Bottom Feeders Set
The Big East is the best conference in the country.
Talk with any coach in the conference and you’ll get that response.
But there are three teams that clearly drag down the rest of the conference, against whom any opposing team should be confident about chalking up a “W” in the record book.
Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Seton Hall are all winless in Big East play through at least four conference games and have few prospects for winning when not playing each other.
Pittsburgh has lost its six conference games by a combined 156 points — an average of 26 points per game, including a 120-44 loss to No. 2/2 Notre Dame Tuesday evening. The Panthers average 10.1 less points per game than their opposition and feature a roster with no player older than a sophomore.
Seton Hall has lost its five conference games by a combined 115 points — 23 points per game. With only two players averaging over 6.8 points per game — senior guard Jasmine Crew (19.1 points per game) and junior guard Brittany Morris (12.6 points per game) — and negative rebounding (-1.7) and turnover margins (-1.2), the Pirates are in prime position to be stomped on throughout the Big East season.
Cincinnati has lost by double-digits to two of the top three teams in the conference, Rutgers and Notre Dame, but was unable to pick up wins against South Florida (11-8, 3-2) or Louisville (15-4, 4-2). The Bearcats have a better shot of improving their season than Seton Hall or Pittsburgh, but they should still expect to stay in the bottom of the conference.
Notre Dame: class of the conference
For the second time this season, the No. 2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (18-1, 6-0 Big East) surpassed 120 points in a game when they knocked down the Pittsburgh Panthers 120-44. The 76-point victory was Notre Dame’s largest-ever margin of victory in a Big East contest.
The 120 points were the fourth most recorded in a Big East contest — the most is 128 by Providence on Feb. 4, 1991 — and most in a home game.
Notre Dame had eight players in double figures that game, tied for most in school history, and its 48 field goals were a new school and conference high. The previous Big East high was 46 by Providence (twice) most recently on Jan. 29, 1986, against Seton Hall.
It was the second game this week in which the Fighting Irish defeated a Big East opponent by 26 or more points — after defeating Cincinnati 76-50 on Jan. 14 — and the Fighting Irish have won their six Big East contests by an average of 36.7 points per game.
The one contest Notre Dame did not win by a margin greater than 19 points was against No. 3/3 Connecticut (15-2, 4-1 Big East), 74-67 in overtime on Jan. 7.
Junior guard Skylar Diggins filled up the stat sheet this week with 11 points, nine assists and four rebounds against Pittsburgh and 11 assists, four points and seven rebounds against Cincinnati. For those counting at home, that’s 7.5 points, 10.0 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game.
It’s early, but the Fighting Irish are in prime position to finish the Big East season undefeated with only road contests against Rutgers (Jan. 31) and Connecticut (Feb. 27) as well as a nonconference tilt against Tennessee (Jan. 23) that stand out as games to monitor.
Player of the Week: Khadijah Rushdan, redshirt senior guard
Rushdan was unable to lead the No. 7/8 Rutgers Scarlet Knights to a victory over St. John’s Tuesday night, but that doesn’t mean the redshirt senior guard didn’t make her mark on the 62-57 loss.
Rushdan was Rutgers’ leading scorer (16), rebounder (eight) and assister (six) in the St. John’s loss. In a 71-68 overtime victory against Louisville, Rushdan was again Rutgers’ leading rebounder (11) and assister (eight). Not a bad week.
Game of the Week
DePaul at Rutgers, Tuesday Jan. 24
This game is one to keep an eye on just to see where DePaul really sits within the Big East. If DePaul has aspirations to be a top four team and get a double bye in the conference tournament, then this is a game to make a statement: It’s a road game against a top team, adding a top-25 win to DePaul’s resume.
Both teams are top six in the conference in three point field goal percentage and top seven in assists. They are also in the top six in assist to turnover ratio. Check it out.