Every week, I'll be bringing you everything you need to know about the Big East. From power rankings and awards to thoughts on the conference and games you can't miss, this is your weekly one-stop-shop for all your Big East basketball needs.
This was certainly an interesting first week for the Big East. Despite a couple of close calls from other teams, it was Villanova that delivered the first loss for the conference for the second year in a row. Last year, the Cats fell in that 11:30 p.m. ET tip-off at No. 2 UCLA. That one went into overtime and ended around 1:45 in the morning on the east coast, so I don't blame you if you didn't remember that one.
It also featured a pair of close calls from Providence and Georgetown on Wednesday night, with the Friars surviving Rider by a single point and the Hoyas hanging on to defeat Coppin State in overtime. But a win is a win at the end of the day, right?
As voted on by our staff weekly. First-place votes are in parentheses.
1. Creighton Bluejays
Last week: 1
While trailing to St. Thomas halfway through the second half certainly wasn't the plan, the Bluejays have mostly looked the part of the conference's top dog this week. They turned up the pressure on defense down the stretch, allowing just 6 points in the final ten minutes and finishing the game on a 16-3un. That bled into game two against North Dakota in which Kalkbrenner was dominant and the 3-point shooting clicked. Freshman Fredrick King has been a pleasant surprise for Creighton early, giving the Bluejays some quality center minutes behind Kalkbrenner.
2. Connecticut Huskies
Last week: 3
UConn fans will be thrilled to hear that after one week, their team sits at the top of the conference in KenPom. Adama Sanogo has looked simply unstoppable, and the big man adding a 3-point shot is a terrifying thought for the rest of the conference. The injuries are starting to pile up for the Huskies, though, with Andre Jackson, Jordan Hawkins, and Samson Johnson all out. Being out of the Gavitt Games means three easier games before PK85, so UConn should have time to let those guys rest up. There's less pressure on them to return when guys like Karaban and Diarra have been producing the way they have been.
3. Xavier Musketeers
Last week: 4
Xavier has lived up to the hype so far. Colby Jones and Jack Nunge are both playing at an all-conference level, and Souley Boum has brought plenty of scoring. The real surprise, though, is Zach Freemantle returning to form. He looks like the guy who got first team honors before last season, and he leads the Musketeers in scoring. The other surprise is KyKy Tandy, who has already played more minutes than he did last season. With Kunkel banged up, Tandy has looked really good. Xavier gets a game against Fairfield before hosting Indiana on Friday. That should be a good one.
4. Seton Hall Pirates
Last week: 6
Despite missing some players due to injury, including Alexis Yetna, the Pirates looked good this week. Seton Hall dispatched Monmouth and Saint Peter's by a combined 63 points and has trailed for 41 seconds in total. As expected for a Shaheen Holloway-led team, the defense has been exceptional thus far. The rotation currently goes ten-deep without Yetna, so how things look whenever he returns will be something to watch.
5. Villanova Wildcats
Last week: 2
A loss to Temple for the first time in a decade is not how the Kyle Neptune era was supposed to start. Depth is a real issue for the Cats right now. Four players are averaging at least 10 points per game, but the next best player after that is averaging 4. Getting 6.5 bench points per night is not a winning strategy. Neither is getting just 3.5 points from Chris Arcidiacono when he plays the second-most minutes on the team. At least Caleb Daniels and Eric Dixon seem poised to have career years.
6. St. John's Red Storm
Last week: 7
The Red Storm's opener was the highest-paced regulation game for the program since December 1, 2001, in a win against Fordham. Just Mike Anderson things. David Jones and Andre Curbelo have been as-advertised, and the team currently sits at tenth in the country in effective field goal percentage. The 3-point shooting percentage is up ten points from where it was last season. Things aren't perfect in Queens, but they did look good in the season's first week.
7. Providence Friars
Last week: 5
Opening night for the Friars nearly ended in disaster. Rider had the ball with a chance to take the lead at the buzzer. Instead, the Broncs stumbled, and Providence went back to the dorms victorious. The Friars also trailed briefly in the second half against Northeastern before turning it on and running them out of the building. Still, the team only has one true good half of basketball so far. The pieces are still coming together.
8. Butler Bulldogs
Last week: 8
It's a short opening week for Butler with just the one game. It was a good one, though. Manny Bates looks to be everything Thad Matta could have hoped for with 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks against New Orleans. Shooting is still a concern, though. Going 4-24 from beyond the arc at Penn State tomorrow will make life difficult. Still, a 36-point victory while down a starter is as good as you could ask for to start Thad Matta's second term with the Bulldogs.
9. Marquette Golden Eagles
Last week: 9
Tyler Kolek is averaging 10 assists per game, which is fun. Shaka Smart's freshmen made an impact, too. Marquette looked good in the first week, but nothing stood out enough to move them in the rankings. The Golden Eagles will play Purdue this week, though, which will give them a chance to make some noise.
10. Georgetown Hoyas
Last week: 10
219 of the 225 minutes played in Georgetown's opener came from players who weren't with the program last season. Obviously going to overtime at home against a Coppin State team that's playing on 24 hours rest isn't great, but it does take time for a team to come together. The Hoyas looked much better against Green Bay, so that's good! Offense does not seem to be a concern for Georgetown, but the defense might be yet again.
11. DePaul Blue Demons
Big East Coaches' ranking: 11
Both of DePaul's wins got closer than they should have been at the end, but these are two good wins - especially when you consider the team is missing Caleb Murphy and Nick Ongenda. Sixth-year Javan Johnson is off to a hot start, as is transfer Umoja Gibson. This is as good a way to open Tony Stubblefield's second season as DePaul fans could have hoped for given a circumstances.
Player of the Week: Adama Sanogo, F, UConn
23 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game, 76.9% shooting
Preseason Player of the Year Adama Sanogo lived up to the hype to start the season. After a 19-point, 6-rebound performance against Stonehill, Sanogo notched 27 and 15 against Boston University. He also went 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, which is terrifying for opponents. For a guy already nearly impossible to defend in the paint, adding an outside shot will make your odds of defending him even slimmer.
Figuring It Out. Villanova losing a road game in the opening week to a rival doesn't bother me. The manner in which it happened does. This team is down two of its three top guards from last year, and no one has really stepped up to fill the hole. Longino has played well, but Chris Arcidiacono is not the longterm solution there. Someone else has to help run this offense. On Friday, the Wildcats had eight assists to 13 turnovers, and the team went 2-for-7 from deep. That's the fewest 3-pointers attempted by Villanova in a game since December 5, 2001, in a loss at Penn.
How Long Is The Leash? Georgetown's opener may have ended up in the winning column, but it was a disaster. Coppin State is an awful program with only two ten-win seasons in the past decade. This game shouldn't have been close, and yet, the Hoyas nearly lost their home opener for the second year in a row. After losing 21 consecutive games to end last season, it was a shock to see Patrick Ewing back. One wonders what it would take to see a change in that seat mid-season.
Bates Motel. Manny Bates was simply exceptional in Butler's opener. It was his first game back from a shoulder injury that ended his season just minutes in last year, and he set a new career-high with 25 points. His 11 rebounds were his second-best mark, and he also added three blocks. If Bates can give Butler that kind of performance all season, it will be a very dangerous team.
At The Point. With Xavier losing Paul Scruggs and Dwon Odom and Adam Kunkel nursing an injury, Sean Miller needed someone to help facilitate the offense. Colby Jones has risen to the occasion. Jones is averaging seven assists per game so far, an impressive start for the junior.
Weak Slate. The Gavitt Games are this week, and it might be the worst the series has ever looked. Of the Big East's top four teams a year ago, only one - Villanova - is playing in it. For the Big Ten, it is just two of the top six - Purdue and Iowa. All ten teams in the two conferences that missed the tournament last year will be playing in the series this year. The Big East dominated the games last year, posting a 6-2 record. Let's see if they can make it two in a row.
Games of the Week
Every week, our staff will be picking our most anticipated game. If you only have chance to watch one game, this is the one you'll want to set aside some time for.
Xavier vs. Indiana - Friday, November 18; 6:00 p.m. ET; FS1
Villanova at Michigan State - Friday, November 18; 8:00 p.m. ET; FS1
There was a tie in the voting this week, and it's fitting. This Friday night doubleheader packs a punch.
The opening act features Xavier hosting No. 13 Indiana with a chance to notch a big win on the resume. Behind Trayce Jackson-Davis, the Hoosiers have one of the more efficient paint offenses in college basketball. Xavier's interior defense was soft last year, but it has looked better this season. The Musketeers will have to be up to the task to get the win at home.
The second act is a battle of two strong programs meeting for just the fifth time. Michigan State came oh-so-close to knocking off No. 2 Gonzaga and will play KenPom No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday, so the Spartans may be under .500 when these two teams meet. Don't let the record fool you, though. These should be two tournament teams duking it out in primetime.
Quote of the Week
"If you defend, you give yourself a chance to be in the game."
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