Tasser: Upsets shake up Big East

By Donnie Tasser

A slew of upsets threw Big East basketball into upheaval this week. Five big ones, including two… A slew of upsets threw Big East basketball into upheaval this week. Five big ones, including two by Providence of all teams, have threatened the conference’s elite, at least when it comes to their ranking. So I’m going to have a little fun and rate this past week’s upsets.

5. No. 7 Villanova 83, No. 3 Syracuse 72

Villanova dominated the Orange from beyond the arc — especially in the first half, when the Wildcats opened up an 11-point lead. They were able to survive a late rally — ’Cuse closed to within four with just under three minutes to play — and won by that same 11-point margin in front of a season-high crowd of almost 34,000 at the Carrier Dome.

4. Providence 72, No. 15 Louisville 67

The Friars picked up their first conference win — against their old coach, no less. It was the team’s first win over Rick Pitino since he left in 1987 to coach in the NBA. Providence’s Marshon Brooks poured in 27 points, and the Cardinals shot an abysmal 4-23 from 3-point range.

3. No. 14 Notre Dame 56, No. 2 Pittsburgh 51

Ben Hansbrough led Notre Dame into a hostile environment at the Petersen Events Center, where his team was able to down the newly No. 2-ranked Panthers. Hansbrough registered 19 points and seven assists, and the Irish were able to hold the most efficient offensive team in the nation to only 51 points.

2. Seton Hall 90, No. 10 Syracuse 68

Syracuse, who a week ago was one of only a handful of unbeaten teams left in the country, lost its third straight game — and badly. The Seton Hall Pirates are the conference’s worst shooting team but were able to shoot 54 percent on the Orange and shot 10-17 from beyond the arc. The game was ugly from the start, as Seton Hall opened up a 13-point first-half lead.

1. Providence 83, No. 7 Villanova 68

The Friars went almost a year between Big East victories before beating Louisville, but then only had to wait four days for their next one. This second consecutive victory over a ranked team was very similar to the first: Brooks led the way with 20 points, and ’Nova shot only 4-22 from 3-point range.

It’s not going to stop there — over the course of the next week there are a plethora of chances for more conference shaking. Tomorrow is especially jam-packed: Pitt visits Rutgers, Louisville travels to Connecticut, Georgetown goes to Villanova and slumping Syracuse is at Marquette. On Monday, Louisville is at Georgetown, and on Wednesday Syracuse is at UConn and Marquette is at Villanova. On Sunday, there is a chance to pull a big one over on the ACC as Duke travels to St. John’s. An upset, although unlikely, would really annoy those Blue Devils.

Power Rankings

1. Connecticut — The upset-bug did not strike the Huskies this week, and they rose to first place in my power rankings after Pitt fell to Notre Dame. They remain tied for second in the conference standings but have ripped off six straight wins since losing two of three. UConn hosts No. 19 Louisville tomorrow.

2. Pittsburgh — The Panthers fall to second in my rankings but remain atop the Big East even after suffering their first conference loss of the year. When you have seven top-20 ranked teams in the same conference, you can’t expect to win them all. Pitt plays three unranked teams before it travels to Villanova Feb. 12, but if this week told us anything, the Panthers can’t afford to get caught looking ahead.

3. Villanova — ’Nova had an up-and-down week. First, the Wildcats defeated the then-No. 3 Syracuse Orange before falling to the suddenly red-hot Providence Friars. They match up with Georgetown this week.

4. Notre Dame — The Irish have a penchant for beating top-10 teams. They defeated UConn and Georgetown, both ranked No. 6 at the time, and registered a big road win over No. 2 Pitt.

5. Syracuse — The Orange have suffered a big-time slide since their loss to Pitt. I would have dismissed losses to the Panthers and Villanova, but Seton Hall? Jim Boeheim, your team is better than that. Get it together.

6. Louisville — The Cards rebounded nicely from the disaster that was the Providence game with an exciting one-point victory over WVU. Louisville has been pretty consistent this year, but really lacks a top-notch victory. It gets its chance against UConn tomorrow.

7. Georgetown — The Hoyas have seemingly righted the ship after a disastrous 1-4 slide, winning their last three. However, none of their three opponents were really that good. They can attempt to validate the top-10 ranking they held earlier this season with a win over Villanova Saturday.

8. West Virginia — The Mountaineers had a perfect upset opportunity against Louisville but couldn’t close out. West Virginia has proven it can beat good teams, but it can also lose some head shakers, which earns the Mountaineers their eighth-place ranking.