Cincinnati Bearcats Are Climbing Quickly
In only his second year at the helm, coach Mick Cronin has Cincinnati on the move. Picked by most preseason publications closer to the bottom than the top of the Big East, Cincinnati is 7-5 in the league and 12-12 overall. Last year, UC finished 2-14 in the conference and 11-19 overall. Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn has been the scoring leader. In league games, he is second in the Big East with an 18.9 average. UC also has had solid contributions from senior forward John Williamson, who is averaging 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds.
‘Defense Wins Championships' And Wins In the Big East
The sports mantra "Defense Wins Championships" certainly can be translated into success in the Big East. Six of the top seven teams in scoring defense are in the top eight positions in the standings. Georgetown leads the conference in scoring defense in league games, yielding only 58.0 points per game. The Hoyas are followed by Louisville (9-3) at 59.7, and it's no surprise that those teams are tied atop the league standings. West Virginia is third in scoring defense (61.3) and eighth in the standings (5-5). Pittsburgh ranks fourth in scoring defense (62.7) and is in sixth place (7-4). Cincinnati is fifth in scoring defense (65.2) and holds down sixth place (7-5) in the league, while Marquette, which is seventh in scoring defense (69.5), stands in sole possession of fifth.
But Offense Can Work, Too
Notre Dame and Connecticut are fourth, and third in the conference respectively. While both teams are capable defensively, they both know how to score as well. Connecticut defeated Notre Dame 84-78 Wednesday night. The Irish lead the league in scoring offense, averaging 80.3 points per game, while the Huskies are second at 75.4.
Centers Of Attention (And Success)
Many college basketball observers say the center position is a dying breed. Teams are placing enormous emphasis on guard play, but many Big East teams are getting plenty of production from their men in the middle. Notre Dame's Luke Harangody is first in the Big East with a 20.8 scoring average and second in rebounding at 10.4. USF's Kentrell Gransberry is the only other player averaging a double-double. He is averaging 16.8 points and 10.8 boards. Georgetown's Roy Hibbert is averaging 13.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. UConn's Hasheem Thabeet averages 10.9 points, 7.6 boards and is fourth in the nation in blocks with a 4.1 mark. In addition to his statistics, Louisville's David Padgett beats opponents with his passing, defense and court leadership. He is averaging 11.3 points and 4.1 rebounds.
After Saturday's games, no Big East team has fewer than three losses -- a testament to the quality of play up and down the league roster.