Approximately one-third of the 2012 Big East season in the books, and very, very little has been made clear about this league. Syracuse is clearly the cream of the crop, that much we know for sure. Or at least we think we know it at this point. (I, for one, never rule out the possibility of an inexplicable Syracuse tailspin.) But beyond that no one can make heads of tails of where each team stands. There is a technical term for this particular set of circumstances, and I believe it rhymes with "bluster puck".
Things are so convoluted, that no one can even agree as to who is the second best team in the league. So today we are going to take a minute, to sift through the wreckage of the early part of the Big East season and see if we can't determine who should be the team to hold the title of "Second Best Team in the League."
Conventional wisdom would say that Connecticut is the first runner up to 'Cuse at this stage of the game. The Huskies are the defending national champs, ranked #16 in the nation, and are one of a host of BE teams currently sitting with just 2 losses. But after going 0 for New Jersey, with losses at both Seton Hall and Rutgers, we are reluctant to hand that mantle over to UConn just yet.
We are fairly certain that there are a few teams that cannot be considered here:
- Pitt for being 0-5 in conference and losing at home to Wagner, despite being picked to finish 4th in the league and having the preseason player of the year.
- DePaul, because they're DePaul.
- Rutgers. Even though the Scarlet Knights took down the defending national champs and Pittsburgh (which seems less surprising now than it did at the time), we're just not ready to live in a world where Rutgers is the second best team in any league, let alone the Big East.
- Villanova. Seriously, WTF 'Nova? The Wildcats have just one win in conference and that win came against DePaul, which doesn't even count because everyone beats DePaul (Except apparently Pitt this year).
Everyone else is in the running. So who makes the best case?
Providence... Wait a minute how did Providence make it out of the "automatically disqualified" section? Clearly this is a clerical error. Providence and their one league win are not eligible for consideration.
Louisville had a fine non-conference season, but it kind of had the feel that it was a "smoke and mirrors" show. In the conference things have started to get sideways a little bit. An early loss to Georgetown wasn't a red flag, but that double overtime loss to Notre Dame where they only scored 65 points(!) certainly was. The dumptrucking they then received at the hands of the aforementioned Friars was less of a red flag and more of an air-raid siren. It looks like the injuries and inconsistencies are starting to catch up with Slick Rick and Co. They're out.
What about Notre Dame? They have 3 wins in conference, over Pitt, Louisville, and South Florida. You would have never guessed it two weeks ago, but that South Florida win might be the most impressive of the three.
Does that mean USF is legit? Maybe... not so much. The Bulls are 3-2 in the league, with their 3 wins coming against Rutgers, Villanova and Seton Hall. The Seton Hall win looks semi-impressive. But it'll be a frosty day in Hades before we tap a team with losses to Southern Miss and Auburn as the second best team in this league. This ain't Conference USA... yet.
Some would argue Seton Hall's loss to South Florida, lends credence to the notion that South Florida is a contender. I say it merely confirms my belief that Seton Hall is a fraud. The Pirates seem to have gotten lost last week, and somehow wound up in the AP Top 25. Their wins over UConn and West Virginia are solid. But their other two wins, over DePaul and Providence, along with the USF loss, do little to impress.
West Virginia might have a gripe here. They also have 4 conference wins already. One of those wins came over Georgetown. However, two of the other three came against Rutgers. We're going to need to see a little more from the Mountaineers before we can move them up the board.
Georgetown doesn't want to be part of any discussion about playing second fiddle to Syracuse. But whether they like it or not, that' s where things sit right now. Ranked #11 in the country, Georgetown has the appearance of a legit contender sometimes. They handled business against Louisville, Providence and St. John's, and made a spirited comeback to escape YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles. But then, just when you think their ready to fight for the title, they go get handled by West Virginia and lose to Cincinnati at home. And somehow, they lose these games despite shooting 50% and 59% from the field. Explain that.
Speaking of Marquette, the good folks at Anonymous Eagle would love nothing more than to point at the Golden Eagles' near misses on the road against Georgetown AND Syracuse, and say that this was evidence that the league's second best squad resided right here in Old Milwaukee. But we know that it's going to take more than a couple of close losses, and wins against the likes of Pitt, Nova and St. John's to seriously get into this discussion. Had one of those 2 losses gone the other way, this post would have an ENTIRELY different slant.
Wait, St. John's is still in the discussion here? Let's take care of that right now. While the Red Storm might have a lot of young talent, they do not appear to be ready for prime time yet. The Johnnies have just 2 wins in conference so far this season - one against Providence, the other against... wait a minute...
Cincinnati? When you look at the standings, they say that the Bearcats are the second best team in the league. They have the second best record at 4-1. But a closer look reveals a marshmallow soft non-conference slate (No. 328 non-conf. SOS), and 3 wins against teams that we've already determined are not all that great. Add in a befuddling home loss to St. John's, and Cincy doesn't look so tough anymore. If they want to prove they're the second best team in the league, then they'll have to win their next game against...
Connecticut - the second best team in the league. Despite their bump in the road against the Jersey schools, UConn has taken care of business in the Big East this season. They're the only team who has beaten 3 teams with winning records in conference already, are ranked #16 in the polls, and they're still the defending champs. So on those, most flimsy of terms, we're calling this one for UConn.
So there you have it folks. For your amusement we have broken up the bar brawl that is the Big East conference and determined that UConn has the upper hand at the moment. But fear not, at any moment your team might be the one sneaking up behind the Huskies with a pool cue and taking them down a peg or two. And if this season has taught us anything, it's that none of us have any idea what's going to happen next. Stay tuned.