dill: The Seton Hall walk-on was highlighted on SportCenter for his awesome bench celebrations.
Awesome Seton Hall Bench Reactions (via ESPN)
- Rutgers upsets UConn: Huge win for head coach Mike Rice and the Scarlet Knights, who knock off their second top 10 opponent in as many seasons.
Rutgers Upsets UConn, 67-60 (via ESPN)