The single biggest day of Big East hoops action throughout the season went down today and with ESPN doing a week free of its pay-per-view gameday broadcasts, I was able to scout some teams that I haven’t seen much of this season.
The Big East unquestionably the toughest conference in men’s basketball this season, is at historic levels in terms of depth of its teams 1 thru 16. Out of 16 teams, nine are ranked in the top 22 and 15 have winning records.
Here are my observations for this busy Saturday of action:
Louisville vs. Villanova
Louisville held on for the 1-point win but this game was a blowout until the Cardinals got a little too lazy. Nobody will deny the talent that the Cards can put out on the floor with Clark, Samuels, Williams and Smith but the problems so far this season have been focus on defense and FG shooting. It looks like the conference season is bringing out their best play, good thing too.
Villanova on the other hand is a scrappy team that gets good play from Cunningham, Reynolds and their bench. Should finish around 8th in the conference this year. I don’t think they’re as good as they are currently ranked (7th of the 9 in top 25).
West Virginia vs. Marquette
After trailing for much of the 1st half, the Golden Eagles pulled away in the 2nd behind the play of McNeal and James. I’ll tell you what, Marquette is a tough, tough team to beat with the scorers that they have. You don’t think they’re much but then you play them and they beat you by double digits and it’s like “what happened?”. This team is right on the cusp of being top 4 in the conference, I’d say they’re #5 currently, just behind Georgetown.
West Virginia is going to be competitive right around that middle of the pack slot, 8-9. They rebound with the best of them when Ebanks is aggressive and with Butler, Flowers and Wellington Smith they are as athletic as any team out there. They just need to get better production in their half court sets. That will come as they get their young guys more experience.
Notre Dame vs. Seton Hall
The biggest thing that jumps out to me after watching this game is don’t sleep on Seton Hall. The Pirates are no joke. With Hazell, Harvey and Mitchell they have some great guards that can shoot, get into the lane and play ‘d’. What cost them against the Irish today was just not being big enough to rebound with them. Harangody pounded them on the glass and finished with his 25 and 12 (or so) and it was just too much. But the Pirates were up for a considerable portion of this contest and it wasn’t because the Irish weren’t playing well. Instead, the Irish were able to prevail and win their 45th in a row at home (20 in the Big East) which is incredible with the conference that they play in.
I like Notre Dame just behind Marquette right now as the 6th best team in the Big East which is a huge statement. The Irish put up a big fight against the Tar Heels in the Maui Invitational before losing by double-digits, they already beat Texas (which should be the Big 12 Champion) among others. Notre Dame would finish first in the majority of conferences out there (probably ACC only exception, Big 10 with Michigan St. would be a contest).