Support Our Advertisers


Entries in Big East (14)


Big East Tournament Always Better Than The Others

Picture of Kemba Walker By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season

One thing I've never accepted in my five years living up here is the long-held belief that everything is better in New York.

But there are plenty of things superior in the Big Apple than anywhere else, and one of them is a college basketball tournament.

I've attended some December ballgames at Madison Square Garden, where the atmosphere even for two out-of-state college teams playing in a pro town is pretty impressive.

And it's 100 times better in March when Big East rivals square off at the Garden, even if it's 2 p.m. on a Wednesday. The energy is outstanding, and I'm glad I've scraped a few bucks together to catch a session each of the last couple of years.

Click to read more ...


The Big East Will Deserve Every NCAAT Bid It Gets

Picture Of Bob Huggins

One Great Season

I've made it clear on these pages that I'm not so sure the Big East is the obvious top conference in the country. If you have 16 teams, you'd better have more wins vs. Top 10 and Top 50 RPI squads and so forth.

Still, I don't think it would be a crime if 11 teams from it earned bids to the NCAA Tournament, as many are suggesting.

Right now, these Big East squads should be considered shoe-ins to advance:

  1. Pittsburgh
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Louisville
  4. St. John's
  5. Syracuse
  6. Georgetown
  7. Cincinnati
  8. Connecticut
  9. Villanova

West Virginia and Marquette each have a decent chance to play their way in, and if they do, the Big East will have its precious 11 teams in the tournament.

Click to read more ...


Is The Big East Really The Best Conference?

Picture of Ashton Gibbs

One Great Season

I'm not sure I'm so convinced the Big East is the best conference in the country. It's hard to say the Big Ten or the ACC is better, but perhaps the Big 12 might have a claim.

Certainly it depends on your metrics, but here are a few quick comparisons worth noting:

+ Two Big East teams (South Florida, DePaul) are stuck on single-digits in the wins column. No Big 12 team has fewer than 12 victories this season.

+ The Big East has an impressive four teams with at least 22 wins through Thursday's games. So does the Big 12. That means that 25 percent of Big East teams are at 22+ wins, while 33 percent of Big 12 teams are.

Click to read more ...


Big East Preview: Pitt Finally Claims The Crown

Picture Of Dion Lewis

One Great Season

Among power conferences, the Big East has become the butt of jokes in some college football circles, but what folks overlook is that it's actually been a pretty good league.

Thanks to three different teams, the Big East has had five squads finish in the AP top 10 in the last five years. The PAC 10, thanks mostly to USC, also has produced five and the ACC, the league to which former Big East brothers Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech bolted, has sent only three teams to such a lofty perch over that period.

Remember 2006, when Rutgers, West Virginia and Louisville all were ranked in the top 10 with a combined record of 25-2 at one point in November? That same week, only the mighty SEC had a comparable mark, with Florida, Arkansas and LSU also among the AP elite at 26-4. Not bad company.

Click to read more ...


Tournament Takeaways: What Day 2 Taught Us

Evan Turner

One Great Season

For fans of Cinderella, underdogs and buzzer-beaters, the second day of the NCAA Tournament didn't deliver the dramatics that day one did, but we still saw some quality basketball on Friday.

Saturday brings us the first day of the second round, and there are some good matchups on deck this weekend. But let's review the highs and lows from the second-best day in American sports:

+ Ohio State's Evan Turner is the best player in the country, but he's far from perfect. His poor night from the field isn't what should concern OSU fans, but his sometimes lazy and sloppy ballhandling should. I've actually thought this for a few weeks, particularly in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal against Illinois. Turner is dangerous on the bounce during transition or when he has a path to the basket, but sometimes when he tries to attack the lane in the half-court, he forgets to protect the basketball. Being 6-foot-7 and not a natural point guard, I'm sure he's used to being vertical, but as the Buckeyes advance, he'll need to protect the rock against smaller guards who've lately been able to knock the ball from him with regularity.

+ Nice to see the Big East bounce back with three wins in four tries Friday, after Thursday's disastrous 1-3 effort. West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse coasted to fairly easy wins. But Louisville got embarrassed by Cal, giving what was supposed to be a weak PAC 10 two wins in two games against the alleged top league in the country.

+ I'd read a bunch about Cornell the last three months but never once saw the Big Red on television until Friday. If the way they played is how they always play, then that was no upset. An excellent team beat Temple, and handily. It was pretty impressive when, after a few trips, CBS would show tight shots of Cornell players getting back on defense after a make. Sorry for the cliche, but you really could see a good, positive, laser-focus in the eyes of those players. They'll give Wisconsin a tough game Sunday. Or will Wisconsin give Cornell a tough game?

+ Glad to see Purdue get a gritty win over a game Siena team. The Saints might be a Gonzaga East in the making, as they've pulled off upsets the last two years and were subsequently a fashionable first-round upset pick for many. But even without Robbie Hummel, the Boilermakers showed they can win some games when their star is down. Chris Kramer was hardly the hero of the game for the winners, but if you're teaching your son how to play good, solid, fundamental basketball with a high motor, Kramer is Exhibit A.

+ And speaking of the Big Ten, a 4-1 start isn't too shabby. In addition to OSU and Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State hung tough to avoid upsets. Minnesota couldn't complete the skunking, however, as the Gophers fell to a very well-prepared Xavier team. XU coaches turn over every few years, but whomever is at the helm, the Muskies never disappoint come tournament time.

+ No. 10-seed Georgia Tech and No. 7 Oklahoma State squared off to settle an ACC-Big 12 dispute. Wake Forest beat Texas on Thursday, and early Friday, Missouri bounced Clemson. The Yellow Jackets won the rubber match, advancing to a very winnable game against Ohio State in Milwaukee on Sunday.

+ Friday's best Tweet came from KySportsRadio, who said after Louisville's horrendous start against California, "If this keeps up, Rick Pitino is only going to be able to get women in an Olive Garden."

+ And kudos to CBS' Seth Davis for breaking down the end of the New Mexico State-Michigan State game. Davis said on Twitter he'd spoken to the NCAA coordinator of officials by telephone and that both of them dissected the replay of what was thought by many to be a questionable lane-violation call. But Davis showed viewers at about 12:45 a.m. ET that it was the right call. However, Davis also showed the officials did screw up moments later when a ball was batted out of bounds with 0.7 seconds left in the game. By the time the operator stopped the clock, it read 0.3, but the officials didn't add the extra time, which could have been significant to New Mexico State.

+ For those who love Gus Johnson, here's an excellent soundboard of some of his great calls.


Tournament Takeaways: What Day 1 Taught Us

Georgetown Loses to Ohio

One Great Season

The first day of the first round of the NCAA Tournament brought great excitement into living rooms, sports bars and office cubicles everywhere.

We probably say it more than we remember, but I can't recall the opening day of America's greatest sporting event being as excellent as Thursday was. Here's what we'll take away from it:


+ BRACKET BREAKDOWN: Scouting Each Region
+ WHY TOP SEEDS WILL WIN: Kentucky | Kansas | Syracuse | Duke
+ RECIPE: 7 Ingredients For A National Championship
+ MYTH MADNESS: 3 Tournament Trends To Ignore This Year
+ FREE ADVICE: Here's How To Win Your NCAA Office Pool
+ QUOTEBOOK: Selection Chairman Dan Guerrero Explains Himself
+ NCAA TOURNAMENT: First-Round Pairings Announced
+ MARCH MADNESS: Tourney No Longer Leads To April Sadness
+ COUNTDOWN: The Top 10 Title Games Since 1979
+ LIST: The Top 10 Analysts In College Basketball
+ LIST: The Top 10 Play-By-Play Men In College Basketball

+ Georgetown, a popular No. 3 seed in the Midwest, didn't deserve the pre-tournament hype it got. I had a funny feeling about the Hoyas all year, remember? Sure they put together a nice run in New York last week, but let's remember, they took 10 losses into the tournament. A 14th-seeded Ohio University team from the Mid-American Conference hangs nearly a hundy on a rough and rowdy Big East side? Ouch. Gary Trent and Chad Estis are high-fiving somewhere.

>+ Mid-majors are back in style this spring. In addition to those OU Bobcats, Murray State (a 13 seed from the Ohio Valley Conference) beat No. 4 Vanderbilt (nice effort, SEC East) at the buzzer, and Old Dominion (11, Colonial) sent No. 6 Notre Dame packing. BYU (7, Mountain West) needed double overtime to oust Florida and Robert Morris (14, Northeast) should have beaten an abysmal Villanova team before falling in overtime.

>+ Just last week, I got some heat for offering up a not-so-fast reaction to Sean McDonough's claim during the broadcast of the Big East Tournament that the league is "clearly the best in the country." My take was that there might be some Big 12 folks who'd be happy to share a contrarian view. Thursday gave us three wins in four tries for the Big 12 and only one win in four tries for the Big East. And those three Big 12 wins were by an average of 15 points.

+ That one guy from BYU is as good as those two writers said he was back in mid-season. Good to see one of the nation's finest scorers get some national attention.

+ Good for Washington giving the PAC 10 -- pretty much a mid-major this year -- some much-needed street cred by beating a solid Marquette squad. I can't remember if it was CBS analyst Seth Davis or ESPN's Doug Gottlieb, but somebody said yesterday the winner of this game would advance to the Elite Eight. I'm a big fan of Lorenzo Romar, and I hope he and his Huskies do make a nice run.

One Great Season on Sports Nation

+ One other thing we learned Thursday was that ESPN's "Sports Nation" program has heard of One Great Season. The popular show tipped its hat to OGS in its "Site We Like" segment yesterday. The darling Michelle Beadle described OGS by referencing a story I wrote this week, saying, "They give us a great rundown of the seven key ingredients every national champion needs to have." Her co-host, Colin Cowherd, followed up with nothing short of authentic sincerity by calling the site "a must read." Thanks, gang! I'm still waiting to find out of this quailfies me for drinks with Beadle. I'll keep you posted.


Despite Loss, Syracuse Still Deserves Top NCAA Seed

Syracuse Still Deserves A No. 1 NCAA Seed

One Great Season

Unless you're watching a Tom Cruise movie and he's trying to get the girl, there are no sure things in life.

Before taking the floor in its Big East Tournament opener Thursday, Syracuse was a lock for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which begins next week.

Kansas and Kentucky appear to be headed toward top seeds, and Duke leads Ohio State, Purdue and maybe West Virginia for that fourth No. 1 slot.

But Syracuse lost to longtime rival Georgetown on Thursday, which means the debate is on about whether the Orange still deserve a top seed.

YOUR THOUGHTS: Is Syracuse A No. 1 Seed?

When teams play 30 to 35 games a year, of course they're going to lose a few. It doesn't mean they're not among the top teams; it just means they didn't play their best, or their opponent played a great game. Often times it means both.

But when you're unsure whether a team deserves the top spot, then you compare it against the other candidates. None of the aforementioned teams did anything close to what Syracuse did in posting a 7-0 mark against ranked teams during the regular season. I'm surprised the feat hasn't gotten more attention.

Kansas is probably the best team and will be the top overall seed, but Syracuse is the most complete team in the country and still will be on that top line on when the tournament field is announced on Sunday.


Here's How Cincinnati Will Win 5 Games In 5 Days

Cincinnati Bearcats Beat Louisville, 69-66 in the 2010 Big East Tournament

One Great Season

Those pesky Cincinnati Bearcats won their second game in two nights late Wednesday and their reward is a quarterfinal game against old friend Bob Huggins and the Big East Tournament's third-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers (9 p.m., ESPN).

One night after trying to give away an eventual win over Rutgers, UC was again at times brutal to watch in a 69-66 defeat of Louisville, whose second late-season defeat of conference champ Syracuse last week seemed to cement the Cardinals' NCAA Tournament invitation.


+ OPINION: Chad Ochocinco Is The Most Insecure Athlete Ever
+ MARCH MADNESS: Tourney No Longer Leads To April Sadness
+ COUNTDOWN: The Top 10 Title Games Since 1979
+ OSCAR SPECIAL: The Top 6 Sports Movies Of All Time

The Bearcats are a bad offensive team, worse from the foul line and still make mental mistakes at critical junctures the way they did even in the fat 1990s when Huggins was racking up 25 wins a year in Cincinnati.

Led by Brooklyn native Lance Stephenson, however, they held on against Rick Pitino's Cardinals under the bright lights of Midtown Manhattan's Madison Square Garden. Fellow New Yorker Edgar Sosa scored a career-high 28 points in a losing effort for Louisville.

It was only four years ago when Gerry McNamara led Syracuse to four wins in four days in this very tournament. And now with the expanded bracket, Cincinnati has the opportunity -- or tall task, depending how you look at it -- to rattle off an unprecedented five in five. Two down and three to go; here's how they can finish the feat:

+ Continue to attack the offensive glass against West Virginia. Huggins' Mounties are strong, active and physical, just as the Bearcats were under his watch. They've got many New York connections and will treat the tradition-steeped MSG floor as if it's their own. But Cincinnati's best wins this year (Maryland, Vanderbilt) were away from home, so it just needs to focus on what it's good at -- crashing the glass and collecting their many misses.

+ Shoot the ball well in the semifinal round against Notre Dame, which I think will upset Pittsburgh Thursday night. Asking Cincinnati to shoot well is like coaxing Charlize Theron to meet me for drinks, but with their interior beef, the Bearcats are more than capable of slowing down gimpy Irish banger Luke Harangody. The star forward lit up UC for 37 in one meeting, but was held to 14 on 5-of-20 shooting in the other. I think Cincinnati keeps him in check and Stephenson controls the pace the way he did in the second half against Louisville.

+ Blow up whichever hotel Syracuse is bunking in. Otherwise, I don't think the Bearcats would have much of a chance in Saturday's title game. The Orange are an NCAA No. 1 seed and play outstanding zone defense, precisely the recipe to keep a poor-shooting team like Cincinnati on the dim side of the scoreboard.

Follow March Madness 140 characters at a time: @onegreatseason


College Basketball Awaits Super Saturday

John Wall

One Great Season

If you think this week has offered up a weak menu of heavyweight tilts, don't worry. This weekend will be a completely different story.

Saturday is full of huge hardwood matchups, and just when you're done shaking off the hoops hangover the next day, a potential Big Ten title game stares you right in the face on Sunday afternoon.

Kentucky and Tennessee get things started at noon (CBS) Saturday. The Vols are looking to avenge a loss in Lexington two weeks ago, and they just might pull it off this time.

UK has shown it can blow out good teams but can also win the tight games, even on the road. The Wildcats eeked out a narrow victory Saturday at Vanderbilt, as John Wall saved the day with a defensive gem late in Nashville.

Follow | Subscribe | Donate

But what can often trip up a good team this time of year is scheduling, and Kentucky is due for a battle tonight at home against South Carolina. The 9 p.m. start is a tad late, and the Wildcats will be asked to squeeze in a light workout Friday before tipping off at noon on Saturday in Knoxville. If Tennessee is looking for another resume win to bolster its tournament seeding, there will be no better opportunity.

The Big 12 then takes center stage Saturday afternoon with three big games throughout the day. Texas visits Texas A&M at 2 p.m. (ESPN), Oklahoma State welcomes top-ranked Kansas at 4 p.m. (CBS) and Missouri travels to No. 6 Kansas State for an 8 p.m. tipoff (ESPNU).

Since the Big East turned into a super-conference a few years back, folks seem to assume it's the best league in basketball every year. But this season might be different. The Big 12 is stacked, and just as capable of sending seven teams to the NCAA Tournament -- and maybe two to the Final Four -- as the Big East.

That Texas-Texas A&M tilt is sure to be a good one. It will be interesting to see how the Longhorns, at one point ranked No. 1 this season, will respond without starting point guard Dogus Balbay. He was ruled out for the season after hurting it last week, and the Longhorns were able to beat Oklahoma State without him Wednesday night. A&M (19-8, 8-5), meanwhile, runs a guard-heavy attack, so we'll see if its backcourt can set the pace and lead the home team to what would be a huge resume win.

Sherron Collins

Bebubbled Oklahoma State could practically lock up an NCAA bid with an upset of the top-ranked Jayhawks. In late January, the Cowboys won three straight games, then lost three in a row, then won three more. After Wednesday's loss at Texas, OSU fans are hoping this is not the beginning of yet another trend. If today was Selection Sunday, the Pokes would probably get in, but beating the No. 1 team in the country certainly wouldn't hurt their case. Expect a loud one at Gallagher-Iba Arena Saturday.

The best Big 12 game of the day might take place at Kansas State, where the Wildcats entertain Missouri, a very surprising third-place team that's racked up 21 wins this year. KSU got some nice early season hype before losing two games in late January, and all of a sudden people stopped talking about the Wildcats. But they've rattled off six straight wins and are perhaps the quietest No. 6 team in recent memory. KSU's backcourt tandem of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente averages a combined 35 points, eight assists and five rebounds per game.

But Missouri has its own loaded backcourt, and although the Tigers aren't great away from home, this could possibly turn into a track meet in Manhattan. At least it will be fun to watch.

The Big East regular season title could come down to Saturday's game at Syracuse, where the Orange (26-2, 13-2) welcome Villanova (23-4, 12-3) to the Carrier Dome (9 p.m., ESPN).

Scottie Reynolds

This is the only meeting between the teams this year, so the winner will own the league tiebreaker. A Syracuse victory gives the Orange the conference crown; a Villanova win puts both teams at 13-3, but the Wildcats would have a slightly tougher remaining schedule that includes a season finale against West Virginia.

Villanova is more perimeter-oriented, although darkhorse Player of the Year candidate Scottie Reynolds is among the best penetrating guards in the country. Syracuse enjoys better balance and its 2-3 zone defense can be troublesome for a cold-shooting team.

Whatever happens, it will happen in front of a record crowd. More than 34,000 tickets were sold out a month ago, setting up what will be the largest on-campus crowd to watch a college basketball game.

Make sure you get the laundry and grocery store out of the way early Sunday, because a huge Big Ten tilt tips off at 4 p.m. (CBS) in West Lafayette, In.

Michigan State limps into its game at Purdue having lost four of its last six. But Tom Izzo and his Spartans have played the role of the wounded dog before, and this could very well be a moment of truth for this year's squad. A team only gets a few opportunities each season to prove itself, and I could see MSU reversing its trend of losing to the Big Ten's top teams this year. Sparty is 2-4 against Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois and Wisconsin.

But Purdue is waiting to learn more about the knee injury that do-everything star Robbie Hummel suffered in Wednesday's win at Minnesota. His presence -- 100 percent or not -- obviously would be key for a Purdue win, but the Boilermakers can be balanced if they need to be. And in what promises to be a dogfight with the gritty Spartans, balance will be necessary. This will be a great game for sure.


Twitter Recap: Who Said What About Bob Huggins' Ejection?

Bob Huggins

One Great Season

A funny thing happened on the way to Connecticut's latest upset of a top-tier Big East team Monday night.

Bob Huggins, coach of the visiting No. 7 West Virginia Mountaineers, got two technical fouls and was automatically ejected.

Follow | Subscribe | Donate

ESPN had a nice tight shot on Huggins as he was giving official Mike Stuart the business. It didn't look like Huggins was asking if Stuart enjoyed his weekend.

Many Twitter users, including this one, were able to deciper the code Huggins has never been afraid to use on officials for more than two decades. It appeared to include many F-bombs, and ESPN college basketball reporter Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz), seated courtside, Tweeted that "Bob Huggins just used mother and you know what right in Mike Stuart's face. Stuart listened and finally tossed him."

Here's some more of what folks were Tweeting about Huggins in the closing minute of UConn's 73-62 win, another resume builder for the surging Huskies:

@MattZemek_CFN: "I'm reading Bob Huggins's lips, and it's not a pretty sight... errrr, sound..... errrr, sight. You know what I mean."

@OSULighty23: "Huggins a goon lol........... he always let the refs know whats on his mind."

@onegreaseason: "When I used to cover Cincy, a steamed Huggins once told a reporter: 'If I was playing my grandma in checkers, I'd want to bury her ass.'"

@goodmanonfox: "Bob Huggins might have set the record for most F-bombs dropped on a ref and he tossed with two technicals."

@Miss_JenniferC: "I kept waiting for Huggins to flip off the stupid UConn student section as he left lol."

@kevinreitmeyer: "Stay classy Huggins! And you wonder where the students get it from?!"

@ScottBonz: "For those on the highway tonight, namely @asavla. Be safe. An angry and possibly drunk Bob huggins is on the road. Good win."

@WildcatBlueBlog: "Cousins and Bledsoe combined cannot hold a candle to Huggins and his temper. What a mess."

@PJASchultz: "It was kind of a bullshit ejection. Ref was definitely looking for it. ..and I hate Huggins!"

@jhorrigan24: "Did Bob Huggins get ejected for 2 technical fouls or for not wearing a shirt and tie? Class act."

@john_kersten: "Eff uconn. Huggins got tossed so he didn't have to shake (hands with) that ass of a coach Calhoun."

@BlakeMellinger: "Bob Huggins just got tossed at UCONN. The official had no business being at WVU huddle, he instigated the entire confrontation."

@z_timmons: "What's the Vegas over/under on # of miles Huggins makes it before being pulled over for DUI tonight?

@Gabejones23: "Huggins has just been ejected for the same thing Calhoun has done his entire career."


Is Evan Turner The Best Player In The Country?

Evan Turner

One Great Season

Evan Turner wasn't necessarily a highlight reel Sunday, but his overall play was instrumental yet again in Ohio State's most recent triumph.

The visiting Buckeyes blasted a pretty good Illinois team riding a five-game winning streak, including a pair of victories over Big Ten heavies Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Follow | Subscribe | Donate

But OSU, enjoying its own five-game trend heading into the game, got splendid perimeter play from juniors Jon Diebler and David Lighty, and Turner was more than comfortable setting them up.

The trio combined for 51 points, including ET's 16, part of a near-triple double that also included 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Outside of maybe Kansas' Sherron Collins, no player is more valuable to his team than Turner. For some reason, OSU's huge game against Purdue on Wednesday is not scheduled to be televised, but if you watch the Bucks play at Michigan State -- another large conference clash -- on Sunday (Noon, CBS), you'll see he does everything for his team. Not only leading the offense and sharing the basketball, but also energizing an increasingly active defense. Illinois had absolutely no answers for OSU's zone on Sunday.

Turner and the Buckeyes kind of remind me of Francisco Garcia and the 2005 Louisville Cardinals, who started to peak in February and rode a balanced offense all the way to the Final Four. Garcia was clearly the most dangerous weapon on that team, but his supporting cast was more than capable, and his unselfishness only made them better.

Further proof of Turner's value to his team comes next season, when he'll probably be playing in the NBA and the Buckeyes, who bring back every other starter, likely will struggle without him.

BIG UPSETS IN BIG EAST: Speaking of Louisville, the Cardinals got a huge resume win at Syracuse Sunday, and now with two winnable games up next, Rick Pitino's bunch appears headed for an NCAA bid.

As hard as Louisville tried to give the game away -- the Cards missed five free throws and turned the ball over in the final 1:41 -- the visitors held on to beat the Orange for the fifth straight time. The teams meet again in the season finale for both in Louisville on March 6.

And although Rutgers isn't headed to the NCAA Tournament, the Scarlet Knights earned a nice win over visiting Georgetown on Sunday. A Jekyll-and-Hyde stretch that includes wins over Duke and Villanova has seen the Hoyas drop three of their last six games. Georgetown has Syracuse and West Virginia on its remaining schedule, so the Hoyas will still be able to bolster their resume for a favorable NCAA seed.

FINAL FOUR PICKS: It seems like more teams are playing themselves out of top seeds than into them. Kansas and Kentucky could be a delicious championship game, but Syracuse, a team I've liked all season, struggled at home to beat a weak Connecticut squad before losing at home to Louisville. Just a February bump or a sign of something bigger?

+ EAST: Villanova (Duke)
+ SOUTH: Kentucky (West Virginia)
+ MIDWEST: Kansas (Michigan State)
+ WEST: Syracuse (Gonzaga)
+ SLEEPER: Siena

DePAUL OFFERS SCHOLARSHIP TO 14-YEAR-OLD: DePaul has offered a basketball scholarship to 14-year-old Jahlil Okafor, and that doesn't sit well with ESPN analyst Bob Knight.

"If I were a parent, I wouldn't want anybody talking to my son about going to college until he's on his way toward finishing high school," he said on SportsCenter on Monday morning. Didn't Knight do just about the same thing with Damon Bailey 25 years ago?

TUBE TIME: I still can't get over the Purdue-Ohio State game not being televised, but there are a few good ones coming up later this week:

+ Thursday: Syracuse at Georgetown, 7 p.m., ESPN2
+ Saturday: Illinois at Purdue, 4 p.m., ESPN
+ Saturday: Kentucky at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m., ESPN


Tuesday Hoops Notebook

Wesley Johnson

One Great Season

I'm still unimpressed by Georgetown, and in the last month I've probably watched Syracuse more than any other team. After watching the Big East rivals square off at the Carrier Dome Monday night, I like the Orange a lot.

Lacking a true superstar, Syracuse beats you with good balance. Its lineup is stacked with many capable players. Looking for a three? Pass it to Andy Rautins. Want some interior strength? Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku are your guys. Need an all-around stud? Give Wesley Johnson a call.

Follow | Subscribe | Donate

And don't forget Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine, who, combined with Rautins, average a combined 29 points and 13 assists per game. That's a pretty nice trio of guards.

After surrendering 14 points to open the game, Syracuse steadily crept back into it and even took a lead into halftime. The Orange stretched the margin to more than 20 points after the break, and cruised to its sixth straight defeat of Georgetown.

The best play of the night wasn't a dunk or a trey or a SportsCenter-esque swat. It was actually a long, left-handed bounce pass from Rautins at the top of the arc to Johnson near the low block. Johnson went up for a dunk, but a foul caused him to pull back, though he still converted the deuce and made the subsequent free throw to stretch the Syracuse lead to 55-40 midway through the second half.

If Syracuse can stay healthy, then surly coach Jim Boeheim looks to have a deep and balanced team that will contend for a Final Four spot in Indianapolis.

FINAL FOUR PICKS: Speaking of the best event in all of sports, I'll be making Final Four predictions each week here on OGS. Here's my first guess:

+ EAST: Syracuse
+ SOUTH: Kentucky
+ MIDWEST: Kansas
+ WEST: Texas

TUBE TIME: Keep your schedule open for the following games this week:

+ Tuesday: Michigan State at Michigan (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
+ Tuesday: Kentucky at South Carolina (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
+ Tuesday: Not televised -- Kansas State at Baylor (8 p.m. ET)
+ Wednesday: Vanderbilt at Tennessee (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
+ Wednesday: Florida State at Duke (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
+ Thursday: Wisconsin at Purdue (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
+ Saturday: Duke at Georgetown (1 p.m. ET, CBS)
+ Saturday: Kansas at Kansas State (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

CONFERENCE RANKINGS: If the Big East didn't impress you in the first few weeks of league play, Saturday's non-conference wins over the weekend (Connecticut over Texas, West Virginia over Ohio State) should have done some convincing. Here are my conference rankings through Monday night's games:

1. Big East
2. Big 12
3. Big 10
4. ACC
5. SEC
6. MWC
7. Atlantic 10
8. PAC 10


Who Will Win Today's Big Games?

Cincinnati Bearcats

One Great Season

PITTSBURGH -- I haven't had many noon starts on the OGS tour, but I'm not complaining.

After I shoot the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game, I'll hustle back to the hotel for the Florida-Alabama tilt and then of course Texas-Nebraska. Those poor kids from Georgia Tech and Clemson; not many people will be watching that ACC Championship game when it kicks off at 8 p.m. ET.

Here are my picks for today's huge matchups:

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh -- The Bearcats surprised many in the season's first half with a defense that hardly resembled one that was starting 10 new players. But the last few games, UC is giving up big plays and many points, so Dion Lewis and the Panthers will definitely make it interesting. But Cincinnati's offense hasn't missed a beat despite the musical quarterbacks, and I don't even think the noise surrounding Brian Kelly's future will be a problem. Cincinnati wins a shootout, 45-37.

Urban Meyer

Florida vs. Alabama -- Two great teams with great defenses tangle for the right to call themselves SEC champions and play for the national title. I see this one looking a lot like the Florida-LSU game in October. Points and big plays will be at a premium. And in such a game that will probably be close after halftime, would you put your crunch-time money on Tim Tebow or the other guy? Florida ends Alabama's dream season ... again, 16-12.

Texas vs. Nebraska -- Many think Nebraska has a chance here, and while I don't totally disagree, the chance is not a good one. Texas hasn't faced a defense like the one it will face today, but the Huskers have little to be excited about on the other side of the ball. They'll certainly slow the Longhorns down, but not enough to beat them. Colt McCoy and Texas have too much firepower. A slowed-down UT offense is better than most at full power. The Longhorns are focused on one of those shiny BCS invitations, and they'll get it with an impressive win, 31-10.

Georgia Tech vs. Clemson -- Each team suffered a disappointing rivalry loss to an almighty SEC team last week, so tonight's game will tell us who can respond better to adversity. Clemson has C.J. Spiller, who can rejoin the list of Heisman candidates with another stellar performance. But Georgia Tech has its impossible-to-stop rushing attack that gives everyone trouble. I have to think preparing for a difficult team will be slightly easier the second time around for the Tigers, who only lost by a field goal at Georgia Tech in Week Two. Clemson wins, 27-23, in an exciting finish that many will turn to after Texas puts the Big 12 title game out of reach in the second half.


Big East Preview

By John P. Wise
One Great Season

NEW YORK -- I still can't believe what's happened to the Big East since November 2006.

Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers were all 8-0 and among the top 10 teams in the country. They were all scheduled to play each other in the season's final weeks, but none escaped unblemished; all were knocked from BCS Championship game contention.

And the league has not been the same since.

My alma mater of all teams, Cincinnati, repped the Big East in the Orange Bowl last year, and played listlessly in a loss to Virginia Tech. The Bearcats have one of the nation's more exciting players returning in WR/KR Mardy Gilyard, but losing 10 starters on defense usually prevents teams from repeating as league champs.

Rutgers has shown that 2006 was just one good year, and Louisville fans can't wait to get rid of coach Steve Kragthorpe, who's made a mess of the success John L. Smith built and Bobby Petrino furthered.

That leaves West Virginia, whose Mountaineers will climb back to the top of the league once more in 2009.

Four-year starter Pat White leaves a gaping hole at quarterback, and the offensive line is thin, but electric running back Noel Devine will still be a threat to hit the century mark every time out. When White and Steve Slaton were backfield mates for three years, WVU beat -- actually pounded -- teams with offense. That won't be the case this season, but the Mountaineers bring back eight starters from a stingy defense, which we've heard wins championships.

Don't sleep on Pittsburgh, which just can't seem to meet expectations under Dave Wannstedt. But his defense will be comparable to that of WVU's, and will hide the shortcomings of an inexperienced offensive attack.

South Florida will be solid again in 2009, with quarterback Matt Grothe at the helm and sackmaster George Selvie causing havoc from the defensive side of the ball. If the gunslingin' Grothe can curb his mistakes and Selvie can stay healthy, the two stars who lifted USF all the way to a No. 2 ranking in 2007 will certainly help the Bulls contend in what appears to be a wide-open Big East.



BEST GAME ON THE SCHEDULE: Pittsburgh at West Virginia, Nov. 27.