The good news and bad news of the Big East schedule

2 Jul

By Bobby Bancroft
National Hoops Report

While we are just heading into July, the first big event on the 2011-2012 Big East men’s basketball calendar has already come and gone with the official announcement of the conference opponents.

With most conferences playing an unbalanced league schedule these days, the conference schedule can go a long way to determining which schools qualify for the NCAA Tournament.  In no other conference is this a bigger deal than in the Big East with its 16 teams.

Just as in years past, each school will play 18 conference games consisting of 12 games against one school and six games against three schools in a home and away format.

Let’s take an early look at who has the most difficult repeat opponents on their schedule in order of most difficult to least difficult.  Please keep in mind that least difficult in the Big East is a very relative term.  Last season’s conference record and post-season results are in parenthesis.

1.       Syracuse (12-6, NCAA)

Repeat Opponents:  Connecticut, Louisville, Providence

Good News:  Playing both Connecticut and Louisville two times a piece means four games against likely top ten teams for the Orange.  Syracuse will have plenty of opportunities to go after a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Bad News:  The Syracuse zone has proven to be no match for Louisville since the Cardinals joined the Big East (1-7).  Some experts think Rick Pitino’s time as an assistant under Jim Boeheim is the key.  When you throw in another two games against the defending National Champions, this schedule is tough, tough, tough.

2.       Cincinnati (11-7, NCAA)

Repeat Opponents:  Marquette, St. John’s, Villanova

Good News:  While Marquette will likely pop up on most pre-season Top 25 polls, both St. John’s and Villanova may experience some growing pains as they look to replace seniors.

Bad News:  Mick Cronin will have his work cut out for him as he looks to get the Bearcats back into the NCAA tournament.  Cincinnati will face three repeat opponents that all qualified for last year’s NCAA Tournament.

3.       Marquette (9-9, NCAA Sweet 16)

Repeat Opponents:  Cincinnati, Georgetown, Villanova

Good News:  Since joining the Big East in 2005, Marquette is undefeated at Cincinnati (2-0).  The Golden Eagles also hold winning home records against the Hoyas (3-1) and the Wildcats (2-0).

Bad News:  Marquette joins Cincinnati as the only other Big East team that will face three teams twice that all qualified for last year’s NCAA Tournament.  The Golden Eagles are only 1-3 at Villanova in Big East Play, one of their worst league away records.

4.        Louisville (12-6, NCAA)

Repeat Opponents:  DePaul, Pittsburgh, Syracuse

Good News:  The Cardinals should be able to pad their conference win total against DePaul.  Louisville lost their first game against Syracuse after joining the Big East.  All they have done since then is rattle off seven straight wins.

Bad News:  Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be two Top 15 squads loaded with experienced players looking to even some scores with the Cardinals as Louisville has recently held the upper hand in both rivalries.

5.       Villanova (9-9, NCAA)

Repeat Opponents:  Cincinnati, Marquette, South Florida

Good News:  Jay Wright has had great success against all three of the former Conference USA teams.  As he looks to rebuild with younger guards, the sharply dressed coach will need every advantage he can find.

Bad News:  Cincinnati and Marquette look like absolute locks to make the NCAA Tournament.  Villanova does not.  The Wildcats had been undefeated against South Florida until the Bulls demolished Villanova in last year’s Big East Tournament.

6.       Connecticut (9-9, NCAA National Champions)

Repeat Opponents:  Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Syracuse

Good News:  Jim Calhoun is coming back.  The long-time Huskies coach is 10-2 all-time against Notre Dame at home.  He also holds winning records against both Seton Hall (10-5) and Syracuse (16-9) at home.

Bad News:  Connecticut was only 4-9 in Big East games last season against teams that made the NCAA Tournament.  They play four games against last year’s tournament teams in their mirror games without that Kemba Walker guy.    Everybody struggles in the Carrier Dome.  The Huskies are no exception to that rule.

7.       Pittsburgh (15-3, NCAA)

Repeat Opponents:  Louisville, South Florida, West Virginia

Good News:  Pittsburgh has taken three of the last four in this hardwood court version of the Backyard Brawl with neighbors West Virginia.  It was nice of the conference to ensure this heated rivalry was preserved in a true home and away fashion.

Bad News:  Jaime Dixon is only 2-4 against Louisville, easily one of his worst records against a conference rival.  Making matters worse is the fact that the Cardinals own a 2-1 record at the Petersen Events Center in front of the Electric Zoo.

8.       Notre Dame (14-4, NCAA)

Repeat Opponents:  Connecticut, Rutgers, West Virginia

Good News:    It’s not often that a team sweeps the eventual National Champions.  The Irish will get multiple cracks at the Irish for the second year in a row.  ND has lost just twice in at home against Rutgers and West Virginia (18-2) in league play.

Bad News:  Notre Dame has racked up more road losses at Connecticut and Rutgers than another other schools in the conference.

9.        West Virginia (11-7, NCAA)

Repeat Opponents:  Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers

Good News:  The Mountaineers have had great success both home and away against Rutgers over the years (16-5).  Even though they have struggled recently against Pittsburgh, it’s great to see both home and away dates with Pittsburgh on the schedule.

Bad News:  West Virginia has double digit road losses against only two schools in the Big East.  Both of those road venues are on this year’s schedule in Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.

10.   South Florida (3-15)

Repeat Opponents:  Pittsburgh, Providence, Villanova

Good News:  Pittsburgh looks like the only lock to make the tournament out of the three repeat opponents.  Even better is the fact that one of the biggest wins in Bulls basketball history was a home win over the Panthers.

Bad News:  Providence has struggled in league play since South Florida entered the Big East in 2005 but the Bulls haven’t been able to take advantage of the fact (3-5).

11.    Rutgers (5-13)

Repeat Opponents:  Notre Dame, Seton Hall, West Virginia

Good News:  Mike Rice was able to defeat in-state rival Seton Hall two out of three times last season.  He will get another chance to separate his team from the Pirates.  The RAC has been a house of horrors for the Irish (3-8).

Bad News:  Rutgers has had little success against West Virginia in league play (5-16) with just as much futility at home as on the road.  Even worse is their record at Seton Hall (2-11).  Mike Rice has a lot of work to do.         

12.   Georgetown (10-8, NCAA)

Repeat Opponents:  Marquette, Providence, St. John’s

Good News:  While the Hoyas rebuild, the schedule makers have been kind.  Marquette will provide a real challenge but multiple games with Providence and St. John’s should present an opportunity for the Hoyas to climb up the Big East ladder towards the Bubble Watch.

Bad News:  The league’s marquee match-up between Georgetown and Syracuse will not be played twice this season.  This is bad news for the entire league.  The other bad news for Georgetown is that, no matter who they play, uncertainties are at every corner.

13.   St. John’s (12-6, NCAA)

Repeat Opponents:  Cincinnati, DePaul, Georgetown

Good News:  Steve Lavin made St. John’s matter again for the first time in a long time last season.  While his team will have a major over haul roster composition, his schedule is manageable.  DePaul isn’t ready for the primetime just yet and Georgetown will likely struggle to stay on the Bubble.

Bad News:  Inexperience is everywhere for St. John’s and an easier league schedule might not matter.  While most other schools have dominated DePaul, the Red Storm has struggled.  If they can’t fix that record with the Blue Demons, Lavin’s second season will be a long one.

14.   Providence (4-14)

Repeat Opponents:  Georgetown, South Florida, Syracuse

Good News:  The Big East schedule makers were kind to Ed Cooley in his first year with the Friars as there is only one sure fire NCAA Tournament team on their home and away schedule in Syracuse.  Georgetown looks to be an unknown and South Florida isn’t ready to make a tournament run this season.

Bad News:  Marshon Brooks is gone.  That would hurt any school.  The Friars are absolutely dreadful against Syracuse (8-40) in league play and their record isn’t much better against Georgetown (15-31).  Providence hasn’t finished in the top half of the conference since 2003-2004.

15.   DePaul (1-17)

Repeat Opponents:  Louisville, St. John’s, Seton Hall

Good News:  It’s the start of another season and Oliver Purnell has an excellent track record for turning around programs.  The Blue Demons have only eight wins away from home in league play but two of those wins are at St. John’s

Bad News:  DePaul is 2-52 over their last three Big East regular seasons.  Simply put, everybody is on a winning streak against the Blue Demons.

16.   Seton Hall (7-11)

Repeat Opponents:  DePaul, Connecticut, Rutgers

Good News:  Well somebody had to have the “easiest” conference schedule.  Seton Hall gets that early distinction because only one of their mirror teams made the NCAA Tournament last year.

Bad News:  Of course the one team that did make the NCAA Tournament went ahead and won the whole thing.  Rutgers was able to take two out of three last year against the Pirates.

One Response to “The good news and bad news of the Big East schedule”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Making sense of the uneven Big East TV schedule « - September 5, 2011

    […] back in July we got out first glimpse of the 2011-2012 Big East season when we found out which teams would be playing each other and where those games would take place.  Well on Wednesday we found out the final piece of the […]

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