by Dan Gardella
Last Week’s Rankings
- Seton Hall
- St. John’s
This Week’s Rankings
- Villanova (-)
- Seton Hall (-)
- Creighton (+1)
- Xavier (-1)
- Butler (+1)
- Marquette (-1)
- Providence (-)
- Georgetown (+2)
- DePaul (-1)
- St. John’s (-1)
If there was one word to describe this week’s Big East play, it would be even.
Nine of the ten programs in the conference lost at least once this week. The only team that did not have a blemish on their record was Villanova, who easily handled Xavier and narrowly took down St. John’s.
2017-18 Men’s Basketball Standings
Taking a quick glance at the Big East standings through three weeks of play, spots one through six are separated by two and a half games. It is worth mentioning the two teams tied for first lost their only conference game to the teams tied for fifth (Butler beat Villanova and Marquette beat Seton Hall). It’s almost impossible to write Big East drama this season. No team is safe in conference play.
In my toughest edition yet, here are this week’s Risers and Tumblers.
The Blue Jays continue to impress early on. Outside of Villanova, Creighton may be one of the most efficient teams when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. In five of their first six conference games, they have shot 45% or better from the field. The lone time they failed to came Saturday afternoon, which resulted in a 22-point loss to Xavier.
While it looks like a bad loss, big men Toby Hegner and Martin Krampelj fouled out in 21 and 22 minutes respectively. Krampelj, who finished with 4 points and 4 rebounds failed to record a double-double in conference play for only the second time through the first six games. With Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas looked upon to lead the Jays, Krampelj is a valuable third option.
Greg McDermott’s crew have two tests this week as they welcome Seton Hall into Omaha in hopes of redemption from their conference-opener loss to the Pirates. Following that, they head to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for a date with Providence who have proved they are upset-minded.
I am starting to buy into the way that Patrick Ewing is coaching his crew based on who he has. In one of the biggest games of the season personally for Ewing, his team went into Madison Square Garden and narrowly took down St. John’s 69-66. The Hoyas managed to make St. John’s shoot 37% from the field and forced 14 turnovers. It is clear that defensively, they fight and show that it is a focal point that Ewing has driven home.
Georgetown then went into Newark and hung tough before falling to Seton Hall. While the defense wasn’t as locked in as they were against the Red Storm, it was a promising game as three players not named Jessie Govan were in double figures for the Hoyas. The last time the offense was as balanced as it was Saturday was December 23rd when five players cracked double figures in a win over Alabama A&M. The lone issue for the Hoyas is their ball control. They average 16 turnovers per game, the worst in the conference. Although no one expected Georgetown to win two of their first six conference games, they can win many more if they hold on to the ball better.
Patrick Ewing and company return home this week to welcome in Villanova and St. John’s in hopes of taking the season series against Chris Mullin’s team.
There are not many other ways to describe the downfall that St. John’s has had over the past month than just surprising.
Heading into conference play 10-2, there were rumblings about the first NCAA Tournament appearance in the Chris Mullin era happening much earlier than expected. Those rumblings have now disappeared and the Red Storm find themselves sitting in the basement of the Big East once again.
In each one of their first six Big East games, they hung tough before eventually letting the game slip through their fingertips. Part of the issue may be that the Johnnies are beginning to learn to play without Marcus LoVett, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
In the most winnable game of conference play yet, St. John’s failed to rise to the occasion and fell to Georgetown. They turned around and welcomed in Villanova to the Garden Saturday evening with very few people giving them a chance to pull off the upset. They played better. Wait, let me change that statement: Shamorie Ponds played better, much better actually. The sophomore poured in a career-high 37 points but was not able to bring St. John’s all the way back as they fell by eight. The next highest scorer for St. John’s was Bashir Ahmed and Justin Simon with seven points apiece.
In my opinion, there not playing enough team basketball. In the postgame press conference, Mullin showed no interest in being there as his players took questions. The frustration level is rising game after game. The only question is when is it going to end?
The Red Storm hit the road for two games this week as they take on Xavier and Georgetown.
After a 1-1 week, Xavier gave me mixed feelings. The start to their week was far from typical Xavier basketball as they went into Philadelphia and got handed a 24-point defeat, allowing the Wildcats to shoot 55% from the field.
It was also no secret that Trevon Bluiett was struggling during Big East play. The senior standout had failed to shoot 40% or better in four of the team’s first five games in conference play. Luckily, the depth of Chris Mack’s team has helped the Musketeers remain in the top ten nationally.
Come Saturday afternoon, Xavier looked like a completely different team than the one that did not compete with Villanova. The biggest difference from Wednesday to Saturday? Trevon Bluiett. Bluiett finally broke out like people expected him to, scoring 24 points on an efficient 9-for-16 shooting performance.
So why are they considered a tumbler? Xavier’s road play.
The Musketeers are 1-2 so far on the road in conference play. Their only conference road win was not pretty either, pulling away late to beat Marquette in the conference opener. In a top ten matchup between Xavier and Villanova, this was a test to see if the Musks’ could keep up with one of the best offenses Jay Wright has ever had at ‘Nova. It was clear from the get-go that they had some work to do. Until they can win on the road in conference play consistently (which will never be easy), Xavier will be behind the big dogs in Villanova, Seton Hall, and possibly Creighton.
Xavier starts play this week on Wednesday as they return home to battle with St. John’s at the Cintas Center. Following that, the Musks’ have a golden opportunity to get a quality road win in Newark when they matchup with Seton Hall on Saturday.