It’s been a pretty quiet week on the Big East home front this week. The West Virginia vs. Seton Hall showdown proved to be a classic, but the Pirates once again fell short for their second loss on the season. None of the other games this week proved to be much of a contest for the Big East teams as they finished up the non-conference schedule this week.
Up ahead is the first week of conference play where the cream will once again rise to the top, and we’ll get a better look at just how good some of these teams really are.
1.) Syracuse (12-0)
Syracuse will take on a Seton Hall team already in the midst of a two-game losing streak. The Pirates gave WVU all it could handle at home this week as SHU will also get the 'Cuse at home Tuesday. Even with the Pirates tough play, I expect their losing streak to continue as the Orange do their part to extend it to three games.
2.) West Virginia (10-0)
The Mountaineers escaped again this week with their overtime win over Seton Hall to start conference play. They also managed to beat the No. 15 Mississippi Rebels 76-66 earlier in the week. Their next game matches them up against a tough Marquette team that will show the same intensity that Seton Hall did this weekend.
3.) Villanova (11-1)
Villanova drilled Delaware this week as to be expected on its way to finishing its non-conference schedule. The Wildcats have a few days off before taking on a Marquette team that will have already gone through West Virginia in a tough early conference gauntlet.
4.) Connecticut (9-2)
The Huskies finished non-conference play with a win over Iona and will travel to Cincinnati for their conference opener. Stanly Robinson and Jerome Dyson are a nice one-two punch for Connecticut and will prove difficult to overcome as the season progresses.
5.) Georgetown (9-1)
The Hoyas have one of the easiest opening conference schedules with games against St. Johns, DePaul, and a Marquette team that will have been knocked around for the first two weeks of the season. This favorable schedule should have them undefeated in conference play when they take on the Huskies on January 9.
6.) St. Johns (10-2)
The Red storm will have a tough opener against Georgetown but then face an easier opponent in Providence. I’m very interested to see how St. Johns does in the first five games of conference play as it’s a grab bag of good team, bad teams, and mediocre teams. These first five games can help define how good this team really is.
7.) Pittsburgh (10-2)
The Panthers get DePaul for the conference opener but then get tested with Syracuse, Cincinnati, and Connecticut for the next three games. This team has shown it’s got talent with players like Aston Gibbs, but will that be enough to overcome the conference elite?
8.) Seton Hall (9-2)
The Pirates played an exciting overtime game with the Mountaineers but once again came up short. They’ve now dropped two in a row and will face the top team in the conference, Syracuse, for the conference opener. If Seton hall wants to be respected in the Big East it’s got to take the step from keeping it close and losing, to pulling out wins against the big boys in conference play.
9.) Notre Dame (11-2)
The Irish get to open with Providence, one of the Big East basement dwellers. After that it’s no picnic as Connecticut hosts Notre Dame this Saturday. This is the first test for the Irish this year, and it will be a good time to see just how good this team is with its 11-2 record against inferior competition.
10.) South Florida (10-2)
The Bulls need to beat Louisville in their conference opener this week as the schedule gets progressively worse for them. Notre Dame, Syracuse, and West Virginia form an early season buzz saw that may chop USF’s postseason dreams quickly.
11.) Cincinnati (8-3)
The Bearcats won’t get an easy first win once conference play opens. The Huskies travel to Cincinnati where the Bearcats already have three losses on the season and don’t need to start conference play with one. After the opener the schedule lessens and should allow for the Bearcats to build some momentum through January.
12.) Louisville (8-3)
The Cardinals host a scrappy USF team for their conference opener and potential trap game. Coach Pitino had better be focused on beating the Bulls rather than the upcoming match up with No. 3 Kentucky.
13.) Marquette (8-3)
The Golden Eagles got the brunt of the conference schedule right in the beginning of conference play. They play four ranked teams in a row starting with West Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown, and Villanova again for the first four conference games. Even a split would be looked at as a success for a Marquette team that already has three losses on the season.
14.) Rutgers (9-2)
The Scarlet Knights finish non-conference play with a road trip to No. 10 North Carolina this week. They open conference play with Cincinnati and then at West Virginia. Rutgers has an uphill climb for the rest of the season and will need to steal a few win against teams like these in order to gain a NCAA Tournament or NIT invitation.
15.) Providence (8-4)
The Friars open conference play at Notre Dame and then onto St. Johns, neither will be easy wins and mostly likely conference losses. They have a decent opening schedule and don’t have to play a ranked opponent until January 27 when they play the Huskies. Jamine Peterson has been the lone bright spot for Providence averaging a double-double so far this season.
16.) DePaul (7-5)
The Blue Demons don’t have easy conference games; they are the easy conference game. I fully expect them to start conference play 0-3 as they take on Pittsburgh, Georgetown, and Villanova. They may steal a game from Providence or maybe Rutgers, but this team will underwater quickly come mid–January.