The highest ranked team in the conference is No. 14--and fading fast--Seton Hall. Pittsburgh is rated 15th and Georgetown 25th. And what does it say about a league where the leader, St. John's, is a poll no-show?
For only the second time in the last five seasons, a Big East team can't be found in the top 10. For the fourth consecutive year it looks as if no team in the league is good enough to reach the Final Four. A final eight appearance is no lock, either.
Seton Hall was an early-season favorite, but that was before star guard Terry Dehere began to struggle and Jerry Walker never quite made the transition from small center to power forward. And as always, there are the curses of the Capital Centre, where Seton Hall is 1-11 against Georgetown, and the Carrier Dome, where the Pirates are 0-13 against Syracuse.
St. John's is a nice story, but name one player in the starting lineup. For that matter, name the coach. (It's Brian Mahoney.)
Pittsburgh, the great underachiever, features sophomore guard Jerry McCullough, a star in the making. McCullough has improved his scoring average nearly 12 points from a season ago, but will it really matter come NCAA tournament time? Doubtful.
Syracuse is on probation, which is too bad, considering this is a team with the league's best player, Lawrence Moten, and freshman John Wallace.
Georgetown has freshman Othella Harrington, but he isn't good enough--yet--to take the Hoyas far. Nor should he be expected to do so.
Connecticut is a mess, especially with swingman Scott Burrell banged up. He missed last Saturday's game against St. John's and Tuesday's game against Syracuse. His 15.9-point scoring average is respectable, but not exactly what Coach Jim Calhoun had in mind. And Calhoun didn't expect senior forward Toraino Walker, apparently fed up with the coach's heavy-handed methods, to quit.
Boston College has done well enough, thanks mostly to unexpected performances from point guard Howard Eisley, who is averaging about 15 points and six assists. That said, no one is reserving hotel rooms for the Eagles in New Orleans, site of this season's Final Four.
Miami? Two years away from being a factor. Providence? Not exactly the surprise team everyone expected. Villanova? The up-tempo offense installed by first-year Coach Steve Lappas has the Wildcats going nowhere fast. Lance Miller, Villanova's best player, has struggled in the new system.
All in all, this probably isn't going to be a Big East season worth framing. Of the league's 50 starters, only 14 are seniors. Only two seniors, Dehere and Burrell, can be found in the conference's top 10 scoring leaders.
In time, the Big East will recover. But for now, it is best to borrow one of Georgetown Coach John Thompson's white towels and cover up. A conference in transition is never a pretty sight.
Kansas Coach Roy Williams, whose then-No. 1 Jayhawks were beaten by Cal State Long Beach, said college basketball has reached a competitive point of no return. "The times you're going to see people go undefeated, those days are gone," he said. . . . Williams has better things to worry about than unbeaten seasons. Point guard Adonis Jordan is suffering from an ankle stress fracture, but apparently isn't in any danger of being forced out of the lineup because of the injury. However, he does wear a rehabilitative device on the ankle about 10 hours a day. Forward Darrin Hancock, perhaps the most prized junior college recruit of a year ago, underwent laser surgery to repair torn retinas and could return to action soon, depending on the results of a doctor's examination this week. Whatever the timetable, he has been told that he should wear goggles the rest of his playing career. . . . The surprise team of the Southeastern Conference? It isn't Vanderbilt, said Georgia Coach Hugh Durham, who finds the 11th-ranked Commodores less surprising than a team that began the week with more losses than victories. His choice: South Carolina, which is led by lame duck Coach Steve Newton. Despite the distractions caused by Newton's forced resignation at season's end, the Gamecocks have won eight games--about double of what anyone thought they would, given the circumstances. And two of their four SEC victories have come on the road. Said a diplomatic Newton of the awkward situation: "I think our team has done an extremely fine job focusing on what they have to do."