The best thing about November and December in college hoops?  It’s a long ways from March.  November is when you notice your team while December is when you discover what sort of ceiling or floor your squad might have… if there are impact freshmen in the lineup and if there are any players who have “made the leap” in the offseason.  Granted, one wants to win as many games as possible during this stretch– but there are a lot bigger tests ahead.

Alma Mater Update–  the #3 Orange escaped upset with a 72 to 68 win over Detroit Monday…as coach Jim Boeheim records his 900th career victory.  He predated the Big East by three years and shows no signs of slowing down until the league is in the schools rear-view mirror.  On the court, another interesting Orange team–as nine players average ten minutes or more.  Is senior James Southerland making that leap?  How much of an impact will freshman DaJuan Coleman provide?  And will they hit 70% of their free throws?  One last winter of Big East thrills, chills and spills.  Savor, Orange fans.

Putting the Big East to bed– well… it was nice while it lasted, wasn’t it?  The Big East was the best college basketball conference in the 1980’s… with five of its nine schools reaching the Final Four and two winning National Championships.  Multiple #1 overall selections and lottery picks.  Hall of Fame coaches… and ESPN on Monday Night was never the same.  But the world of 2012 in college athletics barely resembles 1999–let alone 1979 when a few northeast schools banded their basketball programs together.  That’s why Georgetown’s departure along with six other non-BCS level football schools (St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence, Villanova, DePaul and Marquette) is barely a surprise.  The fourth major reshuffle will not include the name cards in the Big East deck.  It’s not ideal… but it’s not an ideal world they’re leaving.  I always thought the Big East could serve both football and basketball masters…and if they had added Penn State as a tenth school in the 1980’s perhaps they could have.  I still thought the league could have massaged its way into a workable 12 team basketball and 8 team football league just a few years ago… but now with Tulane, East Carolina and a slew of schools from out west– it’s time for the non-football schools to leave the party.  What’s next?  I think they add three more schools to give them a solid ten–setting up an 18 game conference schedule where everybody has a home and home with everybody else in the league.  I see Xavier, Dayton, Butler, St Joseph’s and St. Louis as the leading candidates.

Georgetown (9-1) is ranked 15th in by the writers and 21st by the coaches.  Defense has been the difference… as the Hoyas held three straight opponents to under 42 points.  Is there anything to be concerned as the Hoyas have struggled lately in the first halves of games?

Maryland (9-1) eyes a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010…and compared to the last few seasons they’re loaded.  Alex Len inside and Dez Wells outside.  One major concern is that PeShon Howard has taken a while to get in gear this fall…: the point guard is hitting 23% of his shots.

Cruising the Commonwealth– Virginia and Virginia Tech are both 8-2… but not all 8-2’s are created equal:  the Cavaliers have won seven straight while the Hokies have dropped two of three.  Saturday’s Virginia Tech loss came to a Georgia Southern unit that boasts players named Baskerville and Holmes.  Hokies hounded, indeed.

George Mason (6-4) bounced UVa on opening night and has played well enough to give Patriot fans optimism… while Sherrod Wright is the only player averaging in double figures… Vertrail Vaughns remains the coolest name on campus.

George Washington (4-6) enters final exams on a three game losing streak by a combined 10 points.  As Mike Lonergan continues to develop his program, GW receives a nice infusion of power in the post:  Villanova transfer Isaiah Armwood leads the Colonials in scoring and rebounding.  Ballhandling remains a nightmare: 14 assists per game compared with 18 turnovers.  This team can’t be giving away possessions like that if they want to be a factor at all in Atlantic Ten play.

Maryland Womens’ Minute– the already thin Terrapins suffered thee torn ACL’s over the first three months of the season–losing point guard Brene Moseley… center Essence Townsend and shooting guard Laurin Mincy in short order.  That means 8 players dress– and the 8th player is former walk-on Sequoia Austin.  The highly touted freshman class of Malina Howard, Tierney Pfirman and Chloe Pavlech will be counted on quite a bit this winter.   Thanks goodness the duo of Tianna Hawkins (leads ACC in scoring) and Alyssa Thomas .

American (4-6) has already had a triple overtime thriller (winning at UMBC).  The Eagles rank 340th in scoring and 340th in rebounding.  There are pieces in place for this team to be solid this season– Stephen Lumpkins remains a beast down low while Daniel Munoz provides the perimeter firepower– but not enough solid 40 minute efforts.  Coach Jeff Jones has lamented during many a postgame show about how this team doesn’t have that margin of error.

Howard (3-8) dominated the glass in its 55-50 win over AU…outrebounding the Eagles by 14.  Seniors Calvin Thompson and Mike Phillips  are the pivot points for the Bison.  Last year’s team hit its stride in February– the faithful are hoping the club hits that second gear a month earlier in MEAC play.