Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Big East Breakdown – Eight Big East Teams in Mock Bracket; Five Storylines; Weekly Honors; Power Rankings
With all the focus on the impending breakup of the Big East Conference, the actual performance of the teams on the court this season may have become overshadowed.
Yes, the Big East will lose Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC after this season.
And yes, as many as nine more teams will leave in 2014 when Louisville and Notre Dame also head to the ACC and the Catholic 7 break out on their own.
But in this, the last season of the real Big East, the league appears to be doing just fine.
When reporters recently gathered in Indianapolis for a mock NCAA Tournament selection, they picked eight Big East teams to make the Big Dance, with Villanova on the bubble for a potential ninth spot.
By comparison, the reporters selected seven Big Ten teams for the mock bracket, including two No. 1 seeds in Indiana (the No. 1 overall seed) and Michigan and a No. 2 in Michigan State.
As far as Big East teams, Syracuse and Louisville were the highest positioned teams with No. 3 seeds.
Georgetown was given a 4 seed, Marquette and Pitt were 5’s, Cincinnati a 7, Notre Dame an 8 and St. John’s a 10.
Historically, any Big East team with at least 10 league wins tends to make the Big Dance.
As of Monday morning, Syracuse, Georgetown and Marquette are tied atop the league at 9-3. Louisville is half a game out at 9-4.
Notre Dame and Pittsburgh are both 8-5, while Cincinnati, Villanova and St. John’s are all 7-6, with five league games to play. (UConn is 7-5 and not NCAA Tournament eligible.).
***FIVE STORYLINES1. St. John’s coach Steve Lavin returns this week after missing two games because of the death of his father, Albert “Cap” Lavin at 82. Steve will be on the sidelines for Wednesday’s game against USF at Carnesecca Arena. St. John’s has three of its final five games at home — USF, Pittsburgh and Marquette, with road games against Providence and Notre Dame. Assistant Rico Hines coached the Johnnies in losses at Syracuse and Louisville during Lavin’s absence.
2. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told SNY.tv after Saturday’s win over Seton Hall that he thinks the Big East will be loaded next year even without Syracuse and Pitt and with the additions of Memphis and Temple. So loaded that he cracked a smile and said it might not be a bad thing for the Orange to get out to the ACC. “Maybe be good I’m not [coming back],” Boeheim said. “Maybe be a good thing I’m not.”
3. Providence has won four straight, including Saturday’s 71-54 win over then-No. 21 Notre Dame in which junior Kadeem Batts went for 14 points and Friars guard Vincent Council passed Ernie DiGregorio (1969-73) as the school’s career assists leader (671). Coach Ed Cooley choked up a bit during his post-game interview on SNY and credited his players with fighting through early season injury struggles and persevering. The Friars (14-11, 6-7 Big East) have coincidentally won those four straight since New York native Sidiki Johnson took a personal and indefinite leave from the team. The Friars trip to Syracuse on Wednesday.
4. Marquette extended its home winning streak to 23 games with its 79-69 win against Pittsburgh Saturday. Only two of Marquette’s remaining six games are at home — against Syracuse and Notre Dame.
5. Rutgers and Seton Hall are a combined 6-20 in the Big East and to add to their misery, both lost key players for the season this weekend. Rutgers guard Eli Carter is done for the season with a leg injury suffered in Saturday’s loss at DePaul, while Seton Hall forward Brandon Mobley will have season-ending shoulder surgery. “We hope it’s only eight weeks,” Pirates coach Kevin Willard said of Mobley’s recovery time from surgery, according to ESPNNewYork.com. “Get him back by June, and he can have a full summer and rehab and get stronger and work on his game.” Willard also had said junior wing Brian Oliver sat out the Syracuse game with a “self-proclaimed” injury. “It’s one of those amazing injuries that when a game appears, it kind of goes away and feels really good, and when practice appears it really hurts,” Willard said of Oliver’s injury. “We do have the New England Journal of Medicine coming to study him, because they wanna know how that’s possible. It’s quite amazing.”
***WEEKLY HONORSBIG EAST Player of the WeekOTTO PORTER, Georgetown, F, So.
Porter was the team leader in a pair of victories that put the Hoyas in a first-place tie in the BIG EAST standings. He started the week with 21 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in a 63-55 win over No. 18/20 Marquette and followed that with 16 points and seven boards in a 63-55 triumph at Cincinnati. He was 7-of-7 from the foul line. For the week, Porter averaged 18.5 points and 7.0 rebounds.
BIG EAST Rookie of the WeekOMAR CALHOUN, Connecticut, G, Fr.
Calhoun wins BIG EAST rookie honors for the second time this season after averaging 15.5 ppg in a 1-1 week. He posted team highs of 15 points and six rebounds in a 66-58 win against No. 6/7 Syracuse. Calhoun recorded 16 points and a team-high six rebounds in a 70-61 loss to Villanova.
For the season, Calhoun is averaging 11.5 ppg.
BIG EAST Honor RollJAQUON PARKER, Cincinnati, G, Sr.
Averaged 17.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in a 1-1 week. Scored 19 points in a win over Villanova.
RUSS SMITH, Louisville, G, Jr.
Averaged 19.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals in a 2-0 week. Made 19-of-21 free throws.
KADEEM BATTS, Providence, F, Jr.
Averaged 22.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in a 2-0 week. Posted 24 points and six boards in a victory at USF.
MYLES MACK, Rutgers, G, So.
Scored a career-high 28 points in a victory at DePaul and averaged 19.0 points in a 1-1 week.
BRANDON TRICHE, Syracuse, G, Sr.
Scored a career-high 29 points in a win at Seton Hall. Averaged 19.0 points, 4.5 boards and 4.0 assists in a 1-1 week.
1. Syracuse (21-4, 9-3)
2. Georgetown (19-4, 9-3)
3. Louisville (21-5, 9-4)
4. Marquette (18-6, 9-3)
5. Pittsburgh (20-6, 8-6)
6. Notre Dame (20-6, 8-5)
7. UConn (17-7, 7-5)
8. Cincinnati (19-7, 7-6)
9. Villanova (16-10, 7-6)
10. St. John’s (15-10, 7-6)
11. Providence (14-11, 6-7)
12. Rutgers (13-11, 4-9)
13. DePaul (11-14, 2-10)
14. Seton Hall (13-13, 2-11)
15. USF (10-15, 1-12)
PREVIOUS BIG EAST BREAKDOWNS
Week 1: Click here
Week 2: Click here
Week 3: Click here
Week 4: Click here
Week 5: Click here
Week 6: Click here
Photo: Big East
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.