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.
The march to March continues this week as the calendar flips to February this week. There are still much to be decided in the Big East, but one this is very clear: this conference has some of the very best teams in the country.
Marquette, Xavier, and Providence are all tied atop the conference. Creighton is a game-and-a-half back and just a hair outside KenPom's top ten, and, despite the sub-.500 Big East record, UConn has been in the metric's top ten for over two months now.
Meanwhile, the bottom of the conference got a boost in the form of Georgetown's first Big East win since March 13, 2021. The Hoyas nearly followed that up with a win at Madison Square Garden yesterday, and clearly Patrick Ewing likes playing in that building. Seeing those kids finally get the monkey off their back was heartwarming.
As voted on by our staff weekly.
1. Marquette Golden Eagles
Record: 17-5 (9-2)
Last week: 2
We have a new No. 1! The Golden Eagles still sport the most efficient offense in the country after putting up 89 points at DePaul. Tyler Kolek nearly notched a triple-double, coming just one assist shy. David Joplin scored a career-high 28 points in 24 minutes, hitting 8-of-11 shots from deep. This week's schedule features an opportunity to sweep Villanova at home on Wednesday and a home game against Butler on Saturday, so Marquette should be able to add two more Big East wins before a trip to UConn the week after.
2. Xavier Musketeers
Record: 17-5 (9-2)
Last week: 1
Some early foul trouble for Freemantle and Nunge made the trip to Omaha more difficult than expected. Still, that win at UConn on Wednesday was impressive. Xavier looked like a Final Four team in the first half at Storrs and then did enough to hold on in the second half. Credit Sean Miller for some nice defensive calls at the end of that one. Despite some nice plays on Wednesday, this defense still leaves a lot to be desired. When it's on, Xavier is one of the best teams in the country. When it isn't, grab whatever you can and hold on because it'll be a shootout. How this team looks at home this week against Providence will say a lot.
3. Creighton Bluejays
Record: 13-8 (7-3)
Last week: 4
Ignore the record here; Creighton is great. The team's only conference losses are on the road to Marquette, Xavier, and UConn. The Bluejays scored 188 points this week against St. John's and Xavier, winning those games by 28 and 17 points. They briefly made KenPom's top ten before falling back to No. 11. Greg McDermott gets a quieter week this week with games at Georgetown and against Villanova before ending February with six straight Quadrant 1 or 2 games. This team is very much alive in the conversation for the top seed at the Big East Tournament.
4. Providence Friars
Record: 17-5 (9-2)
Last week: 3
It was a good week for Ed Cooley. Jared Bynum returned, and the team dominated Butler at home before taking down Villanova on the road. Bynum took over the latter game, looking like an all-conference selection by going on an 8-0 run to put Providence ahead in the second half. Then, he put the nail into the coffin with a few swift swings of the hammer. His turnaround mid-range jumper extended Providence's lead to three with under 30 seconds to play, and he connected on a pair of free throws after a stop to put the game out of reach. If Bynum can play like that every game, the Friars can be one of the most dangerous teams in the country.
5. Connecticut Huskies
Record: 16-6 (5-6)
Last week: 5
Losing at home to Xavier is tough. The Musketeers are a great team, but protecting the home floor is critical with the top of the conference this strong. It becomes even more critical when you consider UConn already had a loss to St. John's at home. That said, the Huskies found stuff that worked in the second half. Jordan Hawkins and Tristen Newton were fantastic, combining for 51 points in the loss, and UConn pulled within a single point of Xavier a number of times down the stretch. Dan Hurley has a chance to get his team back above .500 with road games against DePaul and Georgetown this week. Let's not forget, though, that DePaul knocked off Xavier at home and Georgetown played UConn close at Gampel back in December. It doesn't matter how pretty it is, UConn needs to come away from this week with two more wins.
6. Seton Hall Pirates
Record: 13-9 (6-5)
Last week: 6
The Pirates took their frustrations out on the punching bag that is Butler on Saturday, winning by 21 points at Hinkle. They're still hanging on to the edge of the bubble right now, and to stay there, they'll need to prove they're a tier above the rest of the conference. That means completing sweeps of St. John's and DePaul this week. It does feel like Shaheen Holloway is getting more out of his team, but there are still kinks to be worked out.
7. Villanova Wildcats
Record: 10-11 (4-6)
Last week: 7
Justin Moore is back! He looked good in limited minutes against Providence, although he trailed off a bit in the second half. The Wildcats played a good game on Sunday, and it's a loss that wouldn't be a big deal if not for the bigger picture. That felt like a must-win, and the 'Cats were unable to win a close one yet again. This team gives you great moments, but the consistency is just not where it needs to be. All that said, this team will be a tough out at the Big East Tournament with Moore back and Whitmore and Armstrong with a full regular season under their belts.
8. St. John's Red Storm
Record: 14-8 (4-7)
Last week: 9
While DePaul could not avoid the inevitable Georgetown victory, AJ Storr saved St. John's from another loss at Madison Square Garden. His game-winning three capped what was a very entertaining game. Hitting that shot as a freshman at the Garden is the kind of thing you dream about as a kid, so that's an awesome thing to watch.
9. DePaul Blue Demons
Record: 9-13 (3-8)
Last week: 8
Somebody was going to lose to Georgetown. DePaul being the victim there was almost too predictable. That was a tough night for the Blue Demons, and they just didn't have the ability to overcome it. That loss sandwiched between double-digit losses to Providence and Marquette really put a damper on the excitement after DePaul beat Xavier. They can attempt to play spoiler again this Tuesday against UConn.
10. Butler Bulldogs
Record: 11-10 (3-7)
Last week: 10
Butler has somehow only gotten worse as the season's gone along. Remember when this team beat Kansas State? I'm not sure I do. The Bulldogs have four straight losses of more than 20 points. This team is being outscored by nearly 13 points per game in conference play, and that includes a 29-point victory at Georgetown. A home game against the Hoyas may be the only game Butler wins the rest of the way.
11. Georgetown Hoyas
Record: 6-16 (1-10)
Last week: 11
THEY DID IT! Georgetown finally got a win and then came so close to making it a winning streak on Sunday at St. John's. The program needed that, and so did the players. They have guys they can build around, and learning how to win is huge for their future. Primo Spears is a ton of fun to watch, too.
Player of the Week: Tyler Kolek, G, Marquette
24 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 4-for-6 from 3pt at DePaul
Tyler Kolek was simply ridiculous on Saturday, coming up just a single rebound short of a triple-double. He now averages eight assists per game, the third-highest mark in college basketball. Only Yuri Collins and Markquis Nowell average more.
Race For No. 1. Xavier, Marquette, and Providence are all tied at the top of the Big East. Xavier has both the best win and worst loss in conference play of the three, winning at UConn and losing at DePaul. Marquette and Providence already split their series, and the Golden Eagles can split with Xavier at home after Valentine's Day. The Friars and Musketeers will meet for the first time this week, and the games between those two loom large. Creighton is also just behind the leaders with home games against UConn and Marquette still to come. This is going to come down to the wire.
Feeling Fresh. With the season more than halfway done, this is the point in the season when freshman can really start to hit their stride. Xavier's Desmond Claude, Providence's Corey Floyd Jr., Villanova's Cam Whitmore, and AJ Storr of the Red Storm all had some great moments this week. That guard depth for Xavier and Providence could prove huge down the stretch, while Whitmore finding his shot makes Villanova a more dangerous team that can make life hard for opponents. Storr had a career-high 23 points on Wednesday and followed that up with a game-winner on Sunday, and he's the kind of shooter this program needs going forward.
Kalkbrenner Leads Creighton. Despite ranking dead last in the Big East in steal percentage, Creighton's defense is clearly the most efficient in conference play. The Bluejays rank first in effective field goal percentage allowed, offensive rebounding percentage allowed, free throw rate allowed, 2-point field goal percentage allowed, and block percentage. In short, they play really good defense without fouling or allowing second chances and don't need to force turnovers to get stops. This unit does all that because the man in the middle, Ryan Kalkbrenner, makes life easy for everyone around him. He has a very good chance at winning Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row.
Shaheen's Defense. While Creighton has the most efficient defense in the Big East in conference play only, that honor belongs to Seton Hall for the full season. The Pirates now have the 14th most efficient defense in the country, just one spot ahead UConn. Unfortunately, it's paired with an offense that is 124th. For Seton Hall to make a run, the defense will have to play up to that ranking and steal some games down the stretch.
The UConn Disparity. UConn is currently No. 6 on KenPom, No. 7 in the NET, and 5-6 in the Big East. How does that happen? The answer is actually pretty simple: they were that good in November and December. With an adjusted EM of +29.86 the day before their loss to Xavier, UConn was No. 2 in the country and more than seven points better than No. 10 Arkansas. Here at the end of January, that margin has gotten much slimmer. The Huskies are just +24.65 now, over five points worse per 100 possessions than they were last month. Only ten teams have had a bigger drop in their metrics in that period. Fortunately for UConn, dominating the first 14 games gave the team quite a buffer to work with. That's nearly half their schedule playing like the second-best team in the country.
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.
Providence at Xavier - Wednesday, February 1; 6:30 p.m. ET; FS1
These teams played two classic games last year. In the first, the Friars got a late stop that turned into a Jared Bynum buzzer-beater for the win. The second was a three-and-a-half-hour marathon featuring a leaky roof and three overtimes before Bynum once again hit a late shot to clinch a Providence win.
Ed Cooley and Sean Miller are two of the best coaches in the conference, and both teams are playing at a high level. Xavier has an offense that could give an inconsistent Providence defense a tough time, but Xavier's defense rarely makes life hard on opponents. This should be a high-scoring affair that will come down to the final possessions.
Quote of the Week
“We have 10 more games to go. We can get ourselves right back in the hunt.”
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