Five years in, the ultimate Big East scoreboard
Tonight's Connecticut-Rutgers game opens the Big East's conference schedule for 2010, so this is a final chance to reflect on USF's first five seasons in the league and how the eight teams have fared in those seasons.
First, we'll look at overall conference win-loss record, which confirms as you might expect that West Virginia has been the dominant team in the league since 2005, with at least five conference wins in every season. Cincinnati is only four games back, and actually has more wins over the past four years, and then you have a logjam of four programs (Rutgers, Pittsburgh, USF and Louisville) within four wins of each other, with Connecticut a close seventh but still worlds ahead of Syracuse, which is a glaring 4-31 in Big East play since 2005.
Conference record, 2005-09
West Virginia 27-8
Now, to get a closer look, let's consider the average score of each team's 35 conference games over those five years. On the whole, this shows how closely bunched most of the league is. Of the 16 averages (points for and against for all eight teams), 12 of the averages fall between 23 and 28 points, with the four outliers being those belonging to West Virginia and Syracuse. The other six teams in the conference, over a five-year span, are within an average of four points of their opponents, good or bad.
Average score, conference games, 2005-09
West Virginia 30-19
To put it another way: West Virginia has outscored its opponents in conference games by 405 points since 2005; the next four best teams in the league have outscored their opponents in league games by a combined 336 points. Louisville's been outscored by a modest 55 points, Connecticut by a surprising 120 points, and then there's Syracuse, outscored by 568 points, making them an average of 12.8 points per game worse than the next-worst team over a five-year period.
One more way of looking at these five years -- who has fared best in close games, or in games won by 10 points or more? If you look at record in games decided by 10 points or more, the extremes are impressive, if not surprising -- West Virginia is 16-2 in such games, while Syracuse is 1-27. The five-year span can cover up some large disparities from year-to-year: Louisville hasn't had a league win by 10 points or more since 2006, but they had five each in those first two years in the Big East.
League record in games decided by 10 points or more
West Virginia 16-2
And finally, the record in close games -- for simplicity's sake, I chose games with single-digit margins, and USF has the worst record in the Big East in those games. The Bulls have just three such close wins (and just one since edging West Virginia to open the '07 conference season), as many as Syracuse has, while boasting nine close losses.
League record in games decided by 9 points or less
West Virginia 11-6
Lowest scoring Big East seasons in conference play? Syracuse has three of the four worst -- 73 points in 2005, 81 in 2006 and 112 in 2008, with Louisville's 100 last season sneaking in there. Highest scoring Big East seasons? You might be surprised -- the winner is Louisville's 2005 team, which scored 273 points (39 per game), just ahead of Cincinnati last season (266) and West Virginia in 2006 (259). Most dominant team? That'd be West Virginia's undefeated 2005 team, which won by an average of 20 points per game. ...