As men's college basketball conference play begins in earnest this week, the Big East finds itself in a familiar position: dominating the hoops landscape.
In the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, the Big East has seven teams included. Five - Connecticut, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Villanova and Georgetown - were among the top nine teams. Notre Dame is at No. 15 and Louisville is at No. 22. And two others - undefeated Cincinnati as well as West Virginia - received Top 25 votes but didn't make the grade.
"The league is really down; haven't you heard?'' said WVU coach Bob Huggins, tongue planted firmly in cheek, on Monday. "It's a bad league."
The Big 12 had been tied with the Big East in number of Top 25 teams with six as late as a week ago. But Louisville moved in this week and the Big 12's Baylor dropped out. That leaves the Big East with two more teams than both the Big 12 and Big Ten.
How impressive is the Big East's early-season resume? Well, consider that the Atlantic Coast Conference has the nation's unanimous No. 1 team in Duke - and not another Top 25 team. In fact, Marshall's league - Conference USA - has twice as many Top 25 members as the ACC via Central Florida and Memphis.
The Pac 10? Zero Top 25 teams. The Southeastern Conference? Two in Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Noted computer analyst Jeff Sagarin also rates the Big East as the current king of the hill, followed by the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC.
The early results explain why. Against the Big Ten, the Big East is 5-2. Against the Big 12, the league is 4-1. Against the ACC, it is 5-4. Against the SEC, it is 7-4. Against the Pac 10, it is 3-1.
There are only three conferences against which the Big East doesn't have a winning record: the Atlantic 10 (8-9), Big West (0-1) and West Coast (2-2). Before last night's action, the conference was 151-36 (80.7 winning percentage). In early Top 25 action, the league was 8-7.
West Virginia, 8-2, begins conference play at 7 p.m. Wednesday against 7-3 St. John's at the Coliseum in Morgantown.
The Red Storm, which expects to be energized next season via the recruiting of new coach Steve Lavin, rebounded from back-to-back losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham with a Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival title. St. John's defeated Davidson and Northwestern last week to earn the title.
There are many Big East games of note this week. Today, Rutgers takes on North Carolina at 9 p.m. at Madison Square Garden. That will be televised via ESPN2.
On Wednesday, No. 9 Georgetown will visit No. 15 Notre Dame at 7 p.m. for another ESPN2 game. Marquette visits No. 24 Vanderbilt for the 9 p.m. ESPN2 game.