Yesterday while doing the radio show with DD on TribLive, I talked about some of the teams on a roll and some that are fading. I decided to do a Who’s Hot, Who’s Not article here today.
WHO’S HOT ?
Syracuse – Even though the Orange suffered their first loss at ND last weekend, the are still a hot team, rebounding with a win at Cincinnati two days after the crushing defeat. The depth of SU is evident and they are cruising along and anxiously awaiting the return of Fab Melo this Saturday for their game at St. John’s. The Orange still look like the class of the league but shoould not be too comfortable with Marquette creeping closer with a 7 game win streak of their own. Upcoming games with Georgetown and at Louisville should determine how hot Syracuse really is.
Marquette – The Golden Eagles are on a 7 game win streak and are only one game behind the league leaders. A nice mix of guards like Johnson-Odom and big guys like Jae Crowder have allowed the Eagles to put together a very impressive league record of 8-2. But watch out Marquette…. a visit to ND this weekend might be a trap! Although MU has much more talent than the Irish, so did Syracuse who ran into Purcell Pavillion and limped out. The rest of their upcoming schedule looks very manageable until the last 3 games at WVU, at Cincy and a visit to Georgetown ending the regular season.
Notre Dame – We still can’t figure out how the Irish are doing it.MikeBrey has taken a team without their best player and pieced together a very successful and surprising run. Three in a row including knocking off the undefeated #1 ranked Orange, and visits to reeling Seton Hall and UConn. The patient slow-down pace and outstanding boardwork of Jack Cooley have put ND into the NCAA tourney talk. The next two games against Marquette and at WVU will go far to show if the Irish are contenders or pretenders.
USF – Winning 6 out of their last 8 has propelled the Bulls into third place in the standings. Stan Heath has preached defense and the young Bulls are listening. Only two opponents have reached 70 points against USF this year and they have outrebounded 8 straight opponents. Freshman point guard Anthony Collins has been steady in leading USF to the left side of the standings.Two upcoming games against the renewed Pitt Panthers and a visit to Georgetown await the defense-minded Bulls.
Louisville – After a tough stretch the Cards have come alive to win 3 in a row. Although none of the wins have come against teams with winning records in the Big East, Kyle Kuric and the Smith boys are putting UL in position to challenge the leaders. A visit to West Virginia and hosting Syracuse will be a show of the Cardinals determination to achieve their preseason predictions.
Pitt – I was one who constantly said that Pitt would turn this around and since the return of Trey Woodall the Panthers have gone ona 3 game winstreak. Impressive wins at Georgetown and West Virginia have highlighted the resurgence of the team. Woodall has been finding players in the right position to score and has been finding his scoring touch again. Ashton Gibbs is the player everyone expected and Nasir Robinson has benefitted from the crisp passes down low. Pitt must now try to get to 9-9 which means they must win 6 of the last 8 games and visits to USF and Louisville await.
UConn – This team has hit the skids. Calhoun even benched his captains Oriahki and Napier against Georgtown to try to infuse som life into the team. It worked for a few minutes until Ryan Boatright picked up his second foul and then Napier reentered and dribbled away the lead. Losing 4 in a row and struggling to score points, the Huskies still can’t figure out a zone defense as ND and Georgetown have proved recently. If the Huskies don’t figure this out soon they will not be able to defend their title in the NCAA tourney.
Seton Hall – The Pirates were cruising along and then came this 5 game losing streak. They are not scoring points and have forgotten that they have one of the best big men in the league in Herb Pope. Long 3′s create long rebounds and put backs are nowhere to be found. Jordan Theodore has to begin to distribute and forget about hoisting up 25 foot shots. The upcoming schedule is manageable but this weekend’s trip to Storrs should boost one of the teams that is struggling now.
West Virginia – A bad trip to New York eneded in a thrashing at the hands of the Johnnies.Then Syracuse and Pitt joined in the beatdown. WVU has unquestionably the player of the year in Kevin Jones but he can’t do it himself. The Syracuse loss on a bad call seems to have unnerved the Mountaineers but they have to let that go and regroup. They have 2 games vs. ND and a visit from Louisville coming up and WVU has to win these games. Oh, yeah, and they have to travel to Pittsburgh too ! Not easy!
Cincinnati – One should not be surprised at the losses at WVU and to Syracuse. But the Cats were expected to defeat the erratic Rutgers Knights. Losing 3 in a row has interrupted a very good run since the debacle against Xavier. The next five games look winnable with the biggest challenge coming on a trip to Marquette. Sean Kilpatrick has been playing through pain but the rest of the Cincy lineup is ok and they must step up or the season will be lost.
Of course there is a month left in the Big East season and as we all know….. Things change daily in this league!