Big East Peek

Notre Dame's 61-58 win over West Virginia on Tuesday at the Joyce Center changed the Big East standings around a bit. The Irish are now 2-1 in the league and 14-2 overall while the Mountaineers lost their first conference game, dropping to 3-1 and 13-2 overall. With 15 of 16 teams having played three or less contests, there remains just two undefeated teams left. Here's a look:

*Pittsburgh (3-0, 15-2): With West Virginia's loss, the No. 7 Panthers had a chance to assume the top spot and they didn't disappoint. Pittsburgh beat DePaul in Chicago on Wednesday for their fifth straight win to move to 3-0 in the league. The Panthers got 18 points from Aaron Gray. It was his first double digit scoring output in five contests. He led the team in points coming into tonight with 14 PPG and also rebounds at 10 RPG. Pittsburgh is tops in the league in three-point percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio. With that combination, the Panthers should be one of the top teams in the league all season long.

*Providence (2-0, 12-3): The Friars have blasted both of their opponents, beating Marquette 74-59 and Seton Hall 91-69. Both were at home and their next two games, at Louisville and at Seton Hall, will test their ability to win on the road against lesser teams. Providence has four players averaging in double figures, led by 5-10 sophomore Sharaud Curry's 17 PPG. 6-10 senior forward Herbert Hill is averaging 16 PPG and seven RPG while Weyinmi Efejuku chips in 15 PPG. Geoff McDermott leads the Big East in double-doubles with eight as he averages 11 PPG and ten rebounds a contest. The 6-7 sophomore can also dish the ball, leading the league with 5.8 assists per game.

*West Virginia (3-1, 13-2): The Mountaineers couldn't pull off the big road win on Tuesday at Notre Dame but still are in good shape in the conference. No. 21 West Virginia is still first in the league in scoring defense and their ability to shoot the three-pointer should keep them in a lot of games. They have a tough challenge next, going on the road to face a talented Marquette squad. Frank Young shot 4-of-14 in the loss to the Irish but his 14 PPG still leads the Mountaineers.

*Notre Dame (2-1, 14-2): A huge win for the Irish on Tuesday. A loss would have been two in a row and put them two and a half games behind West Virginia. But leading scorer Russell Carter's high flying six dunks and 19 points and some clutch defensive plays at the end prevented that from happening. Junior forward Rob Kurz is a threat for a double-double every night (14 PPG, 8 RPG) while Colin Falls and his 12.8 PPG average can light it up from the outside. Notre Dame is No. 1 in the Big East in scoring offense.

*Syracuse (2-1, 13-4): After a Big East opening game defeat to Pittsburgh, the Orange reeled off their second straight league win on the road with a 68-58 victory at Rutgers. Eric Devendorf had 19 points while Darryl Watkins added nine points and 12 rebounds. Demetris Nichols, a 6-8 senior forward, led the Big East in scoring coming into Wednesday at 19 PPG. Syracuse now has two home contests in a row to improve their 2-1 conference record. They next face Villanova and Cincinnati at the Carrier Dome. The Orange are fifth in scoring offense and third in field goal percentage defense in the Big East.

*Georgetown (1-1, 11-4): The Hoyas appeared on a roll after beating Notre Dame last weekend. But a hungry Villanova team came into Washington, D.C. and beat them 56-52, snapping Georgetown's seven-game win streak. They are a well-balanced, patient offensive team that also plays great defense. The Hoyas are No. 2 in the conference in scoring defense. 7-2 Roy Hibbert, versatile Jeff Green and silky shooting Jonathan Wallace all average 11 PPG. A battle on the road with No. 7 Pittsburgh looms on Saturday night at 9:00 p.m.

*Louisville (1-1, 11-5): The Cardinals earned their first win of league play, blowing out South Florida 81-55 on Wednesday night. After being off for a week, Louisville got 17 points from Terrance Williams, their leading scorer, and 14 more from Brandon Jenkins. The Cardinals have a tough stretch coming up. They play Providence and Marquette next but both at Freedom Hall.

*St. John's (1-1, 10-5): The Red Storm beat DePaul by 11 at home but then got worked by West Virginia on the road by 27. They're led by Lamont Hamilton's 12 PPG and seven rebounds a contest. A problem: St. John's is third to last in the conference in scoring offense, averaging just 65 points a game. A plus: they're fourth in scoring defense. Red Storm point guard Eugene Lawrence runs a solid offense, ranking fourth in the league in assists at five per contest.

*Seton Hall (1-1, 9-5): The Pirates bested Rutgers 77-72 in their Big East opener but fell to Providence by 22 on the road. Guards Brian Laing and Eugene Harvey both average 16 PPG while Jamar Nutter gives them a solid three-guard rotation with 12 PPG. Seton Hall is fourth in the league in scoring offense but dead last in scoring defense.

*Marquette (1-2, 14-4): Needing a win in the worst possible way, the Golden Eagles went on the road and beat No. 24 Connecticut 73-69. They got a surprise performance from Ousman Barro. He more than doubled his season average with 18 points and 13 rebounds for the huge road victory. Jerel McNeal added 19 points while Dominic James contributed 17 points. James, one of the premier guards in the league, led Marquette in scoring coming into tonight at 16 PPG. Barro, a 6-10 junior, is the big man down low.

*Connecticut (1-2, 12-3): After starting the year 11-0, the Huskies have lost three of four. The latest was a home loss to Marquette on Tuesday. At one stretch in the second half, UCONN went over ten minutes without a field goal. The Huskies, who start all underclassmen, are led by Jeff Adrien. The 6-6 sophomore averages 12.9 PPG and 10.1 RPG a contest heading into tonight. The Huskies top 12 players are all either freshmen or sophomores. The 1-2 start counteracts them being No. 3 in the conference in scoring offense and No. 1 in field goal percentage defense.

*Villanova (1-2, 11-4): In danger of falling to 0-3 in the conference, the Wildcats earned a big win on the road against a hot Georgetown team. After losing Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Kyle Lowry to the NBA, Villanova has had to regroup. A nice place to start is the return of Curtis Sumpter, who is second in the Big East in scoring at 18 PPG. Experienced senior Mike Nardi is the outside threat, averaging 13 PPG.

*DePaul (1-2, 10-7): After beating Villanova last weekend, the Blue Demons lost to Pittsburgh on Wednesday at home. The Panthers defense held them to 34 percent shooting and just 6-of-24 from behind the arc. Sammy Mejia, a 6-6 senior, leads the team in scoring at 16 PPG while 6-8 sophomore Wilson Chandler contributes 15 PPG. DePaul is fifth in the Big East in field goal percentage but fourth from the bottom in scoring defense.

*Rutgers (1-2, 8-8): The Scarlet Knights could not protect the home court on Wednesday as they lost to Syracuse 68-58. Rutgers shot 29 percent from the field and just 5-of-24 from three-point range. J.R. Inman, a 6-9 sophomore, leads the Scarlet Knights in scoring and rebounding at 12 PPG and seven rebounds a contest. The problem: Rutgers is dead last in the conference in scoring offense.

*Cincinnati (0-1, 9-6): The Bearcats lost their league opener 54-42 on the road to Rutgers. The 42-point total is indicative of their season. Cincinnati is second to last in the conference in field goal percentage and scoring offense, averaging 65 points per game. They do have a few bright spots. 6-6 junior forward John Williamson averages 14 PPG and pulls down eight rebounds a contest. Deonta Vaughn scores 13 PPG while Cedric McGowan chips in ten a game.

*South Florida (0-3, 9-8): The Bulls are cementing themselves as the worst team in the Big East. On Wednesday, they lost at home by 26 to Louisville, dropping them to 0-3 in league action. Melvin Buckley leads South Florida in scoring at 16 PPG while Kentrell Gransberry and Solomon Bozeman both chip in 13 PPG. After a winnable next contest against Louisville at home, the Bulls go on the road to face No. 21 West Virginia and No. 22 Notre Dame.


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