Midseason grades

Matt Clark

College basketball is at the midway point of the season; what a great time to give them midterm grades. Let me just say this: for the third best conference in college basketball, the Big East fields some horrible teams.

No. 4 Connecticut: UConn held No. 1 in the nation twice this season, and it seems to be a curse. Yet UConn is still one of the most dominant teams in the country beating 10 teams by 16 points or more. Grade: A-

No. 8 Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh has hands down the best defense in the Big East. The Panthers are 5-1 when the game is decided by 10 points or less, and 1-0 in overtime. Freshman Chris Taft averages double digits in scoring and is 25th in the nation in blocked shots. Grade: A

No. 13 Syracuse: After losing their opener, the Orangemen went on a 13-game winning streak, and have beaten five teams by 16 or more points. What hurts Syracuse is that they give up the most points per game in the Big East, having a weak schedule. Grade: B

Miami: In the preseason, the coaches gave Miami the 11th spot in the Big East. They are having a great season. Darius Rice has cooled off as of late, but teammate Robert Hite and James Jones were there to help out and they just barely lost to Pittsburgh. Grade: B+

Seton Hall: Michael Barrett is the undeniable stand out for Seton Hall, ranked 11th in assists per game, and averaging 18.5 points per game. They are also third in the Big East in points allowed and have also beat Syracuse. Grade: B+

Rutgers: Rutgers has shown promise in sparks against UConn and Providence, and are also 3-1 in close games. Grade: B

Boston College: They only lost to good teams this year, including St. Joe’s. Boston College does not stand out in any single aspect of the game, but they play well together as a team, and have a good bench. Grade: B-

Providence: Providence cracked the AP poll for the first time in three years only to have it slip away. They have only played four solid teams (Texas, Illinois, Virginia and Seton Hall) and lost to teams like Rhode Island and Rutgers. All their losses have been within 10 points, which tells me they can’t get it done at crunch time. Grade: B-

Georgetown: The young Hoyas are one of the best defensive teams in the Big East, giving up only 62.8 points a game and causing 6.46 turnovers a game. Grade: C+

Notre Dame: Chris Thomas has not been the player he once was, entering the season with 11 career double-doubles and getting none this season. Four of the Fighting Irish starters average double figures, but the same four players average over 30 minutes of playing time; they have no bench support. Ranked No. 3 in the preseason, they have not lived up to the hype. Grade: C

Villanova: Yes, they had suspensions. Yes. they had injuries. Yes, they are young, but come on Chaminade … Notre Dame? Did you see that performance on national TV against Memphis? Yes … Ray and Sumter are hot right now, Fraser is finally controlling the middle, and Nardi is becoming the point guard he was meant to be, but the ‘Cats have five losses and the worst turnover ratio in the Big East. Grade: C

Virginia Tech: Bryant Mathews is third in the nation in points per game with 24.8, and 13th in the nation in rebounds per game with 10.1, yet averages only 1.6 assists per game because there is no player other than six freshmen or six sophomores for him to pass to. Look toward next year. Grade: C

West Virginia: The under-achieving Mountaineers were ranked No. 9 in the preseason by Big East coaches. Grade: C

St. John’s: They fired a good coach, and hired a bad one. Grade: D