The No. 4 Pittsburgh Panthers remained the class of the Big East Conference by narrowly defeating the West Virginia Mountaineers (No. 25 in the AP poll), 71-66, in the ESPN's Big Monday match up in Morgantown, WV. The victory in the basketball version of the Backyard Brawl helped Pitt improve its conference record to 10-1 (22-2 overall) and increase its advantage in the league standings to two games.
As the regular season moves along, it is becoming clearer that the Panthers are the best team in the nation's best conference. For five straight weeks, Pittsburgh has been atop the SB Nation Big East Power Rankings, which are released every Monday afternoon by The UConn Blog.
However, after Pitt there is no clear cut No. 2 team. Currently, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish make the best case considering they're the only team in the league to beat Pitt; also are second in the league standings and have the second-best ranking in the latest college basketball polls (No. 8 in the AP poll and No. 7 in the USA Today/ESPN Coahes poll). However, no expert or Big East follower would say the Irish (19-4, 8-3 Big East) would be the favorite in a contest against No. 9 Villanova Wildcats (19-4, 7-3) or No. 10 Georgetown Hoyas (18-5, 7-5).
"This conference is stacked, but with the exception of Pittsburgh at the top it looks more and more like a giant mixing bowl where you can never predict who'll be better on any given night," wrote Andrew Porter of The UConn Blog on Monday.
I couldn't agree more with that statement. Right now, there are two teams -- No. 12/13 Syracuse Orange (20-4, 7-4) and Georgetown -- who suffered losing streaks of three or more games but are still ranked in the Top 15. At one point, Villanova had lost three of four games, which included a loss to the Providence Friars (14-10, 3-8). Just last week, the Connecticut Huskies (18-4, 6-4) lost two straight home games. Actually, No. 16/15 Louisville Cardinals (18-5, 7-3) has the most consistency but they only have one quality win -- a victory at UConn last week -- on their resume. With Monday's loss, WVU (15-8, 6-5) will probably drop out of the Top 25.
Luckily, in one month, the Big East Conference Tournament (March 8-12) will be tipping off its first round of games. At its conclusion, maybe we will know who the top-two teams are. For me it's just too close to call -- which is why I love this league! Who do you think is No. 2?