The big east trail

It’s almost crazy how up and down a single win or loss can get fans in college basketball.

Saturday morning every fan in Friartown was feeling energized and optimistic about this year’s team. They were taking care of business in a very competitive Big East, putting themselves in a good position for the home stretch of the regular season, and priming up for an NCAA Tournament bid.

Saturday evening, the sky may have truly been falling.

The blowout loss to DePaul at home during Alumni Weekend didn’t leave Friar fans scratching their heads, it left them panicking for answers. What happened with this team between a strong win against a late-rising Georgetown and a DePaul? And, what did this mean for Friar postseason hopes?

Let’s dive in and discuss.

We’re Going Streaky!

It hasn’t been easy trying to figure out this year’s Friars team. One game they’re great on both ends of the court, and the next they’re basically nonexistent. Hell, forget game-to-game: this team will come and go seemingly in the middle of possessions sometimes. Usually Cooley teams play much more consistent than this year’s team has, which has made it a curiosity to watch.

For whatever reason this team just can’t put a full 40 minutes together. Some games they’ll start slow, other’s they’ll come out of halftime flat. They’ll disappear and reappear suddenly, building and losing leads like they’re stacking LEGOs, knocking them over, and then rebuilding what they just knocked over.

As fans, there’s not much that can be done other than anticipate and look for who can be the needed spark plug to get the Friars back on track mid-game. Cooley’s job will have to be creating plays for those players who can get the momentum going again.

Surviving the Big East Trail

For you older fans out there who experienced the Oregon Trail, you probably have some distinct memories of it. The hunting mini-game, going to town to buy clothes and bullets, fixing wagons, and dying of dysentery. It started off easy and manageable, and by the time you were close to the end you were basically begging the computer to just let what’s left of your party survive to the end.

That’s more or less how this Big East season feels on two levels for the Friars. The first is surviving the onslaught of injuries that seem to keep hitting this team. Losing Lindsey to a concussion for DePaul was rough, but to have some key players like Rodney Bullock and Cartwright both sick made it even worse as the game unfolded in a blowout for the Blue Demons.

The second survival aspect is the remaining schedule. Now in mid-February, the Friars have limited opportunity to build and strengthen their case for the NCAA Tournament – and plenty of opportunity to ruin their case entirely. The Friars still have Villanova, Seton Hall, and St. John’s at home, and trips to Butler and Georgetown remaining. Five games, of which the Friars should be aiming to win three. Two was manageable before with the way Georgetown and St. John’s had been playing, but now they’re playing better and it makes it tough to even get those two. On top of that, the Friars will (*gulp*) either have to steal one at Hinkle or get revenge from earlier season losses to the Pirates or Wildcats.

And that’s just making it to the Big East Tournament. The Friars will more than likely have to do damage in the BET as well if they really want to solidify their positioning with no questions asked.

Fans should load up on wagon axles and wheels, make sure they have plenty of water, and get ready for this brutal home stretch as the drive for five NCAA bids will possibly the Friars’ most challenging stretch of the season.

The Big East is Really, Really Good

St. John’s is making me look stupid.

A few weeks ago in my midseason awards column I said St. John’s fans should not even bother reading because no good would come for them in that column.

And then, in a week, the Red Storm beat Duke and Villanova, and then go on to win another BIg East game, to make them actually interesting again.

At the same time, Patrick Ewing has his Georgetown team playing at a more competitive level than I would have thought. Given the coach’s first year on the bench with the Hoyas (as a coach) and how limited their roster felt, I’m actually very impressed and optimistic about the future of the Hoyas.

And then there’s DePaul. I don’t want to talk about them anymore, but I do applaud Dave Leitao for making his DePaul team start to look more like a Big East team and not a Big East afterthought.

The Big East is good. They’re probably the best conference in the country, and this could be the best incarnation of the BIg East ever. Arguably 2009 and 2011 were excellent, but this year’s conference has a balance and strength from top to bottom that I don’t think has ever been witnessed before. It certainly makes each game more valuable, but beyond that it makes the conference that much more fun. There are no “roll over” games. This conference and its teams are legit, and Saturday was just more proof that you have to bring your best no matter what jersey your opponent wears.