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.
Happy New Year's! Wow did that fly by.
2022 was a whirlwind, which we recapped here. Looking back, though, I'm very grateful to have had a wonderful year covering the Big East. From being on the court as Providence won the regular-season title for the first time in program history, to standing under the confetti as Jay Wright and Collin Gillespie won the conference for the last time, to being at Carnesecca as St. John's opened this year's Big East schedule. Those are the kinds of memories you can't put a price tag on.
What kind of firsts are we in store for in 2023? Will the year feature UConn's first Big East championship for the first time since returning? Georgetown's first Big East win in far too long? Could Creighton or Xavier be the first new Big East team to hoist the trophy at MSG? Only time will tell.
As voted on by our staff weekly.
T-1. Connecticut Huskies
Record: 14-1 (3-1)
Last week: 1
Unbeaten no more. The Huskies picked up their first loss of the season on the last day of 2022, in large part because of some cold shooting late and a Dan Hurley technical. Tied at 71 in the closing minutes, UConn went 1-for-10 from the field to close the game, including 0-for-8 from deep. On defense, the Huskies were exposed for the first time, allowing 83 points, ten more than their previous high. This team needs to higher-quality minutes from Karaban and Calcaterra in big games like this, but a road Big East loss to a ranked team is not a big deal. Let's see how they bounce back at Providence and against Creighton this week. That bounce back will need to come quick with opponents like those on the horizon, and Dan Hurley will need to keep his composure to lead his team by example.
T-1. Xavier Musketeers
Record: 12-3 (4-0)
Last week: 2
After Quality Losses against Indiana, Gonzaga, and Duke, Sean Miller finally got his team over the hump against UConn. The Musketeers took it to the Huskies down low, scoring 40 points in the paint behind a four-pronged scoring attack. Freemantle and Jones each scored 16, with Nunge and Hunter right behind them with 15 apiece. Freemantle added 11 rebounds for a double-double in a huge day for him. While the scoring was impressive, the defense may have been the biggest eye-opener. The Muskies held UConn to their least efficient offensive performance of the season, and that's with a defense that has been up-and-down this season. Play defense like that all season long, and Xavier should be more than capable of making a deep run in March. As Sean Miller said, Xavier is "back on the f---ing tracks."
3. Marquette Golden Eagles
Record: 11-4 (3-1)
Last week: 3
Marquette is 3-0 against Villanova under Shaka Smart. The Golden Eagles quite frankly should not have dropped out of the top 25, and I expect they'll be right back in after this week. Stevie Mitchell was absolutely electric against the Wildcats, and it was Ighodaro and Prosper who got it done against the Pirates. Kam Jones was the consistent scoring threat all week, knocking down six triples. This team is legit. They stay on the East coast for a high-paced affair with St. John's on Tuesday.
4. Providence Friars
Record: 11-3 (3-0)
Last week: T-5
I thought the game at Butler would be a tough one. It was, for five minutes. After a 9-9 tie in the early minutes, Devin Carter led Providence on a 25-3 run that effectively ended the game before halftime. That's a much easier game than the last one the Friars had at Hinkle, which required a Herculean effort to come back from down 19 to force overtime and eventually win. Providence faces off with DePaul today, looking for a New Year's Day victory in the Windy City for the second year in a row, before hosting UConn for the first time with fans since the team rejoined the conference on Wednesday night. That should be an epic battle. The week wraps up with a home game against St. John's, so it is a busy start to the new year for Ed Cooley.
5. Creighton Bluejays
Record: 8-6 (2-1)
Last week: 4
Creighton got to host the most watched college basketball game on FOX on Christmas Day, which is pretty cool. The Bluejays controlled that one against DePaul and are back in the win column for back-to-back wins. It is a week of rest for Greg McDermott who, like the rest of us, is presumably spending the break between Christmas and New Year's catching up on some TV.
6. Villanova Wildcats
Record: 7-7 (1-2)
Last week: T-5
After starting 5-0 since Whitmore's return, Villanova dropped both games this week. Neither was a bad loss, but at this point, the Wildcats need to be stacking good wins. They need to be well above .500 to make up for a subpar non-conference performance, and losing games like yesterday's at home against Marquette doesn't help. Villanova probably needs to win out at home or come close to be dancing this year.
7. Seton Hall Pirates
Record: 8-7 (1-3)
Last week: 9
After a tough outing at Marquette, we finally saw the Pirates bounce back. They answered an early St. John's run on Saturday and took over the game, running it out to a 22-point win. Kadary Richmond has finally found his game, and Al-Amir Dawes can be a really good player for them. Next up is a tough trip to Omaha, but games against Butler, Georgetown, and DePaul after that could allow this team to string together some performances. For now, getting Big East win No. 1 is a step in the right direction.
8. Butler Bulldogs
Record: 8-6 (0-3)
Last week: 8
Beating Providence this week was an attainable goal for Thad Matta after two tough games to open Big East play. With a fully healthy lineup for the first time, the Bulldogs seemed poised to take advantage. Instead, they shriveled at the opportunity. For the third straight time in Big East play, Butler started off strong before surrendering a back-breaking run midway through the first half that put the game away. At this point, the goal should be to not hand the Hoyas their first Big East win since March 13, 2021, today.
9. St. John's Red Storm
Record: 11-4 (1-3)
Last week: 7
St. John's is not good right now. The resume includes an 0-4 record against teams in the KenPom top 75 and an 0-3 record on the road. Getting boatraced by Seton Hall immediately after Mike Anderson sounded lost on the mic at home against Xavier is not a great sign right now. Is St. John's the worst 11-win team in any major conference? Games against Marquette and Providence this week make it likely the team is stuck at that number for another week.
10. DePaul Blue Demons
Record: 7-7 (1-2)
Last week: 10
DePaul beat Georgetown! And it was a fun game, too. Umoja Gibson and Javan Johnson can really score. With the team as healthy as it's been all year, the Blue Demons will have a chance to upset Providence on New Year's Day. The defense isn't great, but this offense can really score. Also, did you know that the Blue Demons are tenth in the country in free throw shooting percentage? They're hitting a cool 79.4 percent of their looks.
11. Georgetown Hoyas
Record: 5-9 (0-3)
Last week: 11
Hosting a slumping Butler team on New Year's Day may be one of the few chances Georgetown has left to get a win this season. After going 6-25 last year, the Hoyas are staring 5-26 in the face right now.
Player of the Week: Devin Carter, G, Providence
21 points, 4 steals, 3 rebounds, 3 assists at Butler
Devin Carter is almost single-handedly responsible for Providence's win at Butler this week. For a 6'3" guard, Carter knows how to get up, putting up a pair of dunks with ease. He also gets it done on defense, notching four steals and jumpstarting Providence's transition offense.
Christmas Basketball, Part II. Last week, I roasted the Big East for putting Creighton and DePaul on Christmas. Well, I was wrong. The game was the most watched this season and most watched ever on FOX. With numbers like those, I have to think we'll be seeing this again next year. My money would be on a Villanova-UConn matchup next Christmas, although the holiday falling on a Monday opens up the potential for a doubleheader should the conference so choose.
Composure. Dan Hurley's ejection early against Villanova back in February ignited his team - and the crowd - and helped propel the team to a huge win. But his lack of composure cost his team yesterday at Xavier. Giving a ranked opponent two free points on the road in the closing minutes of a tight game is unacceptable, regardless of how unfair you think the officiating may be. This has been a longstanding issue for Hurley; for his team's sake, I hope it is something he can get under control. Blowing a lid on Saturday may not having long lasting consequences, but doing so in March or April when the stakes are high and the nation is watching could be disastrous.
Finishing Perfectly. Two Big East teams ended 2022 with a perfect December. Xavier went 7-0, including wins over West Virginia and UConn at home. Providence went 6-0, gutting out a double overtime win against Marquette and picking up a pair of Big East road wins. Both teams went on the road to defeat their rivals, with Xavier holding on against Cincinnati and Providence defeating Rhode Island with ease. Sean Miller and Ed Cooley are two of the best coaches in the business, and they have their teams humming at the right time. Their paths won't cross until February 1st, so let's see if January is as promising as December for both programs.
No. 1 Seed Still Attainable. The last time the Big East had a No. 1 seed in March was in 2018, when both Xavier and Villanova grabbed top seeds. Both of those teams suffered road losses around this point in the calendar. Villanova allowed 101 points at Butler at the end of December, while Xavier dropped back-to-back games at Providence and Villanova in early January. Villanova was also a No. 1 seed in 2017 and 2015, with road Big East losses in early January both years. UConn's loss at Xavier on Saturday may be par for the course for a top seed come March.
Win At The Finn. Marquette became the first road team since Providence in 1993 to win twice at the Finneran Pavilion in one year. The Golden Eagles won there back in January thanks to a late Justin Lewis 3-pointer and did it again on the final day of 2022. That is a very impressive feat for Marquette.
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.
UConn at Providence - Wednesday, January 4; 8:30 p.m. ET; FS1
After a loss to Xavier, UConn stays on the road against the Friars. This will be the first game between the two teams in Providence with fans in attendance in nearly a decade, and there is no love lost between these fanbases. UConn's last two trips to Providence as a ranked team ended in losses, as did their game as the No. 4 team in country in 2004.
For Dan Hurley, this is an opportunity for a huge bounce back win. For Ed Cooley, it is a chance to get a win that could seriously boost the Providence resume.
Quote of the Week
"We were hoping to go undefeated, but ... we're going to learn, going into another road game on Wednesday, in an even more hostile type of environment. We're going to have to do things differently than we did today."
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