Big East Power Rankings and Thoughts: Week 13
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.
It didn't take long into the new month for us to get what may be the game of the year in the Big East. Providence and Xavier, playing in the only ranked vs. ranked game in the conference this week, met expectations in our game of the week.
After taking a 14-point lead, Xavier allowed Providence to take a lead early in the second half. The teams traded leads before Jared Bynum banked in a three to send it to overtime. Xavier would go ahead in the extra frame, and Bynum would not be as fortunate when his game-winner attempt at the buzzer went in and out. Xavier survived.
This week also featured a pair of Seton Hall comeback victories, with the first one in Queens to get a sweep over St. John's in Shaheen Holloway's first year in the rivalry as a head coach. He was just 2-4 against the Red Storm as a player at Seton Hall, but he's matched that win total already. This one ended with a pair of exclamation points from KC Ndefo and Tray Jackson and featured an Andre Curbelo ejection, so it is fair to say this rivalry has a little extra juice now.
As voted on by our staff weekly.
1. Marquette Golden Eagles
Record: 19-5 (11-2)
Last week: 1
Marquette scored 133 points in a pair of home wins this week, their lowest combined score in back-to-back games all season. Their offense dropped from No. 1 to No. 4 in the country with the performances. The good news is that the Golden Eagles won both games, allowing just 64 points to Villanova and 52 to Butler. Is this just a blip on the radar, or some sign of an underlying issue? I tend to think the former. Even good offenses have bad days, and this deep into the season, teams start to get a read for what you like to do and adjust. Marquette goes on the road to face UConn this week, and that will test this offense's ability to recover.
2. Xavier Musketeers
Record: 19-5 (11-2)
Last week: 2
No Zach Freemantle, no problem. After the forward went out with a left foot injury, it seemed like Xavier could be in for a rough stretch. Instead, Jerome Hunter stepped up and shut down Providence's Bryce Hopkins on Wednesday night before the team handled St. John's with ease on Saturday. Hunter is a menace on the glass and a defensive asset, and he could prove to be an x-factor for Xavier down the stretch here. It'll be an easy week for the Muskies with just one game scheduled, a trip to Hinkle to take on Butler for the first time since the Bulldogs knocked Xavier out of the Big East Tournament last year.
3. Creighton Bluejays
Record: 15-8 (9-3)
Last week: 3
The Bluejays are on a six-game winning streak after a heavyweight fight with Villanova Saturday night. Creighton's defense was the story this week. The team held Georgetown to 53 points and Villanova to 61. They've held every opponent but one on this streak under a point per possession, and the outlier was St. John's with 76 points on 75 possessions. It also helps that Trey Alexander can go Super Saiyan like he did against the Wildcats.
Creighton has pulled itself out of the hole it dug itself with six straight losses as conference play started. Now, the team has a chance to prove itself. The next three games involve a trip to Newark to take on Seton Hall, a home game against UConn, and a visit to Providence as the Friars host their pink-out on Valentine's Day. For Greg McDermott to feel good, the Bluejays need two wins out of that stretch. They can get both this week.
4. Providence Friars
Record: 17-6 (9-3)
Last week: 4
The Friars may have lost at Xavier, but it is hard not to feel good about the way the team played. Noah Locke was sensational, and Ed Croswell is playing as well as any big man in the Big East. The Musketeers had an answer for Bryce Hopkins, and Jared Bynum finally missed a late shot against Xavier. That was all the difference. After hitting a game-winner last year, putting the nail in the coffin in triple overtime late last season, and banking in a three to send this game to overtime, he was bound to miss eventually. The Friars get a week off to recover from that one, suiting up this Wednesday at home to face Georgetown before heading to Madison Square Garden to take on St. John's.
5. Connecticut Huskies
Record: 18-6 (7-6)
Last week: 5
The Huskies took care of business this week. Two road games against teams at the bottom of the conference, two wins. The offense looked good in Chicago, scoring 90 points on DePaul. The defense was stellar in D.C., holding Georgetown to 62. Andre Jackson played lockdown defense on Primo Spears, and Alex Karaban hit some big shots. Tristen Newton, Adama Sanogo, and Jordan Hawkins all had big games. This isn't the buzzsaw we saw in non-conference games, but UConn is playing better basketball. They have two big tests this week, hosting Marquette on Tuesday and traveling to Omaha on Saturday. With a pair of wins, the Huskies could put themselves right back in the top tier of the Big East.
6. Seton Hall Pirates
Record: 15-9 (8-5)
Last week: 6
Seton Hall came back from down by 13 twice this week. Going down by that many to St. John's and DePaul is not great, but this team has shown incredible resilience. Shaheen Holloway's defense is legit, and the Pirates just seem to find ways to get enough done on offense to make it work. Now, this is the week where Seton Hall has to go from "feisty" to "good." The team hosts Creighton on Wednesday and takes on Villanova at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night. They need two wins to get on the right side of the bubble. An at-large bid is absolutely within reach. Can Seton Hall grab it?
7. Villanova Wildcats
Record: 10-13 (4-8)
Last week: 7
With Justin Moore back, Villanova has been in a one-score game late in its last three games. Playing Providence, Marquette, and Creighton down to the wire is impressive, especially against the latter two on the road. Unfortunately, the Wildcats went 0-3 in those games and have eight Big East losses for the first time since 2013. This all feels like too little, too late for the 'Cats. That's a shame, since this team has not played at full strength once this season, and it's a group that can clearly compete in the Big East. Villanova will hope to play spoiler for the next month before trying to sneak into the dance with a run at Madison Square Garden. This team has the talent to win four in a row there to steal a bid, but first, they need to learn how to close out games.
8. St. John's Red Storm
Record: 14-10 (4-9)
Last week: 8
Yikes. St. John's has lost four of five, falling from No. 61 to No. 87 on KenPom since the team's loss to Villanova at MSG in late January. The only win in that stretch was a two-point victory over Georgetown. The Red Storm got embarrassed at home by Seton Hall, with Andre Curbelo getting ejected in the process, before effectively not showing up against Xavier. This team's issues are clear: they can't shoot from the outside, and they don't play good defense. Anyone could have seen that coming with this roster construction. It feels like the Mike Anderson era could be coming to a close in about eight games.
9. DePaul Blue Demons
Record: 9-15 (3-10)
Last week: 9
DePaul beat Villanova and Xavier in two out of three games in mid-January and has since fallen off the cliff. The Blue Demons have not won since the game against Xavier, a performance that seems more like an aberration than anything else the farther back it appears in the rearview mirror. A 15-2 start at Seton Hall yesterday gave cause for optimism, but it became clear that optimism was misplaced by the half. DePaul will have a chance to sweep Villanova Wednesday night, but the odds of that don't seem great given the current trends of both teams.
10. Butler Bulldogs
Record: 11-13 (3-10)
Last week: 10
Georgetown may be last in the Big East, but Butler is something even worse: boring. The Bulldogs just aren't good on offense at all, and their games get borderline unwatchable at times. They did have an opportunity to make things interesting at Marquette on Saturday, but instead they missed the open looks they did get and chucked some truly awful shots. Where is the team that beat Kansas State?
11. Georgetown Hoyas
Record: 6-18 (1-12)
Last week: 11
The good: Georgetown's defense held consecutive opponents under 70 points for the first time since the first three games of last season. Doing that against Creighton and UConn is more impressive than doing that against Siena, American, and Dartmouth.
The bad: Georgetown's offense only scored 53 points against Creighton and 62 against UConn, with leading scorer Primo Spears getting shutout against the Huskies.
The Hoyas to seem to be playing better as of late, and the computers agree. They've moved up 19 spots in 19 days. That suggests that these players can play well together, and most of them can come back next year. That's a glimmer of hope for a program that needs it, and, with the right coaching, I think Georgetown could be on the right track.
Players of the Week: Jack Nunge, F, Xavier; Trey Alexander, G, Creighton
Nunge: 23 points, 14 rebounds against Providence
Alexander: 27 points, 5-for-9 from 3-point range against Villanova
Ed Cooley had no answer for Jack Nunge on Wednesday. The big man scored at will and notched his seventh double-double of the season.
Trey Alexander was practically the whole Creighton offense against Villanova. He scored 27 of the team's 66 points and hit five of the team's seven 3-pointers.
Not So Close. The Big East ranks first in one very interesting statistic. Of the conference's 70 games played this season, 16 of them have been decided by 20 points or more. That's the highest percentage of any conference in the country. It doesn't come as much of a shock. The middle class of the Big East has been essentially nonexistent this season, and the teams at the top have taken turns beating on the teams at the bottom. Sixteen blowouts is already the most in any season in the new Big East, with 2016 and 2018 each being the closest with 15 in each season. 2016 featured Villanova and Xavier making the tournament as No. 2 seeds, and 2018 saw both teams claim No. 1 seeds. The Big East once against has a number of teams playing basketball at that level.
The Bynum Effect. Bart Torvik's website provides each team with a game score, condensing the quality of their performance down to a single number. Providence's four games without Jared Bynum are the four lowest scores the team has had in Big East play. He may not be putting up the all-Big East numbers many expected before the season, but his impact on the team is clear.
Year One Progress Report. Xavier, Seton Hall, Villanova, and Butler all hired new coaches in the offseason. Xavier deserves an A+ for the hire of Sean Miller with the Musketeers playing like one of the best teams in the country. Shaheen Holloway gets a B from me so far. The Pirates are coming around, and I like their defensive identity. How this looks next year when Shaheen can get more of his guys into the program will tell us a lot. Kyle Neptune gets an incomplete grade since he hasn't gotten a single game with all of his starters. Thad Matta gets a D. Butler is more talented than the record or performance indicates, and there have been head-scratching decisions in terms of personnel and scheme on offense.
New York's Team. Last week saw St. John's get swept by Seton Hall and a sea of red invade Madison Square Garden, with fans coming to see Rutgers, not St. John's. The Red Storm may be located in Queens, but they seem like an afterthought in NYC hoops these days. The team has two more games at the Garden this year against Providence and UConn, and it wouldn't be surprising to see an even split of fans at each of those games. This program is not in a great spot, and it feels like something needs to change.
Honorable Mention. My vote for game of the week went to the undercard in this week's events. Seton Hall at Villanova on Saturday night is the most interesting game to me. The Pirates are just outside the bubble, and to cement themselves as one of the six best teams in the Big East, they need to beat Villanova twice. Meanwhile, Villanova is playing much better as of late, and Seton Hall is a beatable foe. I don't know what will happen in this one, but I'm excited to learn a bit more about where these teams are.
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.
Marquette at UConn - Tuesday, February 7; 6:30 p.m. ET; FS1
Marquette forced 16 turnovers when these teams met at Fiserv Forum back in January. That game saw the Golden Eagles overcome an 11-point deficit to get the win. After getting swept by Xavier, this is a must-win for UConn to avoid the same fate against Marquette. This one has huge implications for both the race for first in the Big East and seeding for each team.
Quote of the Week
“I've never been more satisfied, elated, proud of players, staff, really everybody that's a part of our program.”
- Xavier head coach Sean Miller after the team's overtime win over Providence
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