USF men's hoops learns Big East matchups
The Big East has released its 2009-10 home and away opponents for men's basketball, and USF's three mirror opponents -- with games played home and away -- are Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Providence.
Lots of analysis to follow here, but USF's eight home games are against Cincinnati, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall and West Virginia. The Bulls will go on the road to face Cincinnati, DePaul, Georgetown, Louisvlle, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, Syracuse and Villanova.
If you remember last year, USF got a raw deal from the league, with the toughest three mirror teams of any Big East team, going by the previous year's conference standings, despite tying for the worst record in the league in 2007-08. This year? Not nearly as bad -- the Bulls, after finishing third from the bottom of the Big East standings, are tied for the fifth-easiest schedule.
-- Who got the best deal? The league's two worst teams, Rutgers and DePaul, have the easiest mirrors, as should be the case. DePaul's three mirrors went a combined 18-36 in Big East play last year, and Rutgers' went 14-40, with none of the three finishing in the top 10 in the league standings.
-- Who got a better draw than they should? Pittsburgh and Marquette finished in the top five in last year's standings, and yet their mirrors are tied for the third easiest out of 16 teams. Pittsburgh drew St. John's and Seton Hall, who both finished in the bottom six, and Marquette got last-place DePaul (fortunate geography). Aside from that, there aren't many outliers: better teams generally got tougher draws.
-- Who got the worst deal? We're thinking it's St. John's, which went 6-12 to finish 13th in the league, yet was handed the fifth-toughest mirrors. Yes, they get a second game against DePaul, but they also have Louisville and Pittsburgh, two of the league's top three teams. And West Virginia, which finished seventh in the league, has the toughest mirrors, drawing Pittsburgh and Villanova, both top-four teams.
-- Here's the breakdown from toughest to easiest, with the combined '08-09 league record of each team's three mirror opponents, plus each team's 2008-09 league finish: West Virginia (35-23, t-7th), Syracuse (33-21, 6th), Louisville (32-22, 1st), Connecticut (32-22, t-2nd), St. John's (31-23, 13th), Villanova (29-27, 4th), Providence (27-27, t-7th), Notre Dame (27-27, t-9th), Cincinnati (27-27, t-9th), Seton Hall (27-27, t-11th), Georgetown (26-28, t-11th), USF (26-28, 14th), Pittsburgh (23-31, t-2nd), Marquette (23-31, 5th), DePaul (18-36, 16th), Rutgers (14-40, 15th).
-- The schedule is favorable to USF, in that the Bulls get five home games against the other seven teams that finished in the bottom half of the league standings. They face four of last year's top six teams on the road, but those are tough games for USF wherever they're played. The three mirror opponents -- Providence, Notre Dame and Cincinnati -- finished right in the middle of last year's standings, so those six games will go a long way to determining whether USF can get out of the league's bottom four.