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Big East Basketball Notebook 1.19.12: Cincinnati Makes A Statement; Top 25's Folly, Rutgers' Unsung Hero

The Cincinnati Bearcats made a statement Wednesday night and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights have an unsung hero. That and more in this week's edition of Jared Smith's Big East Basketball Notebook.

It was less than a week ago, I claimed that the No. 11-ranked Connecticut Huskies were the second-best team in the Big East Conference. On Wednesday night, that all changed as the Cincinnati Bearcats earned a very impressive, 70-67, road victory in Storrs, CT.

So, without further delay, lets look at the Bearcats (15-4, 5-1 Big East) and the other stories surrounding Big East men's basketball. (Looking for the Big East basketball standings? Scroll down.)

Cincinnati Makes A Statement

Do I regret my post about UConn (14-4, 4-3), not Cincinnati, being the second-best team in the league thus far? No way. If anybody watched the way the Huskies played against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-8, 3-3) last Saturday you would have probably thought the same way -- unless you were a Bearcats fan.

In fact, the SB Nation Big East Power Rankings, posted before Wednesday night's games, had the No. 1 Syracuse Orange atop the list, then UConn. So, I wasn't alone in my feelings about the Huskies.

I also felt that the Bearcats were a much, much better team than people were giving them credit for, as I asked how Cincy wasn't ranked in the latest college basketball rankings Monday and slotted them as the No. 4 team in the league Sunday, while the Power Rankings had them at No. 6.

With that said, Cincy is and has been a very dangerous team since their brawl with cross-city rival the Xavier Musketeers, Dec. 10.

"Keeping track of the relevant streaks that is 7 straight road wins in the Big East," wrote Matt Opper of the SB Nation blog Down The Drive after the victory. "Three straight wins over ranked teams and 10 wins in the last 11 outings since the Brawl. I don't think I am exaggerating by saying that there are very few teams that are hotter than the Bearcats right now."

The Bearcats recent success, which I expect to continue throughout the season, is a product of tough, physical play from their guards (currently Yancy Gates, 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward, is their "go-to" center) and hot 3-point shooting -- since their brawl with Xavier, Cincy was averaging 10.3 long-ball per game and used 11 of them to down UConn (four of them from sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick with the last coming with 2.6 seconds to go).

Cincinnati made 7 of 14 from behind the 3-point arc in the first half Wednesday to take an advantage that was as large as 12 points. However, the Huskies are good and put together a 15-2 run to close the gap and create a solid ending. (Here's the video highlights.)

Kilpatrick's Late 3-Pointer Drops Connecticut (via ESPN)

So, is Cincinnati the Big East's No. 2 team? Yes.

However, the Bearcats' hot shooting will not continue forever, especially if they play a team that can contest shots (something UConn didn't do a good job of Wednesday). So please, don't be shocked if my tune changes come Sunday.

Seton Hall Basketball: Is It Time For Pirates Fans To Push The Panic Button?

West Virginia Mountaineers, Cincinnati Not Ranked?

On Monday, I was shocked -- though I shouldn't be considering how the votes have been cast this season -- that the Louisville Cardinals (14-5, 2-4), who have lost five of their last seven games, including a shellacking versus the Providence Friars last week, were slotted as the No. 23-best team in the country by the AP Poll, while the Mountaineers (14-5, 4-2) and the Bearcats were not.

Three of the five West Virginia losses came against No. 2 Baylor Bears, No. 11 UConn and former No. 24-ranked Seton Hall. All three of those games came on the road and were close games -- against the Pirates, West Virginia trailed by just six points with about seven minutes to go before going scoreless for the remainder of the time.

Meanwhile, the Mountaineers are led by seemingly the best 1-2 combo in the league -- senior forward Kevin Jones, who's tops in scoring (20.1 points per game) and rebounding (11.6 per game), and senior guard Darryl Bryant, who's tops in scoring during league games averaging 20.8 ppg.

This resume and roster talent is a lot more impressive than Louisville's. I guess my point is, Cincy should be in regardless of where the Cardinals are, but there's no way that Louisville is a better team than West Virginia right now.

If you need a case for Cincinnati? Scroll up.

Other Quick Mentions

C.J. Fair's top spot on SportCenter's Top Plays: By now, Big East basketball fans are aware of Syracuse's first 20-0 start in program history, as the Orange (20-0, 7-0) handed the Pitsburgh Panthers their seventh straight loss, 71-63, Monday.

Many Orange milestones were reach Monday, but possibly the biggest story post-Pitt was the dunk by sophomore forward C.J. Fair that made the top spot on SportCenters' Top Plays Tuesday morning. If you missed it, here it is:

CJ Fair nasty dunk and the foul (via cusecountry)

Student manger helps Rutgers basketball down Notre Dame: On Monday night, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (11-8, 3-3) earned their third solid home victory, as they downed the visiting Fighting Irish, 65-58, at the RAC.

Now, a lot of the credit for the victory is going to freshman guard Eli Carter, who netted a team-best 13 points, and the Knights' balance attack that featured five players netting nine or more points. However, it seems that a lot of the credit is being given to student manger, Dave Fedor.

"Mike Rice said after the game that he repeated something to his team at halftime when the Scarlet Knights were up eight on the Irish," wrote Brendan Pruty of the Star-Ledger Tuesday. "Before the game, Dave Fedor — one of the senior student managers — told Rice that in his four years with the Rutgers program, he had never seen the team on the left side of the Big East standings board that hangs in the locker room. Being on the left side signifies that you're among the top eight teams in the league and Rice used the words of the Steinert High School grad as fuel to keep them hungry for the second half."

I feel a Disney movie script being written someplace.

Finally, here's the current Big East basketball standings:

Big East Conference Standings

(updated 1.19.2012 at 2:20 AM EST)

For more on the Big East, check out the SB Nation blog Big East Coast Bias. Would you like to comment? E-mail:; Or Twitter: JaredSmithCNY or SBNationNY.