Valentine's Day is supposed to be about love. But in the Big East, every game is a fight, no matter what day it is. On Sunday, Syracuse and Georgetown were reminded of this fact. The 'Cuse lost at home to Louisville, while Georgetown fell at Rutgers.
Any team can get up for the occasional game against a good opponent. What is more impressive is a team that can handle game after game against quality opponents, including teams that are not quite as talented as it is. This is the real test of the Big East, where the hardest part of the season is not any individual game, but rather the schedule as a whole.
The Big East has four teams currently ranked in the AP top 10, including No. 5 Syracuse and No. 10 Georgetown. But both of these teams suffered upsets this past weekend for the same reason: a lack of focus and intensity.
On Sunday, Syracuse lost to Louisville. It was only their second loss of the season, and the first in 12 games. Rick Pitino has a decent team this year, but the Cardinals are certainly not as talented as the Orange. The Cardinals entered the game 0-4 against ranked opponents, but were able to pull off the upset in the Carrier Dome by playing with more intensity when it mattered most — the second half.
On the same day that Syracuse fell to Louisville, Georgetown suffered a terrible upset at the hands of Rutgers. The story was the same for the Hoyas as it was for the Orange — Georgetown was outworked by the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers, playing at home, battled like it had something to prove, and it did. Earlier this season, Georgetown blew out Rutgers at home. Maybe this is why the Hoyas took Rutgers too lightly this time around.
This was Rutgers first win over a top 10 team in seven years. That is a telling stat, considering the fact that the Big East always has a number of top 10 teams.
Losing conference games is not an issue or cause for concern. However, it's one thing to lose to West Virginia or Villanova, and another thing to lose to Rutgers. One question is: Will either of these losses affect NCAA seeding?
By itself, the loss to Louisville will not hurt Syracuse at all. They are still in good position to battle for a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. This loss does reduce Syracuse's margin of error for obtaining a top seed. However, the Orange can probably lose two more regular-season games and still get a one or two seed.
For Georgetown, this loss could be big. The Hoyas have played an extremely difficult schedule (currently listed as the third-most difficult in the country) and still have games remaining against Syracuse and at West Virginia. They have held their own, but sit at 8-5 in the Big East. Losing to a team like Rutgers late in the season looks bad on an NCAA resume. If the Hoyas don't play very well down the stretch, they could easily end the season 11-7 or 10-8 in the conference. Even with a great strength of schedule, how high can you seed a team with seven or eight conference losses?
As luck would have it, Syracuse and Georgetown will face each other this Thursday in Washington, D.C. The Orange have won 10 of their last 13, and six straight, against Georgetown. Less than a month ago, Syracuse crushed the Hoyas at home. In that one, the 'Cuse quickly fell behind 14-0, before turning it on midway through the first half. Syracuse led by 15-plus for most of the second half, as Georgetown was unable to make a run. The Hoyas will certainly be looking for revenge this week.
In the end, what these two losses really show is the depth of the Big East. Even with 16 teams, this league is still a battle on a nightly basis. There has been talk of the Big East only getting five teams into this year's NCAA Tournament, but that sounds a little crazy. Expect seven or eight Big East squads to make the Big Dance.
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