No off nights in the Big East By Scoop Jardine, Syracuse

This season, Insider will feature the writing of five current NCAA basketball players who contribute their thoughts on issues facing their conferences. In this installment, Syracuse's Scoop Jardine talks about upsets and why he thinks, to a certain extent, there's no such thing in the Big East.

There's been a lot of talk about upsets, not just in our league but also around the country. But at least in the Big East, I really don't look at them as upsets anymore. When you look at how strong the Big East is top to bottom and all the players that we have, I don't think those games can be called upsets. I really feel any team in the Big East has the potential to be ranked.

You see how we went down to Seton Hall and won by only five points [61-56 on Jan. 8]? Talking nationally, Seton Hall is considered maybe not that good because it's not ranked. But every team is really strong in our league no matter who you're playing against or where you're playing. I'm not saying that Providence and DePaul could be in the Top 25 right now, but on any given night they could beat any other team in the Big East. Like last season, we played DePaul when we were ranked No. 3 in the country -- and we won by only one point. The level of talent is that good. It's the best league in the country. Point blank, period.

For us, we're just taking it one game at a time. We don't have any superstitions or anything, we're just trying to get better with each game. We don't really look at it as "we're 16-0." We just look at the next team we're playing. Coach does a good job of keeping us levelheaded; we don't get too high or too low. Like after the Cornell game, I felt like I played badly. [Editor's note: Jim Boeheim called Jardine's zero-point, four-turnover performance "horrible."] I didn't look at it as him calling me out, it was him helping me. Coach is going to get the best out of you no matter what. I felt like my play wasn't at the level we need. After that I picked it up ever since because I was not focused.

He calls us out a lot, says we're overrated. He wants the best for us.

The best thing is to forget -- you can't go back and change anything, but you can get better and move forward. That's what Coach tries to teach us.

West Virginia goes out every night and fights. They always bring effort. When you get that out of a team that also has good players, you can never count that team out. I've seen Casey Mitchell a little bit in the beginning of the year and he's definitely taken on the role of being The Guy. With Devin Ebanks and Da'Sean Butler leaving, it opened up for someone to step up and he's a player with enough talent to take on a scoring load. He's having a good year. He can shoot the ball, and he's getting it in their offense because his shooting percentage is still really good, too.

We played Notre Dame already this season, so it wasn't a shock to see the Irish get some wins, too. They're talented and they're never going to beat themselves. That's the thing about them. You definitely have to go in there and beat them. If you let them stick around, they're going to beat you. And they're really tough at home. They showed that when UConn and Georgetown and St. John's came into their building. If you think it's going to be a pushover game, you're wrong. They have great senior leadership and a great coach, and their offense sticks together.

And they can all shoot -- 1 through 5. They're beating well-rounded teams. I don't think there's another team that screens as much as them. All you can do is try to make them take tough shots and maybe chase them off the 3-point line. But they're gonna get a few 3s because they move the ball so well.

Marquette over Notre Dame, though, that wasn't an upset at all. I'm telling you, Marquette is a top-15 team. It's that good. It played a tough preconference schedule. People forget but that's the same team that played Duke in November [when Marquette lost 82-77].

I really want to give a shout-out to St. John's. Most of those guys are seniors, and they stuck around and they've seen it all in the Big East. They're putting it together now. I really feel like they're a family. Now they have a great coach in Steve Lavin. I have a special relationship with him off the court from his time as a commentator.

His team really believes in him, and when you have a team that believes in its coach, the players go out there and give 100 percent. I think they know that in years past they weren't getting it down. Coach Lavin came in there with a climate-change attitude and they picked it up. With so many seniors they're really ready to win. You have to go in there ready to bang -- it's going to be a physical game. I hadn't seen too much of their freshman Dwayne Polee except on YouTube. He had some crazy highlights on there.

At Georgetown, they have a guy who will do anything the team needs to win games in Jason Clark. He's like Ashton Gibbs. He can shoot it, he can create, he's scrappy on defense ... he's going to do whatever it takes to win, and that's the type of guy you want. The thing about Clark is that he does all that and guards the other team's best player every night. He's not the biggest guy [6-foot-2, 170 pounds], but he has the longest arms you'll ever see on a guard. That helps. He can guard a 6-1 person or a 6-7 person because of how long he is. And he brings effort.

And that's just a small sample. As I said, there's never a night off in the Big East. And there sure aren't any upsets.

Scoop Jardine is a junior guard for Syracuse. He contributes every month to the Conference Voices blog.

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