By: David Kay
With Big East play tipping off Saturday as West Virginia visits Seton Hall, it is time for the inaugural edition of The Sports Bank’s Big East Power Rankings. While the conference is lacking the firepower from a year ago, it should still be a very interesting and competitive conference season. Be sure to check back every Tueday for updated rankings.
1. Syracuse (12-0)
With the exception of Kansas, I have not seen a more talented team this season than ‘Cuse. They have size (Jackson and Onuaku), athletes on the wing (Johnson and Joseph), a deadly shooter (Rautins), and a pair of point guards who have admirably filled in for Jonny Flynn (Triche and Jardine.) But have they peaked too early in the season? I say no.
Up Next: at Seton Hall (Tues), vs. Pitt (Jan 2nd)
2. West Virginia (9-0)
Despite starting off the season at 9-0, the Mountaineers seem to be flying under the radar on the national scene. They play a pair of Big East games before a potential showdown of unbeatens New Year’s Day at Purdue.
3. Villanova (11-1)
Considering what they did in the non-conference portion without expected starters Reggie Redding (suspended) and Mouphtaou Yarou (illness), you have to be impressed. Redding is back and if Yarou gets healthy, ‘Nova is 10-11 deep and a Final Four contender.
Up Next: at Marquette (Jan 2nd)
4. UConn (8-2)
Their only losses have come at the hands of Duke and Kentucky. Newly-eligible freshman Ater Majok could be the x-factor for the Huskies if he can acclimate himself which he has yet to do in his first two games.
Up Next: at Cincinnati (Wed.), vs. Notre Dame (Jan 2nd)
5. Georgetown (9-1)
Last season, the Hoyas got off to a 9-1 start before fizzling in conference play where they finished with a 7-11 record. This year, 9-1 in non-conference play heading into the Big East part of their schedule. Can JT3 avoid a second straight meltdown? Only if Greg Monroe continues to assert himself on the offensive end.
Up Next: vs. St. John’s (Thurs), at DePaul (Jan 3rd)
6. Seton Hall (9-1)
The Pirates were my sleeper heading into the season and they are proving why. Their only hiccup came against a talented Temple team and they get tested right off the bat with home games against the top two teams in the conference.
Up Next: vs. West Virginia (Sat), vs. Syracuse (Tues)
7. Notre Dame (11-2)
The Irish only go seven deep so that will be a major factor in Big East play. The recipe in stopping Notre Dame is simple; slow down Luke Harangody and your chances of picking up a ‘W’ are strong.
Up Next: vs. Providence (Wed), at UConn (Jan 2nd)
8. Louisville (8-3)
Back-to-back home losses to Charlotte and Western Carolina are still perplexing even though the Cardinals were without a couple injured players. The Cards better not look past their South Florida match-up this week with a monster in-state rivalry game looming on January 2nd at Kentucky.
Up Next: vs. South Florida (Wed)
9. Cincinnati (8-3)
After a great run at the Maui Invite, the Bearcats suffered two straight road losses at Xavier and UAB. They lack discipline at times offensively, but really pester you with their athleticism on defense. It just depends on which team shows up on which night.
Up Next: vs. UConn (Wed), at Rutgers (Jan 2nd)
10. St. John’s (10-2)
D.J. Kennedy might be the most underrated player in the conference. Non-conference wins against Siena, Temple, and Georgia prove that the Johnnies won’t be a pushover in the Big East this season.
Up Next: at Georgetown (Thurs), vs. Providence (Jan 3rd)
11. Pitt (10-2)
They lack a key marquee non-conference win which still makes this team a bit of an unknown considering they lost by ten to Indiana. Getting Gilbert Brown back from suspension should be a huge spark at the start of conference play.
Up Next: vs. DePaul (Mon), at Syracuse (Jan 2nd)
12. Marquette (8-3)
Due to two season-ending injuries and a transfer, the Golden Eagles are down to nine scholarship players. A brutal start to the season with a trip to West Virginia, two games against Villanova, and a home contest against Georgetown will be an early indicator as to whether or not this team has any chance of making the Big Dance.
Up Next: at West Virginia (Tues), vs. Villanova (Jan 2nd)
13. South Florida (10-2)
The Bulls haven’t really been tested yet and have been without starting center Augustus Gilchrist (18.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg) for the last four games due to an ankle injury. Add in the transfer of freshman guard Jordan Dumars and the uncertain status of Ohio State transfer Anthony Crater who has failed two drug tests, and this team is a major question mark.
Up Next: at Louisville (Wed)
14. Rutgers (9-2)
Their record is deceiving since they have only beaten up on below average talent small conference teams. Add in the season-ending injury (detached retina… ouch!) to starting center Gregory Echenique and it could be another long season for the Scarlet Knights.
Up Next: vs. Cincinnati (Jan 2nd)
15. Providence (8-4)
The Friars have put a ton of points on the board behind redshirt sophomore Jamine Peterson (17.8 ppg, 10.9 rpg) but have yet to beat any team worth while. They are likely in for a rough time in Big East play.
Up Next: at Notre Dame (Wed), at St. John’s (Jan 3rd)
16. DePaul (7-5)
I know Mac Koshwal has only played in four games but losing at home to American and at Florida Gulf Coast with Mac in the line-up is embarrassing. They should still win at least one conference game this season; something they failed to do a year ago.
Up Next: at Pitt (Mon), vs. Georgetown (Jan 3rd)Follow paulmbanks