The undefeated Pittsburgh Panthers jumped to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll this week. Picked by most preseason publications to win the BIG EAST regular season crown, Pitt is off to a 7-0 start for the fifth straight season. The Panthers are ranked second for the first time since the 2002-03 season. Pitt is No. 3 in this week's ESPN/USA Today poll. The Panthers have never been ranked No. 1. Marquette moved into the top 10 after its eye-opening win over Duke last week in the championship game of the CBE Classic in Kansas City. The Golden Eagles are eighth in the AP and ninth in ESPN/USA Today. They host the four-team Blue and Gold Classic this weekend.
West Virginia Shows Well In Orlando
The West Virginia Mountaineers, who were picked 12th in the BIG EAST preseason coaches' poll, turned some heads with their runner-up finish in last week's Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. WVU had little trouble with Montana (73-56), an NCAA Tournament team last year, and Western Michigan (79-54) before falling to Arkansas in the championship game, 71-64. The Mountaineers, who lost four starters from last year's team that reached the NCAA Sweet 16, are off to a 5-1 start.
Others Aiming To Be Noticed, Too
West Virginia is not the only team in the lower half of the BIG EAST preseason poll that has posted some impressive victories. Providence, which was slotted for 10th place in the poll, is on a 3-game winning streak that includes victories over Boston College (73-64) and George Washington (86-67). The preseason poll had Notre Dame 11th. The Irish are off to a 5-1 start. Cincinnati, picked for 13th, also is 5-1. USF, chosen 16th, is 4-0. Going into Thursday's action, BIG EAST teams have amassed a 54-8 record (.871) at home.
Battling Some Ranked Foes This Weekend
Four BIG EAST squads will be facing ranked opponents this weekend. Syracuse, ranked 15th by the AP this week, hosts No. 17 Wichita State on Saturday. No. 18 Georgetown travels to No. 11 Duke (ESPN2) at 7 p.m. ET. The Hoyas grabbed the nation's attention last year when they upset the No. 1-ranked Blue Devils, 87-84. Also on Saturday, DePaul hosts No. 5 Kansas (ESPNU) at 2 p.m. ET. On Sunday, Notre Dame meets No. 23 Maryland in the BB&T Classic in Washington, D.C.
The Sporting News predicts that eight Big East teams will make the NCAA tournament. Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, DePaul, Marquette and Villanova were those predicted to go dancing.