Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect this afternoon's new Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Poll rankings.
Jim Boeheim's Syracuse outfit is undefeated in Big East Conference play, but lost a key scorer when James Southerland was suspended last week
Head coach Jim Boeheim’s No. 6/6 Syracuse squad (16-1) is out front alone early in Big East Conference play with a 4-0 record. No. 1/1 Louisville (15-1) and No. 25/NR Marquette (12-3) are 3-0. No. 20/20 Notre Dame (14-2), UConn (12-3) and Villanova (11-5) are tied at 2-1, with national rankings to be shaken up later today. The Irish, despite a 65-58 home loss to Connecticut Saturday, will likely remain among the top 25.
Even at the top of the league standings, Syracuse can’t get out of its own way. Last year included a drug testing scandal and Fab Melo’s suspension (academics) just before then-No. 1 Syracuse traveled to South Bend and was upset by the Fighting Irish. This year it is Michael Carter-Williams shoplifting ordeal at a New York mall in December and senior forward James Southerland’s academic suspension — the length of which has yet to be determined. According to reports, Carter-Williams was apprehended by store security and paid a $500 fine on the spot to avoid further legal issues.
Southerland emerged from the locker room in street clothes Saturday before the Orange’s game against Villanova, and it’s unclear how long the squad’s second-leading scorer will be sidelined after he was ruled ineligible by the university.
In his first five games this year, Southerland averaged 19.2 points per game and shot 60-percent from behind the 3-point line. Over the last 11 games his production has dropped to 13.6 points and 37.4-percent shooting from deep.
In the basement
South Florida is 9-6 overall and 0-3 in Big East play so far, but don’t count the Bulls out of the league tournament just yet. Having started the league slate off with Syracuse, Louisville and Villanova, USF should see things even out here over the next few weeks as the schedule eases up a bit. The Bulls played Syracuse and Villanova fairly tough, losing by an average of 9.5 points. They did, however, get crushed by Louisville 64-38 on Jan. 12.
Big East bragging rights
The first Ratings Percentage Index of the 2012-13 season was released last week and 13 of 15 Big East schools ranked among the top 100. A critical tool in NCAA Championship selections, the top conference RPI belongs to Louisville (No. 9 overall), followed by Syracuse (14), Connecticut (27), Marquette (31), Cincinnati (34) and Notre Dame (37).
As of games played through Jan. 10, which is the last time NCAA statistics were updated, the Big East ranked among national leaders in four categories. Notre Dame led the nation with 19.9 assists per game, Pittsburgh had the best assist-to-turnover ratio (2.05), St. John’s had blocked 8.9 shots per game (with a little boost from freshman Chris Obekpa’s 5.1 per game) and Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams has been in the top spot in the country all year with 9.8 assists per game.
Nothing to fear for Catholics
The seven Catholic institutions that plan to break away from the Big East and form their own basketball-centric conference will likely cash in big time, possibly doubling their television revenue, according to reports.
An ESPN report on Jan. 6 explained that Fox Sports has slapped the highest deal on the table so far, which could be worth as much as $500 million over 12 years. NBC Sports has also reportedly engaged in preliminary talks with the “Catholic 7.” Under the current contract, non-football Big East schools receive between $2 and $3 million each per season. An influx of cash could help DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova leave the Big East as early as the end of this season.
Louisville at Connecticut, 7 p.m. on ESPN
Notre Dame at St. John’s, 7 p.m. on ESPN2
Cincinnati at DePaul, 8:30 p.m. on BEN
Pittsburgh at Villanova, 7 p.m. on ESPNU
Providence at Georgetown, 7 p.m. on BEN
Seton Hall at Marquette, 9 p.m. on BEN
South Florida at Rutgers, 9 p.m. on ESPN2
Connecticut at Pittsburgh, Noon on ESPN2
St. John’s at DePaul, Noon on BEN
Syracuse at Louisville, 4 p.m. on ESPN
Villanova at Providence, 4 p.m. on BEN
Georgetown at South Florida, 6 p.m. on BEN
Marquette at Cincinnati, 7 p.m. on ESPNU
Rutgers at Notre Dame, 8 p.m. on BEN