What we’ve learned about the Big East in the first two months of the season and how the conference race shapes up as league play begins on New Year’s Eve:
Louisville. We might know less about what the Cardinals will look like in another month than any team in the league because they’ve played all of December without one of their most important players, center Gorgui Dieng. While he’s been out, the Cards have played only two major opponents, but the Duke loss came only by five points with the team having less than a day to prepare for Dieng’s absence and they later beat a talented Memphis team on the road. Louisville’s most impressive performance might have been an 80-38 destruction of College of Charleston on the road. With Dieng absent, perhaps the most surprising development has been the progression of shooting guard Russ Smith from curiosity to destroyer. His extraordinary quickness has made him productive since the start of the season, but against the team’s three major opponents he has been among the most prominent Cardinals.