Three weeks into Big East Conference play and it has been everything that was promised. The treacherous schedules have tripped some teams up, with just a pair remaining unscathed.
One of the remaining teams unbeaten in conference play, Marquette (16-2, 5-0), was picked by the league's coaches to finish sixth, while the other Louisville (13-3, 4-0) was the conference's most disappointing teams in the non-league portion of the schedule.
League powers Connecticut (16-1, 5-1) and Pittsburgh (17-1, 5-1) have single losses while another league favorite, Notre Dame, has been beaten three times already. The surprise of the conference so far would have to be Syracuse (17-3, 5-2), which was picked by the coaches to finish eighth in the league, but finds itself a game out of first.
Heading into the fourth week of conference play, no team is hotter than Louisville. Last week the Cardinals defended their home court against the Irish and the nation's number one team, Pittsburgh.
As it has most of the year, the league has eight ranked teams, although things were shaken up with the Panthers' loss. UConn is now ranked third in both polls, followed by Pitt at No. 4 and Syracuse at No. 8. Louisville moved up from 20th to ninth in the AP poll and to 12th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll.
Marquette is ranked ahead of the Cardinals with the coaches, checking in at No. 10 and are No. 11 in the AP. Georgetown is 12th in the AP and 14th in the coaches' poll while Notre Dame is 19th in both and Villanova is 20th in the AP and 21st in the coaches' poll.
The Cardinals play at Rutgers (9-9, 0-5) on Wednesday night before being tested with another road game at Syracuse on Sunday.
Marquette finds itself atop the conference standings after a relatively light schedule to begin league play. But nothing comes easy in the Big East and the Golden Eagles recorded wins over Villanova, Cincinnati, Rutgers, West Virginia and Providence so far. Marquette looks like a good bet to be 6-0 in the league heading into next Monday's game at Notre Dame with just one game this week, against DePaul (8-10, 0-5) on Saturday.
UConn has run off five straight conference victories after opening with a loss to Georgetown. The Huskies have yet to recorded a ‘big win', but that could change soon with a contest at Villanova on Wednesday before a trip to South Bend on Saturday.
16 straight wins to start the season boosted Pittsburgh to country's top spot before the Cardinals knocked them down. The Panthers bounced back with a 78-60 win over Syracuse last night and have two road games (at West Virginia and at Villanova) before a home contest with the Irish on Jan. 31.
Despite the loss to Pittsburgh last night, the Orange were able to parlay a hot non-conference start into a hot conference start. The win over the Irish represents Syracuse's biggest win of the year along with an independent victory over Memphis and the Orange will look for another marquee win on Sunday against Louisville.
Georgetown (12-4, 3-2) has probably played the toughest schedule of any of the Big East teams thus far, beating UConn, Providence and Syracuse while losing to Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. That does not include a non-conference loss at Duke on Saturday. The Hoyas get about as much of a break as the league will offer this year with games against West Virginia, Seton Hall and Cincinnati before playing at Marquette on Jan. 31.
Villanova has lost two tough games to Marquette and Louisville, but will get a chance for a big win on Wednesday when the Wildcats travel to Connecticut before a Saturday contest at South Florida.
The schedule for Notre Dame does not get any easier with Connecticut coming to town on Saturday before a home date with Marquette on Monday and a trip to Pittsburgh on Jan. 31.
Outside of their recent struggles in conference, the Irish have also been hurt with losses by their top independent opponents, North Carolina, Texas and Ohio State.
After the Tar Heels were upset by Boston College, they lost to current No. 1 Wake Forest a week later while the Longhorns dropped a pair of games at Arkansas and at Oklahoma. The Buckeyes are still trying to climb back into the rankings after back-to-back losses at Minnesota and Michigan State.