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Big East Basketball Notebook: St. John's, Rutgers Prove Standings Wrong

Sometimes the standings and college basketball polls do not tell the whole truth. This past week in the Big East proved that.

Big East Conference Standings

The latest rankings, announced on Monday, Nov. 22, had three Big East programs in the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls Top 10 (No. 5 Pittsburgh, No. 7 Villanova and No. 9/10 Syracuse). 

On Wednesday, the Wildcats lost its first game to 24th-ranked Tennessee, 78-68, in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

"It sucks to lose this early, but Tennessee is no slouch," wrote The Nova Blog on Friday.  "Honestly, it probably doesn't matter who the opponent is if Fish and Wayns are going to play as poorly as they did.  It happens sometimes, and with a week to rest, I expect the Cats to get on a roll heading into the New Year."

Despite being 6-0, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim isn't happy with his team's early performance. Only in Saturday night's 80-76 win over Georgia Tech was Boeheim content.

"We need to have balanced scoring," Boeheim said in his post-game press conference after five Orange players reached double figures on Saturday. "We don’t have a guy that’s going to go out there and score 30. We need to have balance every night, and we got it tonight."

However, if you take a gander at some of the teams who aren't ranked in the Big East, there's some squads that are impressing experts early on.

In three straight days at the EA Sports Maui Invitation in Maui, HI., Connecticut beat Wichita State, No. 2 Michigan State, 70-67, and No. 9 Kentucky, 84-67, to earn the tournament title.

"Those teams were all highly-touted (so was Washington by the way, who hung tight with both MSU and UK), and UConn either matched them or, in Kentucky's case, obliterated them," blogged Andrew Porter of The UConn Blog on Friday. "If you want to dial back expectations for UConn, you better be ready to pull those four teams down to UConn's level, because the Huskies proved they belong."

The Huskies have been led by guard Kemba Walker, who has averaged 30 points per game in five starts, and should easily find its way into the Top 25 rankings by Monday.

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2010 - Kemba Walker 5 34.0 9.8 18.6 52.7 2.6 6.4 40.6 7.8 8.8 88.6 1.6 2.6 4.2 3.6 2.0 2.2 0.0 1.2 30.0

Tied with UConn with six wins is Notre Dame, which as of Saturday lead the conference in points per game (91.6).

Early Sunday morning, St. John's captured the Great Alaska Shootout crown by defeating Arizona State, 67-59.

"St. John's blew halftime leads in seven of its 16 losses last season," wrote's Kieran Darcy in his Rapid Reaction on Sunday. "On Saturday night, St. John's trailed 30-20 at intermission, but outscored Arizona State 47-28 in the second half. The Red Storm shot just 7-for-27 (25.9 percent) in the first 20 minutes, but shot 16-for-25 (64 percent) on the other side of the break. The full-court pressure defense was key, forcing 16 Sun Devils turnovers."

The Red Storm defeated Ball State and Drake to advance to the championship game in Anchorage.

In the three games, senior forward Justin Brownlee averaged 17.6 points and 1.6 blocks per game to earn the tournament's most outstanding player.

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2010 - Justin Brownlee 5 23.8 5.2 8.4 61.9 0.8 1.8 44.4 2.6 4.0 65.0 2.2 2.0 4.2 0.6 0.8 0.6 1.4 2.6 13.8

Last Sunday, Rutgers, picked to finish 15th out of 16 teams by the league's head coaches, defeated the University of Miami, 61-45, in a defensive struggle.

The Canes were thought to be way too athletic for a team that has only nine scholarship players.

"Rutgers looked great yesterday," wrote Dave White of the blog On The Banks on Monday. "They hustled, the dove, they moved the ball, and they played with heart.  Everything they did was something the coach had preached.  And in the end, the Knights played smart and ran away with the game in the second half." 

Two nights later, the Scarlet Knights beat down visiting Norfolk State, 83-59, to grab its first three-game wining streak in which they beat opponents by 15 or more points since December 2005.

 Rutgers faltered against Saint Joseph's on Friday, 76-70, but has played well under first-year head coach Mike Rice.

"This is the new Rutgers," said Rice after the victory over Miami. "We're going to do this night in and night out."

Quick Notes:

  • Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine and forward Rick Jackson have leads in three Big East statistical categories. In six games, Jardine is dishing out 7.0 assists and collecting 2.0 steals while Jackson has snagged 13.0 rebounds.
  • In five games, Rutgers sophomore forward Austin Johnson is leading the league in field-goal percentage (.680).
SB Nation New York Key Games:
  • On Tuesday, SU hosts Ivy League rival Cornell at 7 p.m. on the Big East Network. The Big Red (2-4) lost Saturday to Boston University, 66-61, and are on a three-game losing streak under first-year head coach Bill Courtney. Last year, under Steve Donahue, the Upstate New York team made it all the way to the Sweet 16. Donahue is now coaching at Boston College (3-2).
  • Also on Tuesday, No. 11/12 Missouri hosts No. 16 Georgetown at 9 p.m. on ESPNU. As of Saturday, the Hoyas lead the Big East in team field-goal percentage (.493).
  • St. John's and Rutgers each play home games Wednesday night. Rutgers plays N.J.I.T at 7:30 p.m. and the Red Storm host Wagner at 8 p.m.
  • Weekend action features, SU hosting NC State, Saturday, at 5:15 p.m on ESPN2.