Who is Big East supreme team, Villanova or Syracuse ?by Joseph Birmingham
With the college season hitting full stride in preparation for March Madness, I have one question I find myself still unable to answer. Which team is better ? Orange or Wildcats ?
Everyone is in agreement that the Big East is the marquee conference with five teams that could easily finish in the top 20 and ten that could show in the top 64.
But the real question remains, who is the team to beat in the conference ? The Orange hold the top spot entering tonights game against Georgetown after a surprising loss to Louisville at home. But Villanova lurks a game and a half behind. The AP and ESPN poll both have Villanova ranked higher than Syracuse. The Orange lost to Louisville and Pitt, while the Wildcats lost to a surprisingly good Owls team, then in the past ten days lost twice, to Georgetown and Connecticut. They never should have lost to Connecticut, but the defense allowed Kembe Walker to dominate for 29 points. That individual effort combined with the Huskies work off the bench doomed the Wildcats to be fighting for the number one spot at this stage of the season instead of having an obvious advantage.
If you can decide between those two as far as who the better team is, than my next question is, is there any conference that matches up with the Big East top to bottom ? There are 5 teams with a below .500 record in the conference that already have 15+ wins. A total of 12 teams have 15+ wins. Rutgers stands at 4-9 in conference but was still able to hold off Georgetown the other night.
It is possible that the teams scoring double byes in the Big East tournament will be the teams with the best chance of playing for the national championship, and it is evident that Syracuse was well aware of this as they jumped out to a 44-31 lead at the half. Villanova is ranked higher after the Orange loss but still trails in the conference so it seems it will all come down to their face to face meeting on February 27th, broadcast on ESPN to a national audience. But don’t overlook the underappreciated West Virginia Mountaineers that close out against the Wildcats at home and look to avenge a 7 point loss at home that dropped them from the top five.
Right now, logic dictates I give the nod to Syracuse, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. The Wildcats had a tougher schedule all year, and look to have more weapons in the arsenal to win the big one when it comes. What I do know is that if Villanova finishes the year on a winning streak, taking care of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Cincinnati and West Virginia, they will not only have beat the Orange head to head, but also 2 teams that are fighting for their lives, one of whom already has a win against Syracuse as well as the top ten Mountaineers in a rematch when you know they are laying in wait.
And if that happens, I will have to give the Wildcats the nod, because they will certainly have earned it and also will have enormous momentum on their side.