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.
A week ago, it felt like we knew exactly how the tiers of the Big East broke out. Then, UConn lost to St. John's and Seton Hall and DePaul knocked off Xavier. That threw a real wrench in things.
This is where conference play starts to get murky. How much stock, exactly, should we put in any of those games? We already know Xavier and UConn are good, they've beaten good teams. Does this mean DePaul is better than we thought? Xavier worse? Was it just a weird night? Time will help us answer those questions.
As voted on by our staff weekly.
1. Xavier Musketeers
Record: 16-4 (8-1)
Last week: 1
Beating Marquette and knocking off Georgetown pretty soundly is good, but losing to DePaul puts a damper on things. I'm not too concerned about that one. The Musketeers played like usual, except the shots didn't fall. They got a little unlucky at the end and DePaul made plays. However, what that game - and the win over Georgetown - did confirm is that this defense isn't good enough to win games all on its own.
2. Marquette Golden Eagles
Record: 16-5 (8-2)
Last week: 4
The Golden Eagles are elite, and Shaka Smart should be in the Naismith Coach of the Year conversation. The way they ran Seton Hall out of the Prudential Center was telling about what he has built in that program. Marquette has the No. 1 offense on KenPom, and that matches what I see when I put the games on. All of these guys are so quick with their first step and so good at passing that every spot on the floor is available. Oso Ighodaro might be the most dynamic center in the league, and Kam Jones has the "it" factor. I had the Golden Eagles as No. 1 in my ballot, although their loss to Xavier kept them in second for other voters.
3. Providence Friars
Record: 15-5 (7-2)
Last week: 2
I thought the Friars showed a lot of heart in their loss at Marquette on Wednesday. Last year, they lost that game by 32 points. This time around, they battled back from down 14 to make it close despite playing without Jared Bynum and with the rest of the backcourt battling illness. Then, Noah Locke had a career day as the Friars handled a resurgent DePaul team at home on Saturday. Providence is in a very good position right now, but this team badly needs Bynum back to beat the teams at the top. The Friars have to find a way to return from Philly with a win even if he can't play next Sunday.
4. Creighton Bluejays
Record: 11-8 (5-3)
Last week: 5
It was a quiet week for the Bluejays. They played only once, dominating Butler Tuesday night. KenPom says that this is the third best team in the Big East and that we shouldn't overreact to the losses. I think Creighton will pick up some big wins down the back stretch of the season, and this resume will become impressive by the time Selection Sunday comes around. They can start that process by beating Xavier on Saturday.
5. Connecticut Huskies
Record: 16-5 (5-5)
Last week: 3
UConn has gone 1-2 since I last wrote up these power rankings, and guess what? They've barely moved on KenPom. The Huskies moved down from No. 4 to No. 6 in the nation. That tells me these losses aren't much to worry about beyond a blip on the radar against competitive teams. The eye test tells me UConn has some issues to work out. That said, they seemed to work out those issues pretty thoroughly against Butler.
6. Seton Hall Pirates
Record: 12-9 (5-5)
Last week: 6
For nearly 72 hours, it looked like Seton Hall was going to make a big push in the Big East. The Pirates knocked off UConn behind a clutch play from KC Ndefo late. Then, they lost by 21 points at home to Marquette. A team in Seton Hall's position can't afford to be dropping home games. They do have three Quadrant 1 wins and top-70 spots in the NET and KenPom, so they are still in the at-large conversation. That run has to start now.
7. Villanova Wildcats
Record: 10-10 (4-5)
Last week: 10
The Wildcats got two wins this week, but neither felt good. The team barely got by Georgetown on MLK Day, and it took a late comeback to complete a sweep of St. John's. One positive takeaway is that the defense tightened up late in that one. If the defense can continue to play like that, the Wildcats could easily play spoiler down the stretch here. I'll believe the defense has come together when I see them do it against a good offense, though. The game against Providence on Sunday is very intriguing.
8. DePaul Blue Demons
Record: 9-11 (3-6)
Last week: 9
Tony Stubblefield has DePaul playing with energy. The Blue Demons are suddenly very fun to watch. From Javan Johnson knocking down tough shots to Da'Sean Nelson slamming home dunks, this team is exciting. Getting Caleb Murphy back has provided a spark, too. With all the injuries, it took time for things to start to come together, but it finally seems like we have an idea of what the coach wants from his team. Beating Villanova and Xavier in consecutive weeks is huge for this program, one that has a taste now of getting out of the Big East basement.
9. St. John's Red Storm
Record: 13-7 (3-6)
Last week: 8
St. John's managed to go on the road and beat UConn and then came home to Madison Square Garden in front of over 13,000 people and blew a late lead against Villanova. Like with Butler, the Red Storm don't have guards who can hit shots consistently. That shouldn't come as a surprise when this team lost all of its shooters and replaced them with Andre Curbelo, another non-shooting defensive guard. Joel Soriano is very good, but he is not getting enough support.
10. Butler Bulldogs
Record: 11-10 (3-7)
Last week: 7
Butler is not a very good basketball team right now, and the team is even worse on the road than at home. The Bulldogs finished the week with a -15-point differential after losing at UConn by 30 points, one of their worst losses since joining the Big East. The offense does not take good shots, does not make shots, and does not create second chances. More looks go in when they play at home, so that's why the record is about .500 at the moment. Manny Bates and Simas Lukosius are the only regulars with effective field goal percentages above 50 percent. Thad Matta needs to have his eye on the transfer portal for better shooting and playmaking next year, because this backcourt is not it.
11. Georgetown Hoyas
Record: 5-15 (0-9)
Last week: 11
Georgetown has a home date with DePaul on Tuesday and travels to MSG to face the Johnnies on Sunday. The Streak could end with either of those games. This team is close, and Primo Spears is a ton of fun to watch.
Player of the Week: Kam Jones, G, Marquette
Boum: 21 points, 3 assists, 3 steals, 4-for-8 from 3pt vs. Providence; 22 points, 3 steals, 5-for-9 from 3pt at Seton Hall
Kam Jones is emerging as one of the truly elite players in the Big East. He has this ability to create timely plays. Twice, Marquette's lead against Providence got cut to five in the final minutes. He had a steal and a layup the first time and a 3-pointer off an in-bounds pass the second time. Those plays put the game away. The point totals and shooting are impressive, but they become even more impactful when you look at when he hits the shots.
Seeding. Here's where the Big East sits in the seeding on the Bracket Matrix right now: Xavier - 3 seed; UConn, Marquette - 4 seed; Providence - 6 seed; Creighton - 10 seed. Seton Hall is in one of 79 brackets indexed by the site.
Strength of Schedule. One thing stands out when you look at the Big East on KenPom: Xavier's conference strength of schedule. The Musketeers have had the easiest schedule in conference play so far according to the metrics, which may contribute to their 8-1 conference record. On the flip side, the Friars are just one game behind them at 7-2 with the hardest schedule so far.
Conference Only. I know Providence fans may have their issues with Ken Pomeroy, but they may like this piece of information. The Friars are the only Big East team to be top-three in the conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency in Big East play. They rank second in defense and third in offense. Unlike last year, Providence is winning big and losing small in the Big East, and that looks good to the computers. This team may be better than last year's Sweet 16 group.
Faster Than You Think. Selection Sunday is less than seven weeks away now. The final stretch here is going to come very quickly, much faster than you think it will. We're set for an electric finale, and getting to MSG this past weekend only upped my excitement level for the Big East Tournament. Strap in, because things are going to get interesting in a hurry. The best is yet to come.
Fashion Check. With Xavier and UConn losing at home last week, there is now only one team that remains undefeated in their regular home uniform: Providence. The Friars are 9-0 in their white jerseys, which are new this season. St. John's also won in the red uniforms for the first time this season, leaving Georgetown's navy blue jerseys alone in last place. The Hoyas are 0-4 wearing those. Lastly, Xavier wore its 7th different uniform of the season against Georgetown. The Musketeers have white, light gray, dark gray, navy blue, and black uniforms, plus two throwbacks. That sounds like a lot of organizing work for the equipment managers.
Game 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 at UConn - Wednesday, January 27; 6:30 p.m. ET; FS1
Xavier was the team to hand the Huskies their first loss on New Year's Eve. Now, they head to Storrs to take on UConn. I'm curious how much home court advantage can make a difference in this one, especially since the Huskies just lost at home to St. John's recently. This feels like one UConn has to have.
Quote of the Week
"The days of us outscoring teams has ended. We're going to have to do both."
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