Oracle insight: Big East basketball, part two

By Michael Manganello COMMENTARY
On February 7, 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.

Providence (13-12, 2-10)

Best game: 90-59 win

vs. Louisville

Worst game: 79-62 loss

vs. Northern Iowa

The Friars and first-year head coach Ed Cooley had a big task in replacing leading scorer Marshon Brooks. Freshman wing LaDontae Henton has proven himself capable of handling the scoring, but Providence hasn't proven its ability to win in the league, though the 31-point demolition of Louisville was a great moment. The Friars' neutral floor loss to the Missouri Valley Conference's Northern Iowa shows the rebuilding process still has a long way to go.

Rutgers (12-12, 4-7)

Best game: 85-83 2OT win

vs. No. 7 Florida

Worst game: 76-70 loss

vs. Illinois State

Rutgers has one of the best freshman guards in the league in Eli Carter, who put the Scarlet Knights in the national spotlight after their double overtime home win over Florida. Rutgers is still looking for consistency with both impressive conference wins over UConn, Notre Dame and Cincinnati and bad losses to DePaul, Providence, Illinois State and Princeton on its record.

St. John's (10-13, 4-7)

Best game: 57-55 win

at Cincinnati

Worst game: 78-64 loss

vs. Northeastern

St. John's made the NCAA Tournament last season after a lengthy absence, but has struggled this year without head coach Steve Lavin, who has been away from the sidelines while recovering from prostate cancer surgery. Lavin's absence and a large group of freshmen have combined for bad losses to Northeastern and Detroit. The Red Storm hasn't fared well in the Big East either, though it did beat Cincinnati on the road and West Virginia at home.

Seton Hall (15-8, 4-7)

Best game: 75-63 win

vs. Connecticut

Worst game: 80-73 loss

vs. Northwestern

The Pirates entered Big East play with an 11-1 record after beating up on an unimpressive non-conference schedule, with only a loss to Northwestern, currently 10th in the Big Ten. The Pirates then opened league play 4-1 and earned their first national ranking since 2001, landing at No. 24 before a loss to USF knocked them out of the rankings. Seton Hall is on a six-game losing streak since then and its hopes for a rare postseason berth are fading quickly.

USF (13-10, 6-4)

Best game: 70-55 win

vs. Cleveland State

Worst game: 53-49 loss

vs. Penn State

With the opening of the Muma Center and the additions of Anthony Collins and Victor Rudd Jr., USF is off to one of its best starts in the Big East. The team is still at a talent disadvantage against most teams in the league though, and lacks a marquee win. USF controlled the Cleveland State (20-4) game throughout, but the Bulls should have higher standards than beating Horizon League teams. Until the Bulls can beat a team in the top half of the Big East, they'll struggle to gain recognition.

Syracuse (23-1, 10-1)

Best game: 72-68 win

vs. No. 7 Florida

Worst game: 67-58 loss at

Notre Dame

Syracuse has left behind a sex abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Bernie Fine and proven itself to be

one of the nation's best teams, blowing out nearly everyone they have played. The Orange didn't play a tough non-conference schedule, but has only a loss to Notre Dame on its record. That loss knocked the Orange out of the No. 1 ranking, but Syracuse didn't fall far, sitting at No. 2 in the current polls. The win over Florida came at home, but confirmed Syracuse as a national title contender.

Villanova (13-11, 4-8)

Best game: 84-76 win

vs. Seton Hall

Worst game: 65-64 loss

vs. Santa Clara

There really isn't a good win on Villanova's resume as the Wildcats struggle through a season with the youngest team in the Big East, but Seton Hall was at one time ranked, which will have to suffice. Villanova just isn't playing at the level usually expected of it, with losses to Temple, St. Louis, St. Joe's and Santa Clara - which is 0-10 in the West Coast Conference - this season. Fans will have to stay patient with coach Jay Wright as he coaches a group with five freshmen and two sophomores.

West Virginia (16-8, 6-5)

Best game: 74-62 win

vs. No. 12 Georgetown

Worst game: 70-60 loss

vs. Kent State

In forward Kevin Jones, the Mountaineers might have one of the best all-around players in the Big East. Jones has scored 20 or more points in nine straight contests and is averaging 11.2 rebounds per game. West Virginia can't seem to break into the upper echelon of the league, though. Beating Georgetown is nice, but the Mountaineers have to eliminate losses to St. John's and Seton Hall if they want to contend for a Big East title.

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