We are now halfway through the last season of the Big East as we have come to know it. Let’s take a look at each team and the expectations we had and the work done by each team. Grades are the traditional A through F and only competition against conference teams are used to influence the grade given.
SYRACUSE (6-2) The Orange started the season with 6 wins in a row. Thencame the losses at Villanova and at Pitt. The Pitt loss does not bring the grade down and is balanced by the fine win over Louisville. A win over Cincinnati is not enough to make up for the loss to Nova. Seeing that both losses have come away from the Dome the effect is minimal. The backcourt has performed well and C.J. Fair’s rebounding along with Carter-Williams’ assist record are a plus. The bottom line is that when we look at the schedule we saw SU to have only one possible loss at this point. GRADE – B+
LOUISVILLE (6-3) Four wins in a row to start kept the conference favorite in the ‘A” category. Losses at home to Syracuse, and on the road at Villanova and Georgetown gave the cards a disappointing 3 game losing streak. The Cards have righted the ship with good wins at home over Pitt and Marquette. Still one of the favorites to win the crown, Louisville is riding the scoring of Russ Smith, rebounding of Gorgui Dieng and steady point guard Peyton Siva to what they hope is a 1 seed at MSG. GRADE – B-
NOTRE DAME (6-3) Two losses at home to UConn and Georgetown along with a road loss at St. John’s have really brought the Irish grade crashing down. Why Jack Cooley sat and watched the debacle with the Red Storm is still a mystery. He is the best hope of ND and was in the running for Player of the Year. The win at Cincinnati is the only one that can be considered a strong one. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Irish in the 2nd half. GRADE – C-
CINCINNATI (6-3) Picked along with ND as a top four finisher, the Bearcats lost two of their first three games to Notre Dame and St. John’s. The only loss since then has come at Syracuse by two points. Cincy is playing well right now behind the efforts of Kilpatrick and Wright. Quality wins over Pitt and Marquette and a manageable 2nd half schedule put the Bearcats in a fairly good position. GRADE – C+
GEORGETOWN (6-3) The Hoyas are bunched in with ND, Cincy, and Louisville a half game below the leaders. A hard team to figure out. Losses to Pitt and at Marquette are understandable, but a loss at USF ? Quality wins at Notre Dame and a home victory over Louisville can make up for the bad loss. A bigger loss is that of Greg Whittington. Can Otto Porter lead the Hoyas in a tough 2nd half which features 2 games with Syracuse and single games against Marquette and Cincinnati? That is the question. GRADE – C+
PITT (6-4) The resurgence of Pittsburgh is imminent. Only a bad loss to Rutgers is a blemish on the schedule. The other three losses are to ranked teams…. Marquette, Cincinnati and Louisville. Wins over UConn, Villanova and Syracuse boost the grade here. The emergence of Zanna along with the steady play of Woodall seem to have Dixon’s team headed in the right direction. Games at Cincinnati and at Marquette will be true tests to see if the Panthers can stay in the top four. GRADE – B
MARQUETTE (6-2) We did not seeMarquette at the top of the standings at the midpoint of the season. Early wins over UConn, Georgetown and Pitt opened our eyes. Both losses were on the road to teams ranked in the top 25, Cincinnati and Louisville. Vander Blue and Davante Gardner have pushed the Eagles to new heights. The remaining schedule looks manageble with a rematch against Pitt and an encounter against Syracuse the biggest challenges. GRADE – B+
USF (1-8) Can’t think of a bigger disappointment this year than USF. The only win was an upset over Georgetown. Losses to Rutgers and Seton Hall illustrate the depths that the Bulls have fallen into. Anthony Collins is the lone bright spot and that is for his assist average. If the current trend continues, the Bulls might end up with 3 or 4 league wins. GRADE – D-
UConn (5-3) All things considered the Huskies have done a fine job. No tourneys to look forward to and mass defections after last year did not bode well for this season. The backcourt has carried UConn to a winning record seeing that there is no help down low on the boards. Napier and Boatright are bona fide stars. Losses to Marquette and Louisville were to be expected. And the loss to Pitt turns out to be not so bad. The schedule coming up has Cincinnati twice and Syracuse. A big win over Notre Dame could be their best of the season. GRADE – B
ST. JOHN’S (6-4) Wins over Cincinnati and Notre Dame have highlighted a good first half. Two of the losses were to Georgetown, along with losses to Rutgers and Villanova. As it turns out, only the Rutgers loss brings the grade down. D’Angelo Harrison and Jakaar Sampson have been outstanding. A tough 3 game stretch against UConn, at Syracuse and at Louisville will show us how far the Red Storm have come back. GRADE – B-
RUTGERS (3-6) Only an opening game win over Pitt has kept the Scarlet Knights above the failing mark. The schedule does get a bit softer in the second half and we expect Rutgers to better their record. A split with St. John’s is understandable, and a win against USF helps. But if one looks at the losses, they have been against top competetion. Eli Carter has been the leader but at times has seen a lot of bench time. GRADE – D+
VILLANOVA (4-5) What a week Villanova had in defeating the top two teams. But losses at ND and home to Providence have sunk the Cats back to the bottom half of the standings. Pinkston, Hilliard and Yarou have to bear down and be more consistent to raise the stock of this team. Even though Nova gets high marks for the Louisville and Syracuse wins, the two losses to Providence show that Jay Wright still has a long way to go. GRADE – C-
DePAUL (1-7) With two quality players like Young and Melvin, this team should be better than 1-7. The win at Providence was nice but to be honest they have had anumber of ugly losses. Don’t see much improvement in the 2nd half of the season. GRADE – D
PROVIDENCE (3-7) Picked to occupy the basement the Friars have shown they have some moxie. They have beaten Villanova twice and won at Seton Hall. Cotton, Batts,Council and Henton have given PC fans someting to build on. They do have USF, Rutgers and Seton Hall in the 2nd half which could lift them out of the cellar. GRADE – C+
So that’s the league as we see it now. Should be interesting to see who makes the honor roll at the end.