2011-2012 Big East Basketball Power Rankings (1/20/12)

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Unbeaten Syracuse maintains their hold on the top spot in my latest Big East Basketball Power Rankings.  As has been the case early in this season, the pecking order after the Orange remains up for grabs as we have our fourth #2 team in the past four weeks.  Be sure to check back every Friday for my latest rankings.

1. Syracuse: 20-0 overall, 7-0 in Big East (Last Week Ranking: 1)
The Orange’s path to perfection continues to roll along.  The ‘Cuse has a pair of tough road games this week including what could be a first place showdown at Cincinnati.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Syracuse gets tripped up in one of those games, but they should win both.  In case you missed it, check out C.J. Fair’s dunk against Pitt.

Up Next: at Notre Dame (Sat), at Cincinnati (Mon)

2. Cincinnati: 15-4, 5-1 (LWR: 8)
I don’t think any team plays to the level of their competition like Cincy.  The Bearcats picked up gritty wins at Georgetown and UConn, and have now remarkably won seven straight conference road games, but narrowly escaped with wins against Villanova and Pitt.  Consider this though; had they not given up a tipped in putback at the buzzer in a loss to St. John’s, the Bearcats would be 6-0 in the Big East.  Their stretch this week will tell us just how seriously we should take Mick Cronin’s team.

Up Next: at West Virginia (Sat), vs. Syracuse (Mon)

3. Georgetown: 15-3, 5-2 (LWR: 4)
After back-to-back hiccups, the Hoyas responded with a pair of road wins at St. John’s and DePaul.  Besides Syracuse’s Dion Waiters, is there a more valuable sixth man in the conference than Otto Porter?  He leads Georgetown in rebounding and his length as served as a huge asset in their 2-3 zone.

Up Next: vs. Rutgers (Sat)

4. Marquette: 14-4, 4-2 (LWR: 5)
The past couple of weeks, the Golden Eagles are simply incapable of getting off to quick starts.  They got into a 14-5 hole versus Pitt but rallied to win and trailed Louisville 18-2 before out-scoring the Cardinals 72-45 the final 34 minutes.  They’ve won three in a row and the streak could stretch to seven by the end of the month as they close out Januray with a fairly soft schedule .

Up Next: at Providence (Sat), vs. South Florida (Tues)

5. West Virginia: 14-5, 4-2 (LWR: 6)
A 16-point win at in-state rival Marshall should not be overlooked as the Thundering Herd are in the midst of a NCAA Tournament-caliber season.  Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant continue to carry the Mountaineers.  They combine to average 38.5 points per game which makes them the second highest scoring tandem in college basketball behind Weber State’s Damien Lillard and Scott Bamforth (41.3 ppg.)

Up Next: vs. Cincinnati (Sat), at St. John’s (Wed)

6. UConn: 14-4, 4-3 (LWR: 3)
Who knew the Huskies would miss Ryan Boatright as much as they do?  Boatright has once again been suspended as the NCAA is again looking into his eligibility regarding  activities that took place back in his AAU days.  With Boatright out of the line-up, UConn relies too heavily on Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb especially when Andre Drummond is a non-factor like he was in the loss to Cincy.

Up Next: at Tennessee (Sat)

7. Seton Hall: 15-4, 4-3 (LWR: 2)
I must have been drunk last week when I put the Pirates second in my power rankings.  The Hall has come back to reality a little bit after road losses at South Florida and Villanova.  Their big three of Jordan Theodore, Herb Pope, and Fuquan Edwin were a combined 11-41 from the field against ‘Nova.  Kevin Willard just does not have the scoring depth to win when their big three is struggling like that.

Up Next: vs. Notre Dame (Wed)

8. Louisville: 14-5, 2-4 (LWR: 7)
The Cardinals need to get Kyle Kuric healthy because besides the Smith’s, (Russ and Chris) Louisville can’t shoot the basketball.  The injury bug continues to bite Rick Pitino’s team with Rakeem Buckles suffering a torn knee ligament that will cost him the remainder of this season and likely all of the 2012-13 season as well.

Up Next: at Pitt (Sat), vs. Villanova (Mon)

9. Notre Dame: 11-8, 3-3 (LWR: 9)
After dropping two straight, the Irish really need to go on a run here if they have any shot of making the tourney especially since their best non-conference win came against Detroit.  Ish.  Unfortunately for Mike Brey’s squad, they face a tough five-game stretch that could already burst their bubble.

Up Next: vs. Syracuse (Sat), at Seton Hall (Wed)

10. South Florida: 11-8, 4-2 (LWR: 12)
From the “Fire Stan Heath” bandwagon to the “Stan Heath: Coach of the Year” bandwagon? Not quite.  USF is off to a surprising start in conference play thanks to their defense as they have only allowed more than sixty points in one of their six Big East games.  Quite frankly, they need that type of defensive effort since they are 307th in the nation averaging slightly over 61 points per game.

Up Next: at DePaul (Sun), at Marquette (Tues)

11. Rutgers: 11-8, 3-3 (LWR: 10)
The Scarlet Knights remain a Jekyll and Hyde team; they can beat anybody on any given night as witnessed by their wins against Florida and UConn, and blowout of Pitt.  However, they have also been blown out twice by West Virginia.  I suppose those are the type of issues Mike Rice must deal with in having such a young team, especially young guards.

Up Next: at Georgetown (Sat), vs. DePaul (Mon)

12. Villanova: 9-10, 2-5 (LWR: 13)
Maalik Wayns is trying to single-handedly will Nova during their struggles.  He dropped 39 in a loss to Cincy and scored 25 in the Wildcats’ victory against Seton Hall.  Villanova shot 41 free throws in that win against the Hall and needs more of that since they have struggled shooting the ball from deep this season.

Up Next: at St. John’s (Sat), at Louisville (Wed)

13. St. John’s 8-10, 2-5 (LWR: 11)
Since exploding for 91 points in their Big East opener against Providence, the Red Storm has had issues scoring the basketball, specifically from downtown.  The Johnnies are 6-39 from three during their current three-game skid and rank dead last in Division One college hoops, hitting just 24.3% of their three-point attempts.

Up Next: vs. Villanova (Sat), vs. West Virginia (Wed)

14. DePaul: 10-8, 1-5 (LWR: 14)
After an at-the-time shocking win against Pitt, the Blue Demons have morphed back into the DePaul team we are used to seeing as they have dropped four straight.  Defense remains an Achilles heel for Oliver Purnell’s club.  It was also announced this week that junior forward Tony Freeland who is out for the season with a shoulder injury, has decided to transfer out of the program.

Up Next: vs. South Florida (Sat), at Rutgers (Wed)

15. Providence: 12-7, 1-5 (LWR: 15)
Starting point guard Vincent Council who is second in the Big East in assists was suspended for the Syracuse game due to an “accountability issue” but will be back in the line-up against Marquette this weekend.  The Friars turned the ball over 22 times against ‘Cuse so getting Council back gives them that much needed floor general.

Up Next: vs. Marquette (Sat), at Pitt (Wed)

16. Pittsburgh: 11-8, 0-6 (LWR: 16)
Taking the glass half-full approach with the struggling Panthers; at least they were competitive and showed some heart in single-digit losses at Marquette and Syracuse the past week.  Pitt transfer Khem Birch had some intriguing things to say about his former team during a radio interview this past week, pretty much claiming that there were too many selfish Panther players who were more concerned about individual stats than team success.

Up Next: vs. Louisville (Sat), vs. Providence (Wed)

PAST BIG EAST POWER RANKINGS:
WEEK 3 (1/13/12)
WEEK 2 (1/6/12)
WEEK 1 (12/30/11)

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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