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Top of the Arc - December 29, 2008

Dec. 29, 12:15 p.m.: The Big East gets off to a rousing start tonight when Georgetown visits Connecticut. Over the next two-plus months, nine or 10 teams will battle it out in the nation’s best conference. There are some suggesting this may be the best conference in history. Personally, I have a problem saying that because, even if three of the teams make the Final Four, and even if nine teams make the NCAA tournament, there are still seven teams at the bottom, including the likes of Rutgers and South Florida. It could turn out to be the best conference in history when considering teams one through 10. But, once again, this league seems more like a confederacy than a conference. Here the Hartford Courant writes that depth has not helped the league win titles since 1985.

Some teams have more difficult starts to league play than others. Georgetown has a particularly rough start to the Big East schedule. Here are the Big East teams with the most difficult opening three games:

1) Georgetown (9-1)
The Hoyas play Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, with only the Pittsburgh game at home. Those are three opponents capable of reaching the Final Four. One win for the Hoyas would be respectable.

2) Rutgers (9-4)
I put Rutgers here because the Scarlet Knights also had to play North Carolina last night. Now comes Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Marquette. Hard to see Rutgers winning any of those games. But after facing UNC, Pitt and U-Conn., there may be no better authority on the national title race than the Scarlet Knights.

3) Seton Hall (9-3)
The Pirates are off to a strong start, with wins over Southern California and Virginia Tech to boost their tournament resume. But let’s consider their first five Big East opponents, who face the Pirates with a combined record of 53-6. Seton Hall goes to Syracuse, then hosts West Virginia, then hosts Villanova, then has road games at Notre Dame and U-Conn. Seton Hall needs two wins. Good luck.

4) West Virginia (10-2)
It’s hard to see the Mountaineers winning more than one of their next three games. They travel to Seton Hall, then host U-Conn., then visit Marquette.

5) Cincinnati (10-2)
The Bearcats are off to a decent start, with a win over UNLV. But Mick Cronin’s team will be tested in its next four games. As if the Big East schedule was not grueling enough, Cincinnati plays a road game at Memphis tonight. Then comes a road game against Marquette, followed by a home date with providence and a home game against U-Conn.

We will know a lot more about several Big East teams very soon.

By Eric Prisbell  |  December 29, 2008; 12:16 PM ET
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