Big East displaying enviable depth (cont.)
Locks: Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Connecticut
Connecticut likely will come back to Earth a bit, as the handling at Pitt and the escape at home against USF indicate, but the overall profile should be strong enough to handle almost any regression. Pitt remains the de facto favorite, but this league is the most complex at the top of any BCS conference.
SHOULD BE IN
Notre Dame (11-2, 1-1; RPI: 12, SOS: 42)
The Irish had a very solid .500 week, rolling past Georgetown and leading in the second half at Syracuse before fading. ND historically has been a much better team at home, but its two "road" efforts of the year have been fairly encouraging in tough spots. Really, this profile is the equivalent of UConn's. Inconsistent? I guess so. Maybe we'll rejuggle after the two play Tuesday in South Bend.
GW: Wisconsin (N), Gonzaga, Georgetown
Louisville (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 46, SOS: 71)
The Cardinals watched archrival Kentucky go on a second-half serge and fell for the second time at the KFC Yum! Center. They will need to take advantage of a much softer first half of the league slate, starting with reeling Seton Hall on Wednesday.
GW: Butler, UNLV
IN THE MIX
West Virginia (8-4, 0-2; RPI: 11, SOS: 4)
A week that should have been 1-1 at worst ended 0-2 when the 'Eers lost at home to St. John's and then fell late at Marquette. With the depth at the top of the league, that's a dangerous misstep, but the schedule remains pretty favorable coming up.
GW: Vanderbilt, Cleveland State
BL: St. John's, at Miami?
Cincinnati (14-0, 0-0; RPI: 65; SOS: 325)
I made a point of watching Cincy-Seton Hall on New Year's Eve (insert joke about my life here) just to get an updated sanity check on the Bearcats. Nothing personal, but call me unconvinced. We'll see how this week goes with the Crosstown Shootout against fairly desperate Xavier and then at Villanova.
Marquette (10-4, 1-0; RPI: 122; SOS: 197)
Marquette got a crucial win over West Virginia after falling in the final seconds at Vandy. You might as well copy and paste last year's Bubble Watch blurbs. The fan base dies a little bit each time they play, the next 11 games are mostly killer, and they should win five of their final six or so to make the NCAAs.
St. John's (9-3, 2-0; RPI: 7, SOS: 5)
Hey, now! Road wins at West Virginia and Providence to open Big East play have amped up the juice for Georgetown's visit tonight. Worth noting: The Johnnies haven't played a team this season that's currently worse than 5-7, thus the computer numbers (that are inflated, but still).
GW: at West Virginia, Northwestern?, Arizona State (N)?
BL: St. Bonaventure, at Fordham
Providence (11-4, 0-0; RPI: 69, SOS: 105)
The Friars are better than expected but may rue the New Year's Day home loss to St. John's. Things could now unravel in a hurry with Pitt visiting and then a three-game road trip.
BL: La Salle (N)?, St. John's
Locks: Ohio State
Before the season, this looked like the deepest top of a league in the nation, which makes it even more impressive that the Buckeyes have separated from the pack like this. They're not untouchable, but you can make a very reasonable argument that they are the nation's best team at the moment.
SHOULD BE IN
Illinois (12-3, 2-0; RPI: 38, SOS: 56)
The Illini did what they needed to do last week, getting wins at Iowa and at home vs. Wisconsin. If they can handle Northwestern and a trip to Happy Valley, they'll be 4-0 heading to the Kohl Center.
GW: Maryland (N), UNC?, Gonzaga (N)
BL: Illinois-Chicago (N)
Purdue (13-1, 2-0; RPI: 10, SOS: 53)
This is why it's good to have seniors, especially when they're as good as E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. The Boilermakers are quietly (but not subtly) figuring out their offensive issues without Robbie Hummel and are starting to project as a very dangerous team, especially when fully healthy.
GW: at Virginia Tech
Minnesota (11-3, 0-2; RPI: 40, SOS: 69)
Can you have an OK 0-2 week? If so, the Gophers just did, battling hard in losses at Wisconsin and Michigan State. The efforts were decent validation of the team's chops. Stay solid on them.
GW: North Carolina (N), West Virginia (N)
Wisconsin (11-3, 1-1; RPI: 33, SOS: 97)
The Badgers played two of the top half of the league and won by eight at home (over Minnesota) and lost by eight on the road (at Illinois). Sounds like everything's normal in Madison. Wednesday's visit from Michigan is important ahead of a trip to East Lansing and the rematch with the Illini.
GW: at Marquette, Boston College (N), N.C. State?
Michigan State (8-4, 1-0, RPI: 51, SOS: 28)
Likewise, the Spartans' more physical effort against the Gophers is a good sign. Now they need to take care of upstart Northwestern and Penn State on the road.
GW: Washington (N)
IN THE MIX
Northwestern (9-2, 0-1; RPI: 34, SOS: 119)
The Wildcats couldn't hang at Purdue and now get Michigan State at home before heading to Champaign. If they start out 0-3, will they be able to reel off at least nine of their last 15 in the league?
Michigan (10-3, 1-1; RPI: 81, SOS: 110)
The Wolverines split two home league games, getting pounded by Purdue before holding off Penn State. That doesn't bode all that well for the next three: at Wisconsin and then home to Kansas and Ohio State.
GW: at Clemson
BL: UTEP (N)?
There was an interesting Twitter debate on Sunday about Arizona and whether the Wildcats are the clear No. 2 team in the league. A fearsome two-headed Jeff consisting Yahoo's Eisenberg (@jeffeisenberg) and Fox's Goodman (@goodmanonfox) disagreed with my assertion that the 'Cats were the clear choice for No. 2. Then Arizona went out and tanked one in Corvallis. Thanks, guys.
SHOULD BE IN
Washington (10-3, 2-0; RPI: 25, SOS: 33)
It's hard to have a better first weekend of league play than the Huskies, who earned tough wins at USC and UCLA to get a very rare sweep (for them) of the L.A. trip. They now have a big early leg up in the league race and get some validation of ability after some just-miss efforts against top-level competition.
GW: None really, but the L.A. road sweep is big
IN THE MIX
Arizona (12-3, 1-1; RPI: 31, SOS: 88)
The Wildcats suffered a really bad loss at Oregon State Sunday night. If they had any designs on challenging Washington for the league crown, this weekend for both teams has created a huge initial gap. The next three are at home before the trip to Seattle on Jan. 20.
GW: at N.C. State
BL: at Oregon State
Washington State (10-4, 0-2; RPI: 63; SOS: 112)
The Cougs had the "bizarro Washington" weekend, losing at both L.A. schools to step into a bit of an immediate league hole. Five of the next seven are in Pullman, though, and those are wrapped around a manageable Bay Area trip.
GW: Gonzaga, Baylor (N)
USC (9-6, 1-1; RPI: 58, SOS: 22)
A tough overtime loss to Washington spoiled what could have been a terrific weekend. The Trojans will need Tennessee to stop its free-fall, though, for that win to hold up.
GW: Texas, at Tennessee
BL: A handful to mediocre teams
UCLA (9-5, 1-1; RPI: 77, SOS: 36)
The Bruins split a pair of nine-point decisions at home to the Washington schools, but should be a factor in the league. This is a pretty significant early game for both teams at USC on Sunday.
GW: BYU (N)
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