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.
Big East play is finally here! St. John's rang in the new conference slate with a wire-to-wire win over DePaul.
Xavier's Souley Boum came in clutch to get a win in the Crosstown Shootout.
Villanova began to bounce back behind Cam Whitmore, while the Bluejays fell off without Kalkbrenner.
Georgetown is still at the bottom, and UConn continued to assert that it's the top team in the Big East - and potentially the country.
As voted on by our staff weekly. First-place votes are in parentheses.
1. Connecticut Huskies
Welcome UConn, our new-old overlords. The Huskies emerged as the new KenPom.com No. 1 after a 114-61 win over LIU and Alabama's upset of Houston. 114 points is the most UConn has scored in regulation since 2005. Sanogo and Clingan will get the headlines, but let's appreciate that Jordan Hawkins went 6-of-9 from deep on Saturday. The Huskies rolled through non-conference play, winning all eleven games by double-digits. Right now, I don't know if this team has a weakness. UConn ranks in the top six in both offensive and defensive efficiency and in the top ten in effective field goal percentage at both ends.
2. Creighton Bluejays
Trouble in Omaha. The Bluejays are still second because of their strong resume, but four losses in a row is bad. None are terrible individually, but there are serious questions about this team's depth right now. Losing Kalkbrenner should not have the effect it had against BYU, and although the comeback was fun to watch, it was all for naught. The road doesn't get easier with games against Arizona State and Marquette on the horizon. A 6-0 start could become 6-6 in a hurry if the Bluejays don't right the ship.
3. Xavier Musketeers
Things may have gotten hairy at the end at Cincinnati, the Musketeers did what they needed to do to win. Any road win in a rivalry game will be tough, and Xavier was more than equal to the task. This offense is elite right now, with a 3-point shooting percentage that ranks sixth in the country. Five Musketeers have taken at least twenty 3-pointers this season, and four of them shoot 40 percent or better. The worst shooter of the four is Jack Nunge, and he has made nearly 42 percent of his attempts. Both Souley Boum and Colby Jones have hit over half of their shots from deep. I don't know how sustainable that is, but ten games in, that's impressive. A win against Southern on Tuesday would make Xavier 8-3 headed into conference play with no bad losses.
4. St. John's Red Storm
Record: 10-1 (1-0)
The Joel Soriano double-double counter just keeps on climbing. After going for 14 and 14 on Saturday, the big man is up to nine in eleven games. The Red Storm got the first Big East win in big fashion on Wednesday, opening up their game against DePaul on a 10-0 run and never looking back. The atmosphere for that one was amazing, with a couple Soriano dunks sending the crowd into a frenzy. Also, shout-out to that vodka chicken wrap I grabbed in the media room in the back. Not sure who's in charge of catering for that one, but I will be looking to find out so I can get myself another one.
5. Marquette Golden Eagles
Marquette's lone game this week came against North Carolina Central, and it went as expected. The Golden Eagles were a dominant 27-of-34 shooting inside the arc. OMax Prosper kept up a phenomenal junior year with 25 points, and Osa Ighodaro had 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting with seven assists, four rebounds, and four blocks. The Golden Eagles play at Notre Dame today and are favored by the computers. They then host Creighton on Friday. Get your popcorn ready for that one.
6. Villanova Wildcats
The 'Cats are back! That's three wins in a row with Cam Whitmore back in the lineup, and the last two came by double-digits against competitive teams. Villanova's offense ranks twelfth in efficiency right now, but the defense ranks 123rd. Things will need to improve on that end for this team to be anything but middle-of-the-pack in the Big East. Neither of Villanova's opponents this week scored a point per possession, though, so that's movement in the right direction. They can't afford another road slip-up next Saturday at Saint Joe's.
7. Providence Friars
While the Friars faced a pair of teams at the very bottom of the barrel, they dominated them like they should have. Providence defeated Manhattan and Albany by a combined 192-114. Bryce Hopkins has asserted himself as The Guy on the team, and the supporting cast has started to come together. Ed Croswell ranks in the top-100 in KenPom.com's offensive rating, and Devin Carter, Alyn Breed, and Jayden Pierre have all had strong performances. Next step: win a game outside Rhode Island. They'll get a chance to do that at Seton Hall on Saturday.
8. Butler Bulldogs
Butler played two bad teams this week and won both by double-digits. Manny Bates continues to look exceptional. The Bulldogs have a week off to prepare for UConn at Hinkle on Saturday. They'll need that time, plus a healthy Myles Tate and possibly Ali Ali, for that one.
9. Seton Hall Pirates
It was a five-point game between Seton Hall and Division-II Lincoln in the second half on Wednesday before the Pirates pulled away. On one, it's bad to be that close with a bad team. On the other, they finished the game as strong as anyone could have hoped. Seton Hall outscored Lincoln 36-14 down the stretch and won 82-55 to put the Pirates back above .500. Seton Hall plays at the RAC against an angry Rutgers team today and then hosts Providence in the Big East opener for both teams next Saturday. That's a big pair of games for Shaheen Holloway.
10. DePaul Blue Demons
Record: 6-4 (0-1)
DePaul never looked ready on Wednesday at St. John's. The Blue Demons looked like a team missing three good players, which, coincidentally, is exactly what they are. They don't look disciplined on offense, and they have no post presence with these injuries. Da'Sean Nelson had a pair of thundering dunks inside Carnesecca, which is fun! Better days should be ahead for this team, but that also comes with tougher opponents.
11. Georgetown Hoyas
Georgetown got a win on Wednesday to get back to .500! Unfortunately, that was followed by a loss at Syracuse on Saturday. The Hoyas opened the game on a 12-2 run and then almost immediately gave up the lead. This team is far too talented to be this bad. The defense ranks 240th in efficiency and is currently exactly as efficient as last year's unit. New players, same result.
Player of the Week: Bryce Hopkins, F, Providence
22 points, 11 rebounds vs. Manhattan; 11 points, 5 rebounds vs. Albany
Against Manhattan on Wednesday, Hopkins had a career performance. He scored 22 points in just 26 minutes as the Friars routed the Jaspers, and he looked like the top-fifty recruit people expected out of high school. Most importantly, Hopkins asserted himself as the top option for this offense, a unit that needed a leader.
Looking Back. DePaul gave the Big East it's first win in the Gavitt Games at Minnesota less than a month ago. How far ago that seems. The Blue Demons are 3-3 since then, with two of those wins coming in overtime. Center Yor Anei has not played since that game, and the team was already down Nick Ongenda. Asking any team to play well down two centers is tough, and guard Caleb Murphy has yet to play as well. This should be a very different team if it can get healthy.
Tight Race. The race for freshman of the year in the Big East will be a fun one. The preseason pick, Villanova's Cam Whitmore, needed only two games to break the 20-point mark. UConn's Donovan Clingan and Alex Karaban have been exceptional as well. How that trio fares over the coming months is one of the top stories to watch in the conference. Don't sleep in last week's freshman of the week, Mark Armstrong, either.
A Conference for Big Men. The top four candidates for player of the year according to KenPom.com are all centers. Adama Sanogo leads, followed by Ryan Kalkbrenner, Eric Dixon, and Clingan. That list doesn't include guys like Joel Soriano, Jack Nunge, Manny Bates, and Osa Ighodaro, all of whom have been exceptional. We get Kalkbrenner vs. Ighodaro and Sanogo vs. Bates this week. I'm looking forward to both.
How Good is St. John's? The Red Storm is 10-1 to start the season, and yet I'm not sure I know much more about them than I did in October. Through no fault of their own, this non-conference schedule is not great. Games against Syracuse and Florida State do not have the luster they once did, and the team's one true test at Iowa State did not go well. St. John's travels to Villanova on 12/17 in what should be a telling matchup for both teams.
Here Comes the Boum. Souley Boum has been everything Sean Miller wanted and more. Through ten games at Xavier, Boum is averaging 17.0 points per game, just a few shy of what he averaged last year in Conference USA. More importantly, perhaps, is that he's averaging a career-high 3.9 assists. He's stepped up his playmaking and is a very good secondary creator behind Colby Jones. The transfer also leads the conference in free throws attempted, as we saw in the final seconds of Xavier's thrilling win over Cincinnati.
Games 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 Marquette - Friday, December 16; 8:30 p.m. ET; FS1
The last time these two teams met at Fiserv Forum, it was a double-overtime thriller. Creighton will enter this one unranked, a shock after starting the year in the top ten. Marquette, meanwhile, got a win in this building in dominant fashion over Baylor at the end of November.
Providence at Seton Hall - Saturday, December 17; 12:30 p.m. ET; FOX
This should be a fun and physical battle. Both of these teams sit in the middle tier of the conference but are currently trending in opposite directions. Will Providence's success against teams like Albany and Manhattan translate to a Big East opponent? Will Seton Hall's offense kick into gear? Find out on Saturday. I'll be at this one, and I'm very excited to see how it goes.
Quote of the Week
"I don't think we've played our best yet."
... this piece breaking down UConn's defense by our own Ryan Cassidy.
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