Editor's note: Each week, Yahoo! Sports college basketball writer Jason King will rank teams in each of the Big Six conferences plus the best of the rest. Tuesday's entry – The Big East Conference.
(Through games of Feb. 23)
Moments after last weekend's victory over Georgetown, Marquette coach Buzz Williams was already looking ahead.
"Here comes the gauntlet," he said.
Indeed, in the next two weeks, no team in the country will be tested quite like Marquette.
Beginning with Wednesday's showdown against No. 2 Connecticut, the Golden Eagles' next three games are all against schools ranked in the top 10. Marquette plays at No. 6 Louisville on March 1 and at No. 1 Pittsburgh on March 4.
Such is life in college basketball's toughest conference. Marquette is one of four schools with just two conference losses but, considering their upcoming slate, it seems unlikely the Golden Eagles will be able to maintain such a lofty status in the Big East standings.
Now on to the rankings. Last week's rank in parenthesis.
|The most impressive trait about Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair is that he performs his best against high-profile opponents. Blair had 22 points and 23 rebounds against Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet, 20 and 17 against Georgetown's Greg Monroe and 23 and 22 against Notre Dame's Luke Harangody. (1)|
|The Huskies' guards haven't exactly stepped up since Jerome Dyson's injury. A.J. Price is shooting just 32.4 percent since Dyson went out and only 33 percent from 3-point range. New starter Craig Austrie is averaging just six points during that span. Freshman Kemba Walker hasn't made a single 3-pointer since Dyson went out. (2)|
|The Cardinals made their first nine shots in Monday's win over Georgetown and were 7 of 7 on 3-pointers well into the second half. Just like last year, Rick Pitino's squad appears to be peaking at just the right time. The Cardinals play host to Marquette on Sunday. (5)|
|Don't be surprised if Jay Wright's squad wins its final four regular-season games. The Wildcats don't have a ranked team left on their schedule, although a March 2 game at Notre Dame will be certainly be a tough test. Dante Cunningham is averaging team highs in points (16.3), rebounds (7.3) and blocks (1.4). (3)|
|Is any team in the country facing a tougher ending stretch than the Golden Eagles? Beginning with Wednesday's showdown against Connecticut, all four of Marquette's remaining games are against schools ranked in the top 25 – including three in the top 10. (4)|
|6.||West Virginia |
|All eyes will be on Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins on Thursday when he makes his return to Cincinnati, the school where he coached for 16 years. Cincinnati's Mick Cronin coached under Huggins, who is considering shortening his rotation to seven players. (6)|
|Jim Boeheim's squad has lost three of its last four, but the Orange should rebound quickly thanks to an upcoming schedule that includes games against St. John's, Cincinnati and Rutgers. None of those are top-25 teams, which is good considering Syracuse has dropped five straight games against ranked opponents. (7)|
|8.||Notre Dame |
|Ryan Ayers made seven 3-pointers and scored 25 points in last week's victory over Providence. Still, even coach Mike Brey admits that the Fighting Irish are a longshot to make the NCAA tournament. They probably need to go 3-1 the rest of the way to even have a chance. (10)|
|The Friars are just 1-5 against ranked opponents, which doesn't speak well for their chances in tonight's home game against No. 1 Pittsburgh. In 15 conference games Keno Davis' squad has allowed 90 or more points seven times. That, more than anything, will be the culprit if the Friars fail to receive an NCAA bid. (8)|
|Coach Mick Cronin was so upset with the way his team played in last week's loss to Louisville that he planned on moving the Bearcats out of their locker room and having them dress in the practice gym. Leading scorer Deonta Vaughn had just nine points in each of Cincinnati's two games last week. (9)|
|The Hoyas have lost nine of their last 11 games and have played six teams currently ranked in the top 10. They'll take on a seventh against No. 10 Villanova on Saturday. Just six weeks after being ranked No. 9 in the country, Georgetown is in 12th place in the Big East. (11)|
|12.||St. John's |
|A rash of injuries has impeded the Red Storm's progress this season, which is certainly something that will be considered when evaluating the future of coach Norm Roberts. Despite getting just nine points from leading scorer Paris Horne, St. John's posted a 70-65 victory over Seton Hall on Sunday. (14)|
|13.||Seton Hall |
|The Pirates were outrebounded 49-31 by St. John's – and things could be even more lopsided when they play No. 1 Pittsburgh and DeJuan Blair this Saturday. Forward Jeremy Hazell eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier for his career last week. He is the 37th Seton Hall player to accomplish the feat. (12)|
|14.||South Florida |
|The Bulls' offense continues to struggle. In its last two games, South Florida has been held to 17 first-half points against Georgetown and 20 first-half points against Connecticut. Other than Dominique Jones – who has 999 career points – no one has established himself as a consistent scoring threat. (13)|
|One of the Scarlet Knights' biggest problems has been falling behind early. That was the case in last week's loss to West Virginia, when Fred Hill’s squad trailed 21-4 in the first half. Rutgers has a chance to win its regular-season finale against South Florida but, other than that, things look bleak. (15)|
|The Blue Demons' 14 losses in a row are a school record. DePaul had lost 13 in a row three previous times. One bright spot has been the play of guard Dar Tucker, who scored 18 points in each of DePaul's two games against Pittsburgh. He also scored 19 against Louisville. (16)|