Big East Notebook: Looking for Real Friars
Is it the club that blew a 12-point lead to South Florida in the final 2:05 of regulation, leading to a 109-105 overtime loss on Saturday? Or the club that thumped No. 19 Connecticut 81-66 by outrebounding the Huskies 53-38 on Wednesday?
"I was pretty confident that we were going to bounce back [from the USF loss] but I couldn't have dreamed that we'd bounce back like this," Providence coach Keno Davis said. "Not that we'd have that much intensity and effort to play -- not just your best game of the year, but your best game of the year by far."
The Friars (12-8, 4-4 Big East) are in a three-way tie for seventh place in the league. If Providence didn't get an idea what kind of team they had in the past few days, they'll certainly get a better idea in the next three weeks. That is, if they survive the next three weeks.
Providence visits Cincinnati Saturday and No. 4 Syracuse on Tuesday. The Friars then have consecutive home games against Marquette (Feb. 6) and No. 7 Georgetown (Feb. 9) followed by a visit to No. 3 Villanova (Feb. 13) and home games against No. 9 West Virginia (Feb. 17) and No. 4 Syracuse (Feb. 23).
That's five of their next seven games against teams ranked among the top nine teams in this week's Associated Press poll.
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin summed up Providence's upcoming schedule.
"It's like looking into the abyss," Cronin said. "Welcome to Big East basketball. I'm sure SEC football coaches feel the same way in mid-October, looking around wondering where the wins are going to come from."
Cronin said the key is maintaining an even keel through it all.
"You can't get too down and you can't get too high," he said. "You have to grind through it."
NBC's Answer for the 10 p.m. Time Slot?
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was understandably in a good mood after Monday's victory against Georgetown, and it carried over into his post-game press conference, where Boeheim sounded like a stand-up comic.
Boeheim was asked about the five-foot cutouts of his face inside the Carrier Dome in Syracuse's student section.
"I can ignore that," Boeheim said. "I don't like to look at my face when I shave. Why would I go out of my way to look at it? When we don't play well, they'll be throwing that at me."
Boeheim later cut off a question from a reporter about if he had a "special feeling" about this year's team. Boeheim said he wouldn't have special feelings until the season was over.
"Anything else is premature," Boeheim said. "Premature anything isn't very good."
After the laughter subsided, Boeheim added: "You people are pretty dirty. I don't know where your mind is at. I've got kids here, come on. I don't know what you're talking about. Who said I wasn't funny?"
Even More Beasts From the Big East
A year after the Big East made history by earning three No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the league could have two No. 1 seeds in this year's NCAA tournament.
That's five No. 1 seeds in a two-year span. And what's even more amazing is they are different schools. Villanova (18-1, 7-0 Big East) and Syracuse (20-1, 7-1) are in line for No. 1 seeds a year after Louisville, Pittsburgh and UConn were No. 1 seeds in 2009.
Cronin said he considered Syracuse, Villanova and Kansas the nation's best three teams so far and would rank Syracuse No. 1, followed by Villanova this week.
"To me, on a neutral floor, [Syracuse] would be favored over anybody," Cronin said.
Boeheim said there is no clear cut team that is the nation's best.
"There are a bunch of teams that are good and right behind them a bunch of teams that can beat them," Boeheim said. "UConn dominated [then] No. 1 Texas and then went up and got beat at Providence by 16. It's hard to tell what's going on in college basketball."
UConn Explain This?
Whatever the reason, whenever Providence plays UConn, it usually brings out the best in the Friars and the worst in the Huskies.
In the past four seasons, UConn has been one of the Big East's top clubs. However, when they play Providence it's a different story.
Since the 2007 Big East season, UConn is 1-4 against Providence and 36-18 against the remaining Big East teams in league play. Providence, meanwhile, is 4-1 against UConn, but only 24-31 against the rest of the league.
• Saturday, Duke visits Georgetown in a marquee clash between the ACC and Big East. It's the 13th time this season a nationally ranked Big East team will face a ranked non-conference opponent. Ranked Big East teams have won nine of the 12 meetings against ranked non-Big East teams this season. However, Duke already is 2-0 against the Big East, defeating UConn 68-59 on Nov. 27 and St. John's 80-71 on Dec. 5.
• Louisville visits West Virginia Saturday and the Cardinals hope to continue their road success. In the past four seasons, the Cardinals have won a league-best 21 road games in Big East play. UL is 1-2 this year after going 8-1 in 2009, 6-3 in 2008 and 6-2 in 2007.
• The basketball version of the Backyard Brawl will be held Wednesday when Pittsburgh visits West Virginia. The Mountaineers also will visit the Panthers nine days later on Feb. 12. Pittsburgh swept the regular season series last season -- winning 79-67 at WVU and 70-59 in Pittsburgh -- but the Mountaineers got revenge by eliminating the Panthers in last year's Big East Tournament 74-60.
• South Florida F Gus Gilchrist, who has been out since Dec. 8 with torn ligaments in his ankle, could return Feb. 3 at Georgetown. The Bulls are 5-6 without Gilchrist entering Thursday night's game with Seton Hall.
• With DePaul's victory last week against Marquette, Rutgers now owns the Big East's longest league losing streak. The Scarlet Knights fell to 0-8 in league play after Tuesday's 82-59 loss at Marquette. In the past three seasons, Rutgers has lost 39 of 44 Big East contests.
• Cincinnati is 4-4 in Big East play with each league game decided by eight points or less.
• Marquette is 1-7 in games decided by five points or less this year, including 1-5 in league play.
Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at firstname.lastname@example.org