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.
What a feast week for the Big East! The week got off to a hot start thanks to St. John's winning the Empire Classic, and it continued with a pair of big wins for Creighton in the middle of the week and UConn at the end of it.
Marquette, Butler, Xavier, and Seton Hall all notched wins over quality opponents as well, with the Pirates' coming in stunning fashion.
DePaul lost a tough one at home against Texas A&M, but that loss got overshadowed thanks to Villanova and Georgetown. The Hoyas lost at home to American on Wednesday and trailed by as many as eight in the first half against UMBC on Saturday before rolling to a win. Villanova took Iowa State to overtime before ultimately losing and then dropped a game to Portland the next day. The Wildcats are 2-4 for the first time since 1997.
And then there's the Friars. After blowing a 13-point second half lead in a loss to Saint Louis on Sunday, Providence looked very mediocre in a pair of home wins over Quadrant 4 opponents.
As voted on by our staff weekly. First-place votes are in parentheses.
1. Creighton Bluejays
Last week: 1
Creighton is living up to the hype. After turning it over 13 times in the first half of our Game of the Week against No. 21 Texas Tech, the Bluejays cleaned it up in the second half and didn't turn it over once in their 76-65 victory. Ryans both Nembhard and Kalkbrenner then made huge plays late against No. 9 Arkansas in the team's 90-87 win. With victories like those on the resume, a hard-fought, two-point loss to No. 14 Arizona barely registers. The Bluejays showed they are what we thought they were: a Final Four contender. Next up: a date with KenPom No. 1 Texas on the road.
2. Connecticut Huskies
Last week: 2
I was incredibly surprised when UConn was not in the AP Top 25 to start the year, and I was even more surprised when the Big East coaches deemed the Huskies the fourth-best team in the conference without a first-place vote. Two dominant wins in two days against Oregon and Alabama shot the team up KenPom's rankings up to No. 8 in the country. The 82-67 win over the Crimson Tide was the closest outcome for the team all season with both the least points scored and most points allowed by the Huskies this year. The 83-59 win over Oregon was in line with the 85-54 beating Stonehill received in its welcome to Division I. Games against Iowa State tonight and Oklahoma State on Thursday should add to the team's body of work, and a pair of wins plus a Creighton loss would provide the opportunity for the Huskies to be the conference's top dog.
3. St. John's Red Storm
Last week: 4
St. John's is still undefeated, and it one of only two teams in the Big East that can say that. The Red Storm moves ahead of Xavier by a tenth of a point in our average. I had them at No. 3 because the team looked good in both wins in the Empire Classic and got to hoist a trophy. David Jones is quietly having a fantastic season, but there's nothing quiet about the fire Andre Curbelo has brought to this team. The Johnnies are fun.
4. Xavier Musketeers
Last week: 3
Xavier did not do much of anything wrong this week, but it drops because of St. John's. The Musketeers got a big win against Florida featuring a Zach Freemantle double-double and all five starters in double-figures. Unfortunately, that was followed up by a loss to Duke. The team is now 0-2 in tests against top-15 teams, and although it was competitive, at some point those have to turn into wins for the Musketeers to move up. Xavier has proven itself as a top-25 team in the country. The next step is finding a way to beat teams in the next tier. That can happen as early as tonight when Xavier takes on Gonzaga.
5. Seton Hall Pirates
Last week: 6
Seton Hall got a quality win this week against Memphis thanks to Tyrese Samuel's buzzer-beater. That was balanced out by a loss to a solid Oklahoma squad. This is a pretty neutral week for the Pirates, all things considered, but they move up thanks to Villanova's free fall. This offense is still looking for the guy, and although Al-Amir Dawes had a nice 19-point performance, he's been inconsistent. No Pirate has had a 20-point game this year. That said, Seton Hall has a very similar resume to Xavier at this point. Let's see how this group develops.
6. Providence Friars
Last week: 7
The Friars look like a complete team in spurts, but they have not found their groove yet. That doesn't matter when you're playing Merrimack and Columbia at home. Both games were closer than Ed Cooley would have preferred, but a pair of 14-point victories is nothing to sneeze at. Providence looked overmatched against Miami and then blew a lead to Saint Louis, but redemption could come this week when the team travels to Fort Worth to take on TCU. That will be the last chance to add a Quadrant 1 win to the resume before conference play, and the Friars will have to bring their A game to get it.
7. Marquette Golden Eagles
Last week: 8
Marquette has two close losses against good teams and mostly comfortable victories against four bad teams. Bouncing back to dominate Georgia Tech after losing to Mississippi State is exactly what Shaka Smart needed to see from his team. I still don't know exactly how good Marquette is, but the worst case scenario has this team as a tough out. They host both Baylor and Wisconsin this week, so we'll find out exactly how competitive they can be in a hurry.
8. Butler Bulldogs
Last week: 10
Getting rolled by Tennessee was expected. Getting dominated by North Carolina State was not. This team is good when the 3-point shooting shows up, as we saw against BYU. Whenever Ali Ali returns, he should help with that. The Bulldogs have a chance to add a quality win against Kansas State at home this week, and that's a very winnable game.
9. DePaul Blue Demons
Last week: 9
That's three losses in a row now for DePaul. This team badly needs to get healthy. Hosting Texas A&M was a winnable game on paper, and yet it was never really competitive. At least the team looked competitive against Oklahoma State. It is tough to know more about the Blue Demons with their injury situation. It feels like we already know who they are in their current state, and that is a fringe top-100 group. On the plus side, DePaul is ahead of Villanova! Enjoy that one, Blue Demon fans.
10. Villanova Wildcats
Last week: 5
Oh boy. Does tenth seem a bit harsh? Yes. But Villanova is one of just two Big East teams to not win a game in the last week, and the Wildcats also sport the second-worst loss of the week. This is not the start to the Kyle Neptune era that people expected. That said, losing in overtime to Iowa State is barely a blip on the resume, and that Portland loss is not as bad as the name recognition test would make it seem. At some point, though, you have to win games. Villanova is 0-4 against teams inside the top-200 on KenPom, but all four games have come away from home and were close. This team will have every chance to bounce back, but with three of the next four against quality opponents, that has to start now.
11. Georgetown Hoyas
Last week: 11
Patrick Ewing's buyout is $11.25 million. After losing at home to American, we're thinking about starting a GoFundMe.
Player of the Week: Adama Sanogo, F, UConn
21 points per game, 4-7 from 3-pt
Sanogo looks like an unstoppable offensive weapon. His performance against Alabama put him over the top this week. 25 points, with a 3-pointer to boot, against a top team on a big stage is impressive.
Separation At The Top. It seems like the top tier of the Big East is separating from the rest. Creighton, UConn, Xavier, and St. John's are a step ahead right now. All four of those teams look like threats to reach the second weekend or beyond in March, while the next group is still working out the kinks. There's a good argument that all four should be ranked right now.
Best Of The Best. Among that tier, Creighton and UConn both stand out. Creighton has what may be the best win in the conference so far in a thriller against Arkansas, and the Huskies aren't far behind with their victory over Alabama. Both of those will age well. If it were up to me, both of these teams would be in the top ten.
The Battle. The Big East-Big 12 Battle presents a much more appetizing slate than the Gavitt Games. Outside of the Creighton and Texas game we highlighted, Baylor at Marquette, Providence at TCU, Kansas State at Butler, and Oklahoma State at UConn are all games with high stakes. Villanova also hosts Oklahoma on Saturday, and Seton Hall could make things interesting at Kansas. It is really only the Georgetown at Texas Tech game that may be worth skipping.
Planet Neptune. Chris Arcidiacono may be the worst starter in the Big East, and with how the depth options looked against Portland, he may still be Kyle Neptune's best option until Justin Moore returns. Angelo Brizzi and Brendan Hausen combined to go 0-6 from deep in that one, and Mark Armstrong did not have a single assist. The player development at the bottom of the roster is not looking great for the Wildcats right now. There's too much talent for these guys to be playing like this.
First Team Falling. After being named to the First Team All-Big East before the season, Providence's Jared Bynum may find himself on the outside looking in. Freshman Jayden Pierre is making a push to take his spot, and Ed Cooley made it clear that players must earn their minutes after Pierre outplayed Bynum against Columbia. A situation to monitor in Friartown.
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.
Creighton at Texas - Thursday, December 1; 7:00 p.m. ET; ESPN
It's the Christian Bishop Bowl! The Bluejays travel down to Austin for a battle against one of the best teams in college basketball. This Texas defense has been one of the best in the country so far, and how a young Creighton team handles that on the road will be the story to watch. These guys already put it all together against that Texas Tech defense and played a nearly-perfect second half. They'll need to do that for a full 40 minutes on Thursday.
Quote of the Week
"I’m proud that these guys have kept coming and coming, but we need to stop getting down in these situations."
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