NINE TEAMS IN POLLS
Though the men's basketball season is roughly halfway complete, the Big East continues to make history in 2008-09 with the appearance of nine schools in both of this week's major national polls.
The rankings are highlighted by the rise of Pittsburgh to the No. 1 spot in both the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today polls. Pittsburgh is one of four unbeaten teams in Division I and enters Saturday's game against St. John's at 14-0 overall and 2-0 in Big East play. The Panthers earned 70 of a possible 72 first-place votes in the AP poll and was the choice of 30 of the 31 coaches polled in the ESPN/USA Today ranking.
Pittsburgh is the first Big East team to hold the No. 1 spot in the AP poll since Connecticut was atop the March 6, 2006, ranking.
Connecticut (12-1) stands at No. 5 in both polls while Georgetown is the third Big East school ranked in the top 10 of both polls. The Hoyas are No. 9 in the AP and No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today ranking.
Syracuse was chosen at No. 9 by the coaches and is No. 11 in the AP poll.
Notre Dame (No. 13/13), Villanova (No. 18/17) and Louisville (No. 23/21) remained in the top 25 of both polls for the ninth straight week. Marquette (No. 18/15) appears in both polls after a two-week hiatus from the AP ranking. West Virginia (No. 25/22), meanwhile, appears in both polls for the first time.
The Big East became the first conference to have seven teams ranked in the Associated Press preseason poll, while the conference became the first league to have eight teams in the same AP poll when the Dec. 1 ranking was released.
ON THE FLOOR
With only a handful of non-conference games remaining, the league is an impressive 153-41 against outside foes.
Five Big East schools are averaging more than 10,000 fans per game. Louisville tops the lise at 19,349, with Syracuse, in the cavernous Carrier Dome, close behind at 18,240 per contest. Marquette, Connecticut and Georgetown are also above the five figure mark. West Virginia, Notre Dame and Pitt could also creep above that mark with strong showings during league play.
Freshman guard Mike Rosario enjoyed a pair of outstanding performances this week against top-notch competition. He scored 26 points in a loss at No 1 North Carolina which earned him Big East Rookie of the Week honors. A McDonald's All-American in high school, he followed with a 22-point effort in a losing cause against No. 3 Pittsburgh. The Big East's top freshman scorer, he is averaging 17.8 points.
The one chink in the armor of the nation's best hoops conference comes from 15 feet away - performance at the free throw line. The league's 16 teams are a combined 3498-5130 from the line. While the overall average of 68% isn't horrendous, nine of the league's 16 teams are below that mark. Villanova heads the league at 77.0%, while last-place USF is nearly 20 points behind at 57.8%