As men’s basketball nonconference play winds down, the top-25 standings feature a wide swath of conference affiliations, including 10 different leagues represented. The top 10 is comprised one Atlantic Coast Conference program, three Big Ten schools, one Pac-12 team, a trio of Big East members and one Big 12 and one SEC participant.
Senior forward Jack Cooley has become one of the best big men in the Big East
Duke remains the No. 1-ranked squad with an 11-0 record, followed by Michigan (12-0), Arizona (11-0), Louisville (11-1), Indiana (11-1), Kansas (10-1), Missouri (10-1), Cincinnati (12-0), Syracuse (10-1) and Ohio State (9-2).
Notre Dame weighs in at No. 21 after completing its non-league schedule with a 12-1 mark. In all, six Big East members rank among the nation’s top 25, including No. 15 Georgetown (10-1) and No. 24 Pittsburgh (12-1). The Big Ten also boasts six schools on the list, including No. 11 Minnesota (12-1), No. 12 Illinois (12-1) and No. 19 Michigan State (11-2).
Louisville, with three starters back from a squad that won the conference tournament title and reached the Final Four last season, was the unanimous Big East preseason favorite. Syracuse was voted second and Notre Dame came in third ahead of Cincinnati. Georgetown rounded out the top five, edging out Pitt and Marquette.
Best of the Big East
The Orange top the league list with 83 points per game, followed by the Bearcats (79.8), Cardinals (78.1), Panthers (76.8) and Fighting Irish (76.4). Pitt has been the stingiest of all Big East teams through nonconference play, allowing just 51.8 ppg. Georgetown, Louisville, Cincinnati, Providence and Notre Dame have all surrendered fewer than 60 points per outing. Pittsburgh has shot 52.5 percent from the field to pace the league, with Notre Dame second at 51 percent.
The Irish have made the second-most 3-pointers (92) behind Seton Hall (103), but head coach Mike Brey’s team has the highest percentage (38.7) from behind the arc. Notre Dame is 11th in the conference when it comes to defending the deep ball, having given up 75 triples.
Pittsburgh is out front with 19.8 assists per game, followed by the Irish (19.5) and Syracuse (17.8). The Irish are last in the Big East with 5.8 steals per game. Louisville has picked the most pockets with 11.8 takeaways. The Irish are one of only three teams to have a negative turnover margin (negative-0.38), but are second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.8) behind the Panthers (2.2).
Notre Dame is 12th with 139 offensive rebounds and third with 365 defensive rebounds. Cincinnati leads both categories with 204 offensive boards and 353 defensive rebounds.
According to the Big East, Notre Dame is averaging 7,656 fans per home game (eighth in the league). Louisville has seen 20,416 fans on average and Syracuse has welcomed 19,465 fans per home contest.
In 10 games, Providence junior guard Bryce Cotton (6-1) has poured in 22 points per game, including a league-high total of 32 made 3-point baskets. Notre Dame senior forward Jack Cooley is 14th on the list with 15.2 points per game. St. John’s D’Angelo Harrison, Louisville’s Russ Smith, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick and Seton Hall’s Fuquan Edwin have all put up at least 19 points per game thus far.
Cooley leads the league with 11.3 rebounds per game — three more than Providence’s LaDontae Henton (8.3). He’s crushing the competition when it comes to total offensive boards (63). Seton Hall’s Eugene Teague (41) and Louisville’s Change Behanan (40) are next in line. Cooley has pulled down 84 defensive rebounds and Irish sixth-year senior Scott Martin is second in the conference with 73.
Irish senior center Garrick Sherman, a critical piece off the bench moving forward, has the highest field-goal percentage at .644 after having made 47 of his 73 shot attempts. Pitt’s Talib Zanna (.641), Cooley (.640), Pitt’s Steven Adams (.615) and Rutgers’ Myles Mack (.602) round out the top shooters.
Notre Dame junior point guard Eric Atkins has dished out 7.2 assists per contest, which ranks third in the Big East behind Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams (10.3) and South Florida’s Anthony Collins (7.8). Atkins is also second in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.0) behind Pitt’s James Robinson (5.0).
Big East play starts Monday
Pittsburgh and Cincinnati officially kick off Big East play Monday at noon in Cincinnati on ESPN2. Connecticut travels to Marquette on New Year’s Day for an 8 p.m. tilt on ESPN2. Providence visits Louisville on and Rutgers heads to Syracuse on Jan. 2 at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively. Both contests will air on the Big East Network. That same evening St. John’s is at Villanova (8 p.m. on ESPNU) and Seton Hall is at DePaul (9 p.m. on the Big East Network).
Notre Dame is part of a five-pack of conference games on Jan. 5. Rutgers hosts Pitt at 11 a.m. (ESPN2) to kick off the action. The Fighting Irish host Seton Hall at noon (BEN), Cincinnati welcomes St. John’s at 4 p.m. (ESPNU) and DePaul travels to Providence for an 8 p.m. tipoff (BEN).