Big East Notebook: Breaking down the bracket

There is a certain study that begins to fascinate the country every year around late February.

The basis of this intricate process has no relevance to traditional sciences about animals, medicine, or the mind — heck, it doesn't even have anything to do with science.

The study simply breaks down the seeding numbers of the nation's top basketball teams for the NCAA Tournament. Ah, sweet Bracketology.

The Big East is currently projected to have seven teams qualify for the tourney, trailing only the ACC, who would have eight. If supposedly-talented teams like Notre Dame and Georgetown can turn around their suddenly plummeting seasons, that number can quickly rise to at least 10.

DePaul's Despair

The DePaul Blue Demons have an unblemished record. At this breakneck pace, it seems inevitable that the team will finish conference play in flawless fashion. However, the Demons are not headed toward an undefeated season, but an "overfeated" one.

They currently reside at the bottom of the Big East's food chain with a woeful 0-11 conference record. The lethal predators that make up the Big East have been feeding on this defenseless team all year. Even a mediocre Seton Hall team punished the squad, beating them 72-49 on the road.

No Bull

South Florida has an unimpressive 3-8 conference record, yet the team can find solace in knowing they have pushed some of the country's elite teams to the brink. The never-say-die Bulls have showcased their ability to play up to the competition by losing to West Virginia 59-62, Syracuse 54-59, and Pittsburgh 62-75.

Despite the hard fought battles, South Florida hadn't been able to notch any quality victories — until they beat then-No. 8 Marquette 57-56. Led by sophomore stud Dominique Jones' 18.6 points per game, the Bulls will be looking to turn their slight momentum into an all-out stampede through the Big East.

Player of the Week

Some of the nation's most talented and productive players reside in the Big East. But the conference also might be home to the country's most important player.

Cincinnati's Deonta Vaughn has been the catalyst for the Bearcats' recent success. In its last eight games, the team has gone 6-2. Three of those victories came against Notre Dame and Georgetown (twice), making it the first time Cincinnati has beaten both squads in the same season since joining the Big East.

In all six of the wins, Vaughn was the team's leading scorer and wasn't in either loss. The junior guard is averaging 16.1 ppg, but his impact appears to be more than skin deep. The Bearcats will jump on Vaughn's back as he carries them down the season's stretch run.

Game of the Week

Louisville at Notre Dame, Feb. 12, 6 p.m.

For Notre Dame, this game has every cliché tagline known to man linked to it — do or die, now or never, put up or shut up, the list goes on. Because in reality, if the Irish can't pull out a victory over at least one top Big East team, they won't get to dance come this March.

Notre Dame is playing at home in South Bend, formerly a daunting challenge for any road team. Luke Harangody and crew need to regain their early season swagger and start proving they were justified to once being a top-15 team.