So this has been an interesting week. The top of the Big East is clear. It’s the rest that’s hard to figure out.
In a week’s worth of horrific losses or surprising wins (depending on your rooting interest), the middle is muddled, and there’s really only one question worth asking: Are the crazy scores the result of competition or mediocrity?
To be determined.
1. Louisville: The Cards can win when Russ Smith is ordinary and Chane Behanan is on the bench. Why? Defense. That’s what helped lift Louisville past Seton Hall. The Cardinals are home against South Florida and at UConn this week. The second could be a little dicey, especially if Behanan is still out.
2. Syracuse: The Orange can win ugly. We know that now. In back-to-back games, Syracuse couldn’t shoot -- first against South Florida and then against Providence -- but won anyway. A little more troublesome is how easily the Friars picked apart the Orange’s zone.
3. Notre Dame: The Irish are the perfect antidote for bereft football fans. They’ve won 12 in a row, and this week they showed they can play fast (scoring 93 against Seton Hall) and slow (just 66 in a win against Cincinnati) depending on what they need. It’s the beauty of a veteran team, which will host Connecticut and travel to St. John’s this week.
4. Marquette: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and most wouldn’t have beheld much from the Golden Eagles’ 49-48 win against Georgetown. But to Buzz Williams, it’s art. Marquette has quietly won four in a row.
5. Connecticut: Here’s where the muddied waters start. The Huskies had a nice, if not unexpected, win against DePaul. But at least they won, which is more than some of their brethren can say. Things get a little trickier this week with a visit to Notre Dame followed by a home game against Louisville.
6. Cincinnati: The Bearcats are making it hard to keep them in the top half of the standings, having lost three of their past four. The way to beat Cincinnati seems to be obvious -- slow the guards down. In the two league losses to St. John’s and Notre Dame, the Bearcats scored 52 and 60.
7. Villanova: The Wildcats probably don’t belong this high, but they have done what others have not -- won their first two league games, albeit against St. John’s and South Florida. We’ll see what Villanova is really about this weekend after it travels to Syracuse.
8. Pittsburgh: Yet another mystery team. The Panthers followed up an ugly loss to Rutgers with a dismantling of Georgetown. That makes no sense. Perhaps this weekend’s game against Marquette will offer some clarity.
9. Rutgers: Maybe Mike Rice’s suspension settled things down for the Scarlet Knights? I’m still not sold on this team, but you have to give the Scarlet Knights their due, as they beat Pittsburgh and St. John’s to improve to 2-1 in the league. We’ll see what happens against Cincinnati on Saturday.
10. Georgetown: The Princeton offense, with its possession control, has been known to slow offenses down. This, however, is the first time it’s actually ground a team to a halt. The Hoyas scored 48 and 45 in their past two games, torturing fans and baffling coach John Thompson III. The only reason Georgetown isn’t further down in these rankings is talent; there’s so much of it, you have to think things will get better.
11. St. John’s: The Red Storm are young, which is about the only way to explain how they can win at Cincinnati one night and lose a home game to Rutgers four days later. We’ll have to see which team shows up against Georgetown. The one thing you can count on this season -- D'Angelo Harrison. He’s been outstanding.
12. Seton Hall: Reality bites. The Pirates built themselves up a pretty snazzy record, 12-2, after beating DePaul in the Big East opener. Along come Notre Dame and Louisville and, well, here we are -- one 19-point loss and one 15-point loss.
13. DePaul: The Blue Demons just can’t get it done. They beat the bottom part of the league (winning against Providence) and get shellacked by the top (losing by 21 to Connecticut). They’ll get a desperate Cincinnati team Tuesday.
14. Providence: The Friars showed some life in their loss to Syracuse, holding a three-point lead at the half. Is it enough to grow on? We’ll see. Providence has the talent to win games in this league. Amid a five-game losing streak, they need to believe that.
15. South Florida: Its defensive prowess is impressive, but at some point you have to score points to win basketball games, and USF simply cannot. It ranks 260th in scoring, averaging a paltry 63.9 points per game.