Over the next few weeks, I will analyze some of the major college basketball conferences and rank the teams in the conference from top to bottom. Tonight, I will provide my power rankings for the Big East.
1. Villanova-The Cats are, as always, loaded at the guard position, and are the deepest at guard in the Big East. Freshmen Maalik Wayns, Dominic Cheek, and Redshirt sophomore Taylor King have helped the Cats to replace seniors Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson, and Shane Clark. Antonio Pena has picked up where Cunningham left off and has become a solid Big East forward. Scottie Reynolds is the leader of the team this year, with experienced guard Corey Fisher handling the majority of the point guard position. Nova is always solid on defense and is an extremely tough team, led by head coach Jay Wright. Villanova has 15-1 and has recently won some physical, hard-nosed, typical Big East regular season games and is 4-0 in conference.
2. Syracuse-The Orange are loaded with talent this year, led by upperclassmen Andy Rautins, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku. Rautins has become one of the best pure shooters, if not the best, in the Big East. Jackson and Onuaku effectively control the inside like few big man duos in the Big East can. In addition, Wesley Johnson and freshman guard Brandon Triche have made some important contributions for the Orange. Syracuse has an impressive 16 point win over North Carolina, who now appears to be somewhat struggling, and the Orange has a 3-1 Big East record.
3. West Virginia- The Moutaineers came into the season with extremely high expectations, and to this point have not disappointed. Led by coach Bob Huggins, the Mountaineers have become one of the most feared teams in the Big East. Da’Sean Butler is an extremely talented forward who has shown the ability at times to score at will against even good defenses. Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks are two other athletic forwards that provide matchup problems for almost any opponent. This trio averages in double figures and are the three major scorers for West Virginia. The Mountaineers are 4-1 in the Big East and 13-2 overall. The one knock against West Virginia is the lack of notable wins to this point, and that the Mountaineers looked poor against Purdue. We will know if WVU deserves the hype it has gotten this weekend, when the Mountaineers will play Syracuse.
4. Georgetown-In typical John Thompson III style, the Hoyas have somewhat crept up upon the top 10 somewhat unimpressively. Georgetown has compiled a 12-2 record, and look to go 13-2 with a win over Seton Hall tonight. Major wins include Temple, Butler, and most recently, Connecticut, in a large comeback at home. Georgetown is led by talented sophomore center Greg Monroe, as well as Julian Vaughn, Chris Wright, and Austin Freeman. The Hoyas do not currently have a senior on the roster. The Hoyas thrive upon the Princeton style, slow offense that is based upon patience and good passing (ie. the back door cut). The only knock on Georgetown is that the Hoyas at times are hard pressed to score consistently, which often results in forcing the Hoyas to play closer games than they should be playing.
5. Pittsburgh- Before the season, the Panthers were picked to finish low in the Big East, and early in the season it looked like Pitt would not be a factor in the very competitive Big East. However, the Panthers rebounded off embarrassing losses to Texas and Indiana to defeat Depaul, then Syracuse, Cincinnati, and Connecticut all on the road to impressively tie Villanova at the top of the Big East standings. Led by guards Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Jermaine Dixon, the Panthers have defied many critics by winning their first four Big East games and compiling a 14-2 under head coach Jamie Dixon.
6. Connecticut- I would like to rank the Huskies higher, but they have simply not played to their potential. Led by talented, very athletic forward Stanley Robinson, among guards Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker, UConn was predicted to be top 3 in the Big East. However, the Huskies have looked disappointing against Duke, Cincinnati, Georgetown (where they blew over a 15 point lead), and Pitt, and is 2-3 in the last 5 games. Connecticut has just not lived up to the hype, but still could lead a late season charge. UConn is 11-5 and 2-3 in the Big East.
7. Louisville- Although the Cardinals started abysmally, including losses to UNLV, Charlotte, and Western Carolina, they have gone 7-2 since with single digit losses to top 5 ranked 1 loss Villanova and undefeated Kentucky on the road. Louisville has played tremendous defense of late, hassling both Villanova and Kentucky into turnovers, even as these teams are led by two of the best guards in the country. Louisville is led by Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith at guard, and Samardo Samuels at forward. However, the Cardinals are led by their defense, instituted by legendary head coach Rick Pitino. The Cardinals have rebounded to post a 12-5 record and are 3-1 in the Big East.
8. Marquette- The Golden Eagles certainly do not have a stellar record, but have played well in Big East play and can be one of the most explosive teams in college basketball at times. The Golden Eagles have lost twice to Villanova and once to West Virginia, each game by only two points, and have beaten 11th ranked Georgetown to post a 1-3 record in the Big East. With a 10-6 record in an extremely difficult schedule to this point, a 10-4 run to close the season is not outlandish, which would almost certainly prime Marquette for an NCAA tournament berth. Led by forwards Jimmy Butler and Lazar Hayward, guards Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks, Maurice Aker, and David Cubillan, the Eagles are very talented offensively and are one of the streakiest teams in the Big East.
9. Notre Dame- Although the record would indicate that this is a low ranking, the 14-3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish simply have not played a strong schedule. The only win worth mentioning was an impressive win over West Virginia; however, the Irish’s next most impressive win was over Providence. In addition, in the few decent games they did schedule, the Irish lost badly to Northwestern and Connecticut, and lost a thriller to…Loyola Marymount. Therefore, the Irish, even with a good record, has not played a strong enough schedule to be ranked high in the Big East.
11. Seton Hall
13. St. John’s
14. South Florida