Oracle insight: Big East basketball, part one

By Michael Manganello COMMENTARY
On February 6, 2012

With the Big East season advancing past the midway point, The Oracle checks in on the progress of all 16 of the conference's teams in a two-part series.

Cincinnati (16-7, 6-4)

Best game: Win 68-64 at Georgetown

Worst game: Loss 76-53 at Xavier

The Bearcats were in the national spotlight with their loss to Xavier, culminating in the ugliest sports brawl in recent memory erupting on national television. Numerous lengthy suspensions followed, but Cincinnati is playing well, with road wins over Connecticut and Georgetown in the conference. They're still a bit inconsistent though, losing to Rutgers and St. John's.

Connecticut (15-8, 5-6)

Best game: Win 78-76 2OT over Florida State

Worst game: Loss 58-44 at Georgetown

The defending national champions have had an up-and-down season that included an early loss to Central Florida. Gutting out a double overtime win over the now-No. 15 Seminoles on a neutral floor in the Bahamas showed that the Huskies still have the tournament grit that carried them to a title last season. UConn only scored 44 points in its loss to the Hoyas, even fewer than the 48 it scored in a loss to Notre Dame.

DePaul (11-11, 2-8)

Best game: Win 69-64 at Rutgers

Worst game: Loss 87-76 vs. Milwaukee

The Blue Demons are showing signs of life under second-year coach Oliver Purnell, who inherited one of the worst programs in the conference. The Blue Demons have won at both Villanova and Rutgers in league play, with the win over the Scarlet Knights coming on the same floor where No. 7 Florida lost. However, Losing by 11 at home to a Horizon league team showed that DePaul hasn't quite turned the corner.

Georgetown (18-4, 8-3)

Best game: Win 71-68 at Louisville

Worst game: Loss 74-62 at West Virginia

The Hoyas, picked to finish 10th in the Big East preseason poll, stated their intent early in league play, going on the road and handing the previously unbeaten Cardinals a loss at home. Georgetown also showed well against No. 7 Kansas in the EA Sports Maui Classic championship game early in the season. Yet the Hoyas should have done better against the Mountaineers, who are a mid-level team this season.

Louisville (19-5, 7-4)

Best game: Win 80-59 vs. Connecticut

Worst game: Loss 90-59 at Providence

The Cardinals climbed high in the national rankings in non-conference play but began league play 1-4. They're back to winning ways, though, after an impressive 30-point win over UConn on Monday night. The 31-point loss on the road against unranked Providence is a major low point for Rick Pitino's Cardinals.

Marquette (19-5, 8-3)

Best game: Win 61-54 at Wisconsin

Worst game: Loss 74-57 vs. Vanderbilt

The Golden Eagles have again shown improvement under Buzz Williams and have proven themselves to be a top-tier team in the Big East. They could be in line for a strong finish, with only one ranked team remaining on the schedule. Beating the Badgers in the notoriously tough Kohl Center is a strong win, but Marquette was also subjected to a 17-point home loss to Vanderbilt on national television.

Notre Dame (15-8, 7-3)

Best game: Win 67-58 vs. Syracuse

Worst game: Loss 61-57 vs. Georgia

Notre Dame has been hit-and-miss this season without leading scorer Tim Abromaitis, who was injured with a torn ACL after just two games. The Fighting Irish looked bad in a neutral floor loss to 10-12 Georgia, but stunned the nation with a big win over previously unbeaten Syracuse. The Fighting Irish have proven they can win at home in the Joyce Center, but struggle outside of South Bend, Ind.

Pittsburgh (15-9, 4-7)

Best game: Win 72-60 vs. Georgetown

Worst game: Loss 62-39 vs. Rutgers

It's been a tale of two seasons for the Panthers, who began Big East play 0-7 with star guard Tray Woodall on the sidelines, but have won four in a row since his return. The Panthers only scored 39 points in a bad blowout home loss to Rutgers. Since Woodall's return, Pittsburgh looks like a NCAA Tournament team, including the 12-point win over the Hoyas.

The Oracle will examine the resumes of the eight remaining Big East teams Wednesday.

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