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Big East vs. Division I
So where in the Divison I landscape does this collection of private colleges (who do not play bowl-level football) fit? Impressions, assumptions and prejudices aside — the numbers tell the story. Through games of Saturday December 21, the four most often referenced indices rank the Big East 4th or 5th among the 33 recognized Division I conferences:

Table1

[Note — ESPN ranks the teams individually, but not the conferences. The conference rank is a straight average of the BPI for the individual conference members]

The basic pecking order took shape by week 3 of the season though ranks 2-5 have shuffled plus or minus in any given week. The Big East consistently ranked below the Big Ten and Big 12, consistently above the SEC and the American Athletic Conference (the other third of the old Big East) and clustered with the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Pac-12 Conference. With about 13 games left to play (about 9% of the non conference¬†games scheduled) these 10 teams clearly belong in the same conversation as their football-playing counterparts — the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12. Note that irrespective of the rating system used, the Big East is closer to the conference ranked above than it is to the conference ranked below.

For those who prefer not to regress to the mean or believe that Bayesian inference is best cured with Bayer Aspirin, the composite record for the Big East versus the other 32 Division I conferences tell the same story, albeit with more detail:

Table2

[Note: “Gms” in the above table is games scheduled.¬† So there are instances where the record is incomplete (i.e. 10 games, 8-1 record) because there remains one game to be played between teams from the Big East and respective conference.¬† No games were scheduled with the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference nor the Sun Belt Conference; those conferences do not appear in the table. For this season the “High-Major” conferences are the AAC, the ACC, the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and the SEC; the “Basketball 1st” conferences are the Atlantic 10, the Missouri Valley, the Mountain West, and the West Coast conferences.]

The conference holds a slight winning record versus the High-Majors, a strong indication that it can compete head-to-head, both on neutral floors and in home-away competition. The conference has five games yet to play with the football schools, but the final record will most likely stay within 1-2 of the 0.500 mark. The conference has maintained a 67%-70% winning rate versus “Basketball 1st” conferences, while it has crushed the competition from the other 23 conferences, consistently maintaining a 90%+ winning percentage against that competition. Winning versus the competition may be obvious, but key for the conference has been the scheduling mix — 48% of the games were scheduled with “Other 23″ conferences, even as the conference scheduled just over 33% of their games with “High-Major” conference members. Early season invitational tournaments accounted for 48% of the matchups, but being competitive in that environment (the conference-wide record was 9-9) was crucial to (re)establish national visibility for the members. By holding the other 23 conferences to 48% of the schedule the Big East did not set a “ceiling” on potential ranking. Presented with the opportunity to play High-Major opponents however, winning is the key.

Four Highlights and Lowlights of the Out of Conference Season

Best to worst, these are some of the best — and worst — of the out of conference play.

Villanova over Kansas 63-59 — A first hint that the momentum Coach Jay Wright developed at the end of last season would continue into this one as the Wildcats beat the then #2 ranked team in the second round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Ryan Arcidiacono may have hit the game winner with seconds left in regulation, but four of his teammates “carried the water” through much of the game.

Credit: Steven Branscombe

Credit: Steven Branscombe

Creighton over Arizona State 88-60 — The Bluejays delivered a resounding win over the well-regarded Sun Devils to open the Wooden Legacy invitational. Creighton jumped on Arizona State early, opening up a 15 point lead early in the first half and never looked. back. Transfer Devin Brooks proved his dominant performance versus Alcorn State to open the season was not a fluke.

Xavier over Cincinnati 64-47 — Coach Chris Mack’s squad bounced back from a disappointing showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis by thumping their cross-town rival by 17 points on a neutral court. This annual renewal was a disaster for the X-men the last two seasons, and suggests that they may have finally exorcised the demons raised by The Brawl in the 2011 game.

Butler over Purdue 76-70 — The Bulldogs vanquished in state rival Purdue in a game that was competitive in spurts. Kellen Dunham, Khyle Marshall and senior Eric Fromm proved to be a potent trio offensively, a combination conference rivals will learn about soon.

DePaul lost a home game to Arizona State 78-56 — The margin, when compared to the margin of Creighton’s win over the same Sun Devils a forenight earlier, expose Coach Oliver Purnell’s lack of prograss with the program. Brandon Young’s absence was noted, as the Blue Demons could not find a suitable replacemnt.

Marquette stumbled against Ohio State 52-35 — The 17 point loss was surprising enough, but more worrisome was the Golden Eagles’ inability to score more than 35 points in a regulation game. The anemic offensive production suggests that Coach Buzz Williams has still not solved a problem that carried over from last season.

St. John’s loset to Penn State 89-82 in overtime — After sleep walking for the first 30 minutes of the game, the Red Storm put on a furious rush that tied the game in regulation, only to lose in overtime when they could not keep D’Angelo Harrison and Sir’Dominic Pointer on the court.

Seton Hall fell to St. Peter’s 83-80 — Coach Kevin Willard did not have Patrik Auda (ankle) and Fuquan Edwin (ankle) to start, but even losing transfer point guard Sterling Gibbs early in the game, the Pirates had enough talent to beat the #250 ranked Peacocks. Edwin is back, Gibbs is expected to return in time for conference play, but the Hall still must figure out how to punch up an anemic offense.

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