Men's Basketball Weekly Report- Jan. 6

Depth Perception
The NCAA released the first edition of the 2011 men's basketball RPI rankings this week and BIG EAST fans should feel encouraged by the results. The rankings are one of many tools used by the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee to select teams for the NCAA tournament. This week's ranking lists eight BIG EAST teams among the top 18, with Georgetown at No. 1, Syracuse at No. 3, Connecticut at No. 5, St. John's at No. 7, Pittsburgh at No. 10, West Virginia at No. 12, Notre Dame at No. 14 and Villanova at No. 18. By comparison, no other league has as many as three teams in the top 20.
 
St. John's Finds The Road To First Place
In the first two years of the BIG EAST's current 18-game scheduling format, home teams won exactly 60 percent of league games. So when St. John's faced back-to-back road dates to start BIG EAST play, it might have been unrealistic to expect a 2-0 start for the Red Storm. But new head coach Steve Lavin and his senior-laden team were up to the challenge, scoring wins at West Virginia and Providence to open league play before taking a homecourt win against 13th-ranked Georgetown Monday. St. John's won two BIG EAST road games before any other team won one and, at 10-3 overall and 3-0 in the BIG EAST, is off to its best start since the 1999-2000 season.
 
BIG EAST Game Of The Week Series Starts With Saturday Doubleheader
The 2010-11 season marks the 14th consecutive year in which the BIG EAST and ESPN Regional Television have partnered to syndicate BIG EAST basketball to a national audience on Saturday afternoons. The BIG EAST Network Game of the Week series begins this Saturday, Jan. 8, with a doubleheader beginning at noon Eastern. Syracuse faces Seton Hall at noon and Marquette is at Pittsburgh at 2 p.m. The series will be syndicated to approximately 40 markets weekly, covering roughly 40 percent of the nation.
 
Freshmen Push The Pace At DePaul
DePaul finished last in the BIG EAST in scoring by a wide margin last season as the Blue Demons averaged just 61 points per game. New coach Oliver Purnell has implemented his trademark fast-paced style to the Blue Demons in his first year, however, and a pair of freshmen have helped DePaul average 71.5 points through 15 games. Forward Cleveland Melvin has been named BIG EAST Rookie of the Week in back-to-back weeks and is averaging 23.3 points in three BIG EAST games. Overall, Melvin has averaged 12.7 points per game, while rookie Brandon Young has averaged 12.6 ppg to rank as the top two freshman scorers in the BIG EAST.