The Most Glaring Flaw of Every Big East Basketball Team
Not all teams are created equal. That holds true in every corner of the Big East Conference.
Georgetown has bullied opponents defensively, but can the Hoyas maximize their offensive potential? Louisville is jam-packed with talent but has yet to put together a stretch worthy of meeting heightened preseason expectations.
From the conference's elite to its downtrodden, no team is without flaw. Small or large, any deficiency could potentially loom large when it matters most.
Let's take a team-by-team look at flaws that could derail each Big East member.
Syracuse: Lack of Interior Enforcer
You can say a lot about the shortcomings of former Syracuse big man Fab Melo (and people have), but he provided Syracuse with an intimidating presence in the paint. The seven-footer averaged three blocks per contest and routinely altered shots last season before bolting for the NBA.
This version of the Orange doesn't exactly measure up. Syracuse sophomore Rakeem Christmas makes the most of his 6'9" frame and challenges inside, but he is hardly the kind of player who makes guards think twice about penetrating.
Collectively, Syracuse does a fine job of defending, but they could still use an enforcer patrolling the paint.
Few teams can match the Orange's depth, but an opposing post player could potentially do a lot of damage against Syracuse.
Marquette: Issues from Beyond the Arc
The Golden Eagles have done a lot of things right so far this season. However, connecting from long distance has been a significant shortcoming. The team ranks last in the Big East when it comes to knocking down shots from beyond the three-point arc.
Marquette is the only team in the conference shooting less than 30 percent from three-point territory. Clearly the Golden Eagles aren't reliant on outside shooting, which is actually a good sign.
What worries you about Marquette is whether it can dig itself out of a sizable hole late during the late stages of a game. Without any semblance of three-point consistency, that's a tough issue to tackle.
Georgetown: Not Enough Second-Chance Points
It's a good thing Georgetown is so stout on defense because this team doesn't do itself many favors on offense. Only Connecticut averages fewer offensive rebounds per game than the Hoyas.
One-and-done possessions can kill title dreams, while nothing lifts a team like a string of second-chance points. Those opportunities have been limited for Georgetown.
If that trend continues, it could really hurt against a stalwart defensive team like Syracuse or Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh: No Elite Scorer in the Mix
Pittsburgh ranks among the Big East's elite in just about every meaningful category (scoring defense, assist-to-turnover ratio, rebounding percentage, etc.). The Panthers are refreshingly unselfish and play as a complete unit.
But what happens on a night when things break down and someone must shoulder the scoring load?
Tray Woodall leads Pittsburgh in scoring (10.9 per game) but has never been the kind of player ready to take things over for a long duration. Lamar Patterson has tallied 10 or more points in three of the last five games, but he's best utilized as a complementary piece.
As assembled, the Panthers are capable of making a run to the Sweet 16. If a confident scorer can emerge between now and March, it would make Pittsburgh a much stronger candidate to go further.
Notre Dame: Fast Break on Hold
Notre Dame is a tremendously balanced team that can knock down shots from the outside and work it down low to a frontcourt featuring National Player of the Year candidate Jack Cooley. The Fighting Irish are an above-average defensive team as well, rising to the occasion during gut-check moments this season.
But a key ingredient is missing at Notre Dame . This group struggles to create points off turnovers on a consistent basis, an ability that annually serves as the calling card of title contenders.
The Fighting Irish are well behind every Big East team in steals (5.3 per game). Conference rivals Louisville and Syracuse average nearly double that number per contest and it feeds into their dangerous transition games.
Notre Dame is better suited for a half-court set, but it risks becoming too one dimensional if fast-break opportunities are so hard to come by.
Louisville: Inconsistency Holding Team Back
The defending conference champions were tabbed as the unanimous choice for top spot in the preseason Big East Coaches' Poll. A 14-1 start and temporary No. 1 national ranking seemed to justify the lofty expectations, but the Cardinals have stumbled in 2013.
Louisville is just 3-4 since Jan. 14 and hasn't looked the part of a powerhouse since suffering a home loss against Syracuse. That defeat was followed by consecutive road losses to Villanova and Georgetown.
The Cardinals seemed to regain footing with three straight victories, but were dealt a devastating five-overtime loss at Notre Dame on Saturday night. No one is overlooking Louisville at this point, but the team has a long way to go to regain the complete trust of its fanbase.
Connecticut: Shaky on the Road
Kevin Ollie has steered his Huskies in a positive direction despite a postseason ban. Connecticut would be in an even better position if it could play with more fire away from home.
The Huskies have lost three pivotal conference road games and nearly fell in Providence before overcoming the Friars in overtime. UConn encounters an important road challenge on March 2 at Cincinnati.
Connecticut has taken care of business on its own campus but can make serious strides by elevating its game elsewhere.
St. John's: Coming Up Empty Outside
The upstart Red Storm have been pitiful from the perimeter on offense. St. John's converts an average of less than four three-pointers per game, rankinglast in the Big East.
Aside from sophomore guard D'Angelo Harrison, this team is really lacking sharpshooters. Only two other players have even attempted more than 10 three-pointers this season.
Cincinnati: Can't Connect from the Charity Stripe
Every March we see a quality basketball team meet its doom earlier than expected because of woes at the free-throw line. The Bearcats are in danger of becoming that program this season.
Cincinnati converts just 66 percent of its free-throw attempts, which ranks 14th among 15 conference teams. Guard JaQuon Parker, the team's third-leading scorer, has proved to be a major liability at the line.
The senior is connecting on just 57 percent of his freebies. Big East tournament games go down to the wire and mounting missed free-throw opportunities tend to come back and bite you.
Villanova: Ball Security Woes
The Wildcats lack an elite court general and ball distributor at the guard position. The result is a team filled with fine shooters that continues to get itself into trouble with careless ball management and wasted possessions.
Villanova ranks 14th in assists among conference members and own the worst turnover-to-assist ratio in the Big East. That's a recipe for disaster come tourney time, when steady guard play is paramount.
Winning in the Big East is already difficult enough with quality ball distribution. An up-and-down Villanova team tends to come up small in that department.
Providence: No Home-Court Advantage Here
The Friars have faded to the lower tier of the conference pack recently. Providence could be sitting in a more desirable position if it could simply protect home-court advantage.
Coach Ed Cooley's team is just 2-4 at the Dunkin' Donuts Center this season. That record also reflects an embarrassing 10-point loss to visiting DePaul, which still stands as the Blue Demons' only conference win this winter.
Providence hosts Notre Dame, St. John's and Seton Hall before the regular season concludes. Winning two out of three matchups would help the Friars improve its footing in the Big East postseason tournament.
Rutgers: Can't Finish
The Scarlet Knights spent early portions of the season looking like an improved program. But a 9-2 start is fading fast in the rear-view mirror, and it's become clear that Rutgers has little closing ability.
Head coach Mike Rice has seen his team fade down the stretch of recent games. Rutgers had Louisville on the ropes last week and actually led in the second half before losing control of the contest (the Cardinals won by 20).
Prior to that game, the Scarlet Knights led Cincinnati 30-22 at halftime on the road. The Bearcats bullied Rutgers 40-22 in the second half.
It's a trend that has some wondering if it's time for a new coaching philosophy in Piscataway.
Seton Hall: Too Many Turnovers
The Pirates have been the conference's most erratic team offensively. Seton Hall averages a conference-worst 16 turnovers per game.
Eugene Teague, the team's top post player, coughs the ball up three times per contest. It's a horrible trait for the Pirates, who already struggle to find offensive firepower.
Seton Hall is its own worst enemy at times.
DePaul: Conference No-Shows
The Blue Demons are 5-41 in three seasons under the guidance of Oliver Purnell. That's simply unacceptable for a program once considered a perennial contender.
DePaul has suffered eight straight Big East defeats since beating Providence on Jan. 5. Half of those losses have come courtesy of 11-point margins or greater.
South Florida: Points Are Hard to Come by These Days
Stan Heath's South Florida program is lacking production throughout its roster. The Bulls are the only Big East team to average fewer than 64 points per game (USF averages 59.7 through 23 contests).
USF's shooting from the floor is nothing short of atrocious. The Bulls are hitting just 39 percent of shots this season, a startling statistic that provides some perspective to a supremely disappointing season for USF.