With 16 teams, the Big East is big, really big. a slew of other conferences have 12 teams, many of them split into two divisions, and the Atlantic 10 has 14, the second most behind the Big East.
What's intriguing about the Big East is that it is just one big party. No divisions, and the unbalanced schedule (some teams will play each other twice, others once, some, not at all) make for interesting comparisons in and out of the conference.
Take Pitt for example. Through their 16-game conference schedule, the Panthers play home-and-away games with Georgetown, Marquette and West Virginia. Notre Dame and Rutgers are not on the schedule. The other 10 teams will play the Panthers once.
That makes the Panthers' itinerary a bit more daunting than, say, that of South Florida, which has to play Louisville, DePaul and Notre Dame twice each while skipping over Georgetown and Villanova.
The unbalanced schedule makes comparisons difficult, if not impossible. Teams with relatively weak-strong schedules could end up with similar conference records, though one team could be nationally ranked with the other just a blip on the NCAA radar. Of course, the great equalizer is the annual bash in NYC known as the Big East Tournament, where the weak and the strong each have equal chances on a neutral site.
What the Big East and their cockeyed schedule does is create havoc for the NCAA tournament committee, which has to weigh all these schedules and then decide if the biggest conference gets 6, 7 or 8 teams into the Big Dance.
An indication of how the balances may tip in the conference came just last night as Syracuse burst into Marquette and dumped the Golden Eagles, 70-58. The loss was the second straight conference defeat for 15th-ranked Marquette. They took it on the chin in Providence, 74-59, on Thursday and are 0-2 in the Big East (not to be confused with Big Easy).
Upcoming for the Golden Eagles are Wednesday, 1/10 at (18) Connecticut, Saturday, 1/13 vs. (25) West Virginia, Monday, 1/15 at Louisville and Sun, Jan 21 at (10) Pittsburgh. Hoo-boy. If Marquette finds its way back into the Top 25 ever again this season, it will be a mean feat.
In other action from Sunday, North Carolina rolled past Florida State, 84-58. with UCLA's loss to Oregon, the Tar Heels could find themselves ranked #1 later today.
#9 Kansas improved to 13-2 with a non-conference win over South Carolina, 70-54. The Jayhawks open Big 12 play on Wednesday (1/10) against #12 Oklahoma State.
#19 Tennessee opened their SEC schedule with a 92-84 win over Miss. St. The 13-2 Vols have a date with Ohio State this Saturday in Columbus. The game will offer the Buckeyes a chance for redemption against the SEC after their earlier trip to Florida ended up as a 86-60 blowout for the Gators. Should be interesting.