Big East Power Rankings and Thoughts: Week 17
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.
And just like that, it was over. Four months gone in a blink. It seems like yesterday we were watching eight Big East teams open the season at once in early November.
This will be the last one of these I write this season, and the Big East was not going to let the final week go by without a significant story to write about. This week, that's a series of shocking losses in Providence. The AMP doesn't feel like an impenetrable fortress anymore, that's for sure.
Like last year, this season features a new outright Big East champ. Shaka Smart has been incredible, and his Golden Eagles finished the season with a pair of wins to end on a high note. Marquette may be as dangerous as any team this March.
As voted on by our staff weekly.
1. Marquette Golden Eagles
Record: 25-6 (17-3)
Last week: 1
Let's pretend that final run by St. John's did happen, alright? Marquette finished the deal, got some milkshakes, and grabbed the No. 1 seed at the Garden. The Golden Eagles will have a rematch from this past week on Thursday at noon, facing either Butler or St. John's. The No. 1 seed has not made the Big East Championship since 2019 when Villanova won it, so we'll see if Marquette can reverse a recent trend.
2. Xavier Musketeers
Record: 23-8 (15-5)
Last week: 3
I said last week that Xavier could prove it's a different team than the one we've seen the past few seasons with two wins last week. Well, it's a different team. Xavier's offense was eye-poppingly good at Providence where the Friars had no answer for Souley Boum or Colby Jones. The Musketeers then ended the season in style by holding off a late run by Butler to win on Senior Night. The team was also "in style" this week in the Runningman uniforms, which I love. Both the white and blue versions got the call this week, and, boy, do both look great.
Ok, done with the uniform talk. Xavier locked in the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament and will face either Seton Hall or DePaul at 7:00 ET on Thursday. A second-place finish is a nice start to the second Sean Miller era. The Musketeers should be playing on semifinal Friday for the first time since 2019 as long as the Freemantle injury does not cause any issues.
3. Connecticut Huskies
Record: 24-7 (13-7)
Last week: 4
UConn's game against DePaul was laugh-out-loud ridiculous. I mean, 29-2? That's insane. And the team looked as dangerous as expected at Villanova on Saturday night. I think we can confidently say this team is back and playing at a high level. UConn might be a No. 1 seed in a No. 4 seed's clothing in both postseason tournaments, although they're unlikely to be lower than a No. 3 seed with a win on Thursday. In a world where UConn doesn't slump in January, I think Jordan Hawkins ends up winning Big East Player of the Year with how he's looked as of late. Andre Jackson is also playing his best basketball of the season. When this group is firing on all cylinders, there may not be any weaknesses.
4. Creighton Bluejays
Record: 20-11 (14-6)
Last week: 5
No miscues for the Bluejays this week who dispatched the Hoyas and Blue Demons with ease. Third place in the Big East may not meet the expectations set before the season, but basically all of the difference can be explained by the unexpected rise of Marquette and some bad bounces. Creighton is a great team. It remains to be seen if it has the depth to sustain strong performances in the postseason, but the starting five can compete with anyone in the country. As the No. 3 seed, Creighton will most likely be seeing a rematch of its most lopsided loss of the season against Villanova late Thursday night.
5. Providence Friars
Record: 21-10 (13-7)
Last week: 2
The wheels are officially off the bus. Providence is 4-5 since February 1st, and two of those wins came against Georgetown. The Friars had two games at home this week with the opportunity to claim second place in the Big East to follow up a first place finish last season. On Wednesday night, Providence went down by as many as 22 points to a Xavier team without Zach Freemantle and allowed the Musketeers to score 94 points, including 62 combined from Souley Boum and Colby Jones. The team followed that up by coming out flat at home on Senior Day on national television against a slumping Seton Hall team playing without Kadary Richmond and Tray Jackson. The Pirates had their best offensive game of the season, scoring 82 points on 59 possessions while the Friars managed just 58. That's the most embarrassing loss for Providence under Ed Cooley by a country mile, and he knew it. "Are we frauds?" he asked after the performance. We'll find out very quickly when the team faces UConn this Thursday at 2:30 ET.
6. Villanova Wildcats
Record: 15-14 (9-9)
Last week: 6
Too little, too late. If the Villanova team we've seen the past three weeks had played a full schedule, it would be in the dance. Instead, it's win-four-or-you're-Nationally-Invited for the Wildcats. I don't think it would be fair to ding Villanova for not keeping pace with a UConn team that nobody has been able to handle at the height of its powers. The losses to Temple, Portland, shorthanded Oregon, and DePaul are the ones that really hurt right now.
Villanova gets a favorable path to the Big East Championship as the No. 6 seed. If favorites win, the team would get to face both of the Quadrant 1 opponents it has beaten this year in Creighton and Xavier. If they make it to Saturday, you never know what can happen. It'll take two tough wins to get there, and, if this team can do it, it can beat anyone.
7. Seton Hall Pirates
Record: 17-14 (10-10)
Last week: 7
So I'm seeing here that you have Seton Hall losing five out of six and then going into Providence on Senior Day without Kadary Richmond and Tray Jackson and having its best offensive performance of the season to beat the Friars by 24, Val? Are you sure you gave me the right script? Because no one is going to believe that.
That actually happened. Turns out there was still some fight in the Pirates. This team is old and won't go down without a fight. They gave Villanova a scare this week and then punked the Friars. Let's not count out Seton Hall this week, especially since this is a team that gave Xavier a scare on the road earlier this season.
8. St. John's Red Storm
Record: 17-14 (7-13)
Last week: 8
I could not stop laughing at the end of the St. John's/Marquette game. Is there a better representation of Red Storm basketball under Mike Anderson? This group hung tough with the best team in the Big East on the road, eventually faltered, and then pulled a huge comeback out of nowhere before failing to send the game to overtime because of a missed free throw. When St. John's hits shots, this team can play with any in the Big East. That is, unfortunately, a rare occurrence. The Red Storm could get another shot at Marquette on Thursday if it can get through Butler in the tournament opener Wednesday afternoon.
9. Butler Bulldogs
Record: 14-17 (6-14)
Last week: 9
Butler played good defense for three quarters but was unable to hold up against two of the best the Big East had to offer because of the offense. Stop me if you've heard that before. The game against St. John's on Wednesday should be entertaining if not necessarily high quality.
10. DePaul Blue Demons
Record: 9-22 (3-17)
Last week: 10
Injuries were a valid reason for most of DePaul's struggles this year. But what the hell happened once this group got healthy? The Blue Demons enter the Big East Tournament with 12 consecutive losses, most of which after the team got to full strength. At least Seton Hall is a favorable matchup, with the Blue Demons having played them to two-possession games in both meetings. That would somehow set up a matchup with Xavier, the team DePaul last beat. Will DePaul make that run happen? Almost definitely not. Would it be funny? Yeah. If Georgetown could do it in 2021, why not DePaul? (Yes, I know why not. Humor me.)
11. Georgetown Hoyas
Record: 7-24 (2-18)
Last week: 11
Is that it? Is it over? Assuming Villanova puts the final nail in the coffin on Wednesday, the Patrick Ewing era will have ended with a whimper and not a bang. The last two games of the regular season were decided by a combined 60 points.
Players of the Week: Souley Boum, G, Xavier
33 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 4-of-9 from deep at Providence on Wednesday
Here comes the Boum! He was unstoppable Wednesday night. Ed Cooley had no answers. Without some bad Xavier losses, this would have been the finishing touch on a player of the year performance. Instead, it's just a great night in a big game. He matched Collin Gillespie's mark from his game in Providence last year.
No Snubs. Remember when TLC wrote that song "No Snubs" about how the Big East coaches nailed the first and second teams after the 2022-23 season? No? Ok, maybe that's not what they were singing about, but the message still applies. I think the coaches got both groups exactly right. Usually there is a lot of complaining about guys not making it, but I didn't hear any of that this year and for good reason.
Fresh Matchups. Wednesday of the Big East Tournament will feature two matchups we have yet to see in the event. Butler and St. John's have never met during the tournament, and neither have Seton Hall and DePaul. Regardless of the results, history will be made on Wednesday.
Complete. For the first time since 2019-20, the Big East completed a full regular season! With the addition of UConn, that's a total of 110 games, 20 for each team. It just feels nice. This is the most normal basketball has felt in a long time, and I'm glad we can get back to the important things like insulting one another on the internet and buying overpriced beer at arenas without having to worry about external factors. Let's not take this for granted.
Not That Close After All. Despite a very tight race in the Big East, this season actually ended with more blowouts than close games if we use KenPom's definitions. (Decided by a basket or in overtime for a close game, a margin of 20+ points for a blowout.) The conference saw 21 blowouts to 20 close games after having 25 close games to 12 blowouts last year. I think we can almost exclusively blame Providence for the drop-off in close games and Butler for the increase in blowouts.
Biggest Movers. The Big East had two teams that saw significant changes when compared to preseason KenPom expectations. Both teams changed by slightly more than ten points in efficiency margin. I'll give you a sec to see if you can guess them. Take your time. I know you can get them. Ready? Marquette outperformed its preseason mark by 10.11 points, rising by 63 places throughout the season. Meanwhile, Georgetown dropped off by 10.35 points and fell 117 ranks. St. John's underperformed as well by over eight points, and Villanova and DePaul also each fell short by more than seven points. Butler was closest to the mark, being underestimated by 0.76 points. Providence was just 1.02 points better than expected.
Big East Tournament Predictions
Our staff submitted their picks for Big East Tournament winner.
The Huskies led the way with three votes. Not a surprise considering this team is the best in the conference according to the computers.
Two votes for the top team in the conference. The Golden Eagles got a win against every Big East team this year, and they finished in first for a reason.
No other team received more than one vote.
Quote of the Week
“We've lost games before. Never once in my tenure have we lost this bad in this building. That's where I might have to make some changes.”
- Providence head coach Ed Cooley after Providence's 82-58 loss to Seton Hall.
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