Big East Power Rankings: Valentines Day Edition

Steve PopowskiCorrespondent IFebruary 14, 2009

The Best

1. UConn Huskies (11-1)

Reasons to like

Right now, UConn is a cut above the rest of the Big East field. UConn has won 12 straight since a lost to Georgetown in the first game of Big East play. They have allowed more than 61 points only three times in Big East play and lead the league in that category, giving up 60.8 PPG this season. They have the best frontcourt in the league, with Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet leading the team to first in rebounds and blocks. You would think that rebounds are a function of missed shots, but UConn leads the league in FG percentage as well.

Reasons to be concerned

UConn faces a tough schedule to close out conference play, having to play two games against Pitt and once at Marquette. They could also be without guard Jerome Dyson for the remainder of the season, which would be a tremendous blow to this team's chemistry. Guards Kemba Walker and Craig Austrie will need to step up big time to beat both Pitt and Marquette at their respective homes.


Kemba Walker, and how he does replacing Jerome Dyson's 13.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 3.2 APG. Walker has shown flashes of potential, putting up 21 points against St. Johns, but he is still a freshman and will likely platoon with senior Craig Austrie.

Predicted Finish: 15-3


2. Pittsburgh Panthers (9-2)

Reasons to like

Pittsburgh has two losses in Big East play, and neither was a giveaway. Losing at both Louisville and Villanova is nothing to sulk about. They have the best threesome in the league, with LeVance Fields at the point and the Sam Young/DeJuan Blair tandem at forward. They have each carved their own niche, with Fields dishing the assists (7.4 APG, first in Big East), Young scoring (17.9 PPG, eighth in Big East) and Blair rebounding (12.6 RPG, second in Big East). As a team, they have the best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.53/1), which is one of the keys to having a winning team.

Reasons to be concerned

They have a very tough schedule down the stretch, having to play two games with UConn, the last one most likely determining the winner of the Big East. They also play a tough Marquette team once at home and once away at Providence, where many teams have had problems.


Jermaine Dixon. The Big Three will constantly put up numbers, but behind them, there is some room for concern. Dixon has the ability to put up a lot of points, as shown by the 19 he put up at Louisville, and can hit the three (9-13 from three-point range in last four games). Pitt needs him to spread defenses and allow more room for Blair and Young to operate in the middle.

Predicted Finish: 14-4


3. Louisville Cardinals (9-2)

Reasons to like

Louisville boasts one of the most balanced team in the Big East, with no player averaging over 14 points per game, yet the team averaging a modest 72.3 points per game. Louisville does not win by beating the other team in a shootout. Defense is the name of their game, playing coach Rick Pitino's full court press and pulling off a league leading 8.7 steals per game. They have the most underrated, all-around player in Terrence Williams, who is averaging 12.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 2.2 steals per game. Despite being blown out by Notre Dame, they have only one loss (against UConn) in Big East play. They only have one tough game down the stretch, at home against Marquette, and should enter the Big East tourney on a high note.

Reasons to be concerned 

Louisville lacks a dominant guard. Currently, they have four players platooning the two guard positions—Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles and Andre McGee. Sosa leads this group with 7.3 points and 2.6 assists per game, but has been silent the last three games, failing to score more than five points or five assists in any of them. Guard Jerry Smith can be explosive at times, but is very inconsistent, as seen by his zero points against UConn, which was sandwiched between two 20+ point efforts against West Virginia and St. Johns, followed by a six-point effort against Notre Dame. Along with the inconsistencies of Jerry Smith, Terrence Williams has been struggling as of late, partly due to an injury to his wrist. However, following a 26-point effort against UConn, Williams is 2-16 shooting in games against St. Johns and Notre Dame.


Terrence Williams, one of the best all-around players in the league, needs to start hitting his shots and take the leadership role of this team. If he continues to play the way he has, teams like Cincinnati, West Virginia, or Providence may steal a win.

Predicted Finish: 13-5


4. Marquette Golden Eagles (9-2)

Reasons to Like

Boasting the best quartet in the league in guards Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, Dominic James, and forward Lazar Hayward, the Golden Eagles jumped out to a 9-0 start in Big East play before dropping the last two to South Florida on a buzzer beater and at Villanova. The Golden Eagles are the highest-scoring team in the league, averaging 80.4 points per game, and have three players earning over 15 points per game. Guard Jerel McNeal, reigning defensive player of the year, has improved almost every aspect of his game and is third in the league in scoring, fifth in steals, and second in three point percentage. Wesley Matthews may be the most improved player in the league, scoring 18.8 points per game and leading the league in free throw attempts while shooting roughly 83 percent.

Reasons to be Concerned

The loss at South Florida was a tough one to swallow, but getting blown out at Villanova was maddening. For how much Marquette is touted for its defensive guard play, McNeal and James let guards Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher put up 47 of the teams points. They have two more games against teams they should beat—St. Johns tonight and Seton Hall next Saturday. Following that, the Golden Eagles have an extremely tough stretch, having to play at Pittsburgh, Louisville, Georgetown, and at home against UConn and Syracuse. If the Golden Eagles can shake off their recent tough shooting, they have enough potency to make a run.


Dominic James, who needs to stop chucking up three point shots. He has a .286 3P percentage, and has thrown up 106 threes on the year. He needs to start driving and dishing rather than shooting.

Predicted Finish: 13-5


The Second Tier Teams


5. Villanova Wildcats (8-4)

After being scorching hot, beating Pitt, Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Providence, the Wildcats threw up a clunker at West Virginia. On paper, they have an easy schedule down the stretch, having to play only one team in my top eight—Syracuse. As a team that lives and dies on its shooting though, unless they get more from players up front not named Dante Cunningham, the Wildcats will be a second tier team.

Predicted Finish: 12-6


6. Cincinnati Bearcats (7-5)

Cincinnati has been hot as of late, winning five of their last six and seven of their last nine. Most of those wins were against Big East bottom feeders though, and their worthiness will be tested down the stretch against the likes of Pittsburgh, Louisville, West Virginia, and Syracuse.

Predicted Finish: 10-8


7. West Virginia Mountaineers (6-6)

West Virginia has been up and down lately, but picked up a huge win by beating a hot Villanova team. They have an easy schedule down the stretch, with only one tough game against Louisville to end the season. They have one of the best players in the league in Da'Sean Butler and one of the best three point shooters in Alex Ruoff. When these two are on, the team is unstoppable.

Predicted Finish: 10-8


8. Syracuse Orange (6-6)

Personally, I think that the Orange are the most overrated team in the Big East. They started off strong but they have dropped six of their last eight. How are they still ranked? Down the stretch, they have games against Villanova, Cincinnati, and at Marquette, all of which I don't see them winning.

Predicted Finish: 9-9


The Third Tier Teams


9. Providence Friars (7-5)

Providence has struggled as of late, losing three of their last four, and have an extremely tough schedule down the stretch. They have yet to beat a top team, and play at Louisville, at Villanova, and at home against Pitt to close out the season.

Predicted Finish: 9-9


10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-7)

Has the tide turned following a blowout to No. 8 Louisville? Maybe. It will depend on whether Tory Jackson, Ryan Ayers, Luke Zeller, or Zach Hillesland decide to show up to games. Notre Dame has the potential to finish the season strong, facing only UConn in my top four down the stretch. Beating Villanova and March 2 is a must for them, both in the standings and psychologically.

Predicted Finish: 8-10


11. Georgetown Hoyas (4-7)

Along with Notre Dame, the Hoyas are one of the more disappointing teams in the league. It doesn't help that they have a tough schedule down the stretch, still having to play Marquette, Louisville, and Villanova.

Predicted Finish: 8-10


12. Seton Hall Pirates (5-6)

Give them this—they have beaten the teams they were supposed to beat. They have also won five in a row, but have a very tough schedule down the stretch, having to play UConn, Marquette, Pittsburgh, and Louisville. I don't see them winning any of those games.

Predicted Finish: 7-11


The Bottom Feeders


13. South Florida Bulls (3-8)

After showing signs of life by beating Marquette on a last second shot, they threw up a clunker at home against Providence. They only have one more game against a top tier team—UConn. However, they may steal a win against the likes of ND, GU, WV, or UC. But that would be asking a lot.

Predicted Finish: 4-14


14. St. Johns Red Storm (3-9)

Will probably jump ahead of South Florida if they can beat DePaul.

Predicted Finish: 4-14


15. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-10)

Might win one more against the likes of South Florida.

Predicted Finish: 2-16


16. DePaul Blue Demons (0-12)

They can't go 0-16. I feel very sorry for DePaul fans because this team is terrible.

They have a tough schedule down the stretch. I'm hoping they beat St. Johns on the 28th of February.

Predicted Finish: 1-15