Big East Update

The Big East lost one of its eight ranked teams in the Associated Press Poll this week, but all eight remained in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll. The league is winding down the non-conference portion of the schedule before what promises to be an exciting conference battle.

The Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today men's college basketball polls looked very similar for the first six weeks of the season, but this week's polls look a bit different, at least as far as the Big East is concerned.

The Big East had a record eight teams in the AP poll for the last three weeks, but that number dropped back to seven with the release of Monday's rankings. The conference still has all eight teams in the coaches' rankings although there is some shuffling of the order.

Both polls have Connecticut (10-0) and Pittsburgh (12-0) ranked second and third respectively.

The Huskies had an easy win over Stony Brook last week, but needed a late comeback to earn an 88-83 overtime over top 10-Gonzaga in Seattle. UConn has one more non-conference game this week, against Fairfield, before opening up league play against Georgetown on Monday.

The Panthers kept their perfect record intact with victories over Siena and Florida State last week. Pitt has a week off for Christmas Break before opening the Big East portion of its slate with an afternoon game on New Year's Eve against Rutgers.

Louisville (7-2) took the biggest fall of all the Big East teams in the rankings, dropping from No. 9 in each to 19th in each. The Cardinals defeated Ole Miss last week, but their 70-64 loss to Minnesota caused their stumble down the rankings. Louisville still has three non-conference games left, against UAB, UNLV and Kentucky, and does not start Big East play until Jan. 7 against South Florida.

Syracuse (12-1) was the second team from the Big East to drop in the polls, falling from 11th in each to 17th in the AP and 14th with the coaches. The Orange lost to Cleveland State on a buzzer-beater from beyond halfcourt before bouncing back with wins over Canisius and then-ranked Memphis. The win over the Tigers certainly helped Syracuse in the coaches' poll, but not as much with the writers.

Syracuse beat Coppin State 82-71 on Monday, but the best news that the Orange got this week was the announcement that guard Eric Devendorf will be eligible to reapply for the spring semester once he completes 40 hours of community service.

He will miss at least four Big East games, but those will come against Seton Hall, South Florida, DePaul and Rutgers. If Devendorf is readmitted, he could be back in time for the remainder of the Big East slate.

Notre Dame (9-2) won its only game last week over Delaware State and moved into the top 10 of the Associated Press poll, checking in at No. 8, but were voted 11th by the coaches. The Irish played their final independent game before the conference slate and beat Savannah State 81-49 on Monday. Notre Dame will have the next week off until it begins Big East play with a New Year's Eve matchup at DePaul.

Georgetown (8-1) is in a similar situation to the Irish as the Hoyas are ranked 12th in the AP, but ninth in the ESPN/USA Today poll. The Hoyas won their only game last week against Mount Saint Mary's and host Florida International tonight before the conference opener against UConn on Monday.

Villanova (11-1) did not play last week but actually dropped a spot in the coaches' poll from 15th to 16th, but remained at 18th in the AP. The Wildcats defeated Navy last night 78-68 and will play Temple on Monday before opening up their conference schedule against Marquette on New Year's Day.

Marquette's 80-68 loss last week to Tennessee caused the Golden Eagles to fall out of the AP rankings, but they managed to hang onto the final spot in the coaches' Top 25. Marquette (10-2) is barely on the outside of the AP Top 25, just two votes behind No. 25 Missouri. The Eagles beat North Carolina State 68-65 on Monday. Marquette will play Presbyterian on Saturday before its game against the Wildcats on New Year's.

Cincinnati (10-2), St. John's (9-2), Seton Hall (8-3), West Virginia (8-2) and Rutgers (8-3) have all played well against independents to start the season and will get chances to jump in the Top 25 with a loaded conference schedule.

The two teams that the Irish have lost to this year, No. 1/1 North Carolina and No. 15/13 Ohio State, remain unbeaten while Texas, which represents the Irish's best win of the season, remained in the top 10 even after losing to Michigan State last week. The Longhorns are ranked ninth in the AP and eighth in the Coaches' Poll.

Notre Dame has one more non-conference power game when the Irish travel to Pauley Pavilion for a Feb. 7 matchup with UCLA. The Bruins (8-2) are ranked 13th in the AP and 10th in the Coaches' Poll.


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