by Dan Gardella
Last Week’s Rankings
- Seton Hall
- St. John’s
This Week’s Rankings
- Xavier (+1)
- Villanova (-1)
- Butler (+1)
- Creighton (+2)
- St John’s (+4)
- Georgetown (+1)
- Marquette (+1)
- Providence (-3)
- Seton Hall (-6)
- DePaul (-)
Boy, this was not easy by any means. Six teams split their two games this week while two went perfect and two failed to grab a win. There were also a couple of storylines in between.
St. John’s remained the hottest team in the country led by the hottest player in the country: Shamorie Ponds
Seton Hall’s unexpected slump continues as they’ve dropped three straight.
Taking a look at the standings, Xavier has overtaken Villanova for the first time this season, sitting half a game ahead. After that, it is essentially a four-way fight for spots 3-6.
The most balanced week in conference play makes my job tougher, but also more exciting! Here is my weekly edition of Risers and Tumblers.
Thank God January is over for the Johnnies. After an abysmal first month of 2018 which saw the Red Storm drop all nine of their games, they headed into February losers of 11 straight. They walked into Madison Square Garden last Saturday to face a mighty Duke squad. Led by Shamorie Ponds, they defeated the Blue Devils by four. The momentum did not stop there, as they proceeded to march into Philadelphia, a city fresh off of a Super Bowl victory and shock the nation by taking down Villanova, the then number one team in the nation. The week concluded for the Johnnies by Shamorie Ponds continuing his hot streak. The sophomore poured in a career-high 44 points while making 16 of his 23 shots on their way to an eight-point victory over Marquette.
It’s no question Ponds has been the reason for St. John’s success over the past week and a half. He has averaged 33.5 points over the past four games in which the team has gone 3-1. He will need to not only continue to put up big numbers, but he will need to continue to knock down his shots at an efficient pace. It also does not hurt when you have other players contributing to the cause. In their win against Marquette, it was Ponds who got the most attention. However, Justin Simon quietly scored 16 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists, a Swiss army knife game that we have seen before from Simon.
Chris Mullin’s crew will look to keep the hot streak when they travel to Chicago to face DePaul on Wednesday. The Blue Demons defeated the Johnnies by 17 last time they matched up on January 6th.
It was a gritty week for the Musketeers. Looking to keep pace with Villanova, Xavier traveled to Indianapolis to face off against a Butler team who was climbing in the standings and seeking another big time upset. Butler seemed to have every answer for Xavier and eventually forced the game into overtime. However, the Musks’ upperclassmen leadership would help them prevail by five. Following that, they headed to Omaha, the toughest place to play in the conference for a date with Creighton. While depleted, Creighton took Xavier to the wire. It was once again leadership that help Xavier escape with a one-point victory.
Two tough road wins in one week is never an easy task to accomplish for any team. For Xavier though, it was expected and a territory that they have been through before. This same team dropped six straight games in conference play a year before. With Trevon Bluiett, JP Macura, and newcomer Karem Kanter, this team has assets in the front and backcourt. Freshmen Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs bring in a spark that has been beneficial for Chris Mack and company.
Xavier looks to remain atop the Big East as welcome Seton Hall to the Cintas Center on Wednesday before a marquee showdown against Villanova on Saturday.
What in the world is going on with the Pirates? Once seen as a possible favorite to compete for a Big East title, Seton Hall has dropped three straight and now sit in the middle of a cluster in the conference. After falling to Villanova on Super Bowl Sunday, the Hall needed a good week to get back into the top of the Big East race. They did the complete opposite as they missed 13 free throws in a three-point loss to Marquette. Following that, they trailed by 17 to Georgetown early in the second half before coming up short on a comeback attempt in yet another three-point loss.
They are hanging close in games but cannot seem to climb over the top. Now losers of three straight and five of their last seven, it’s clear that there is something that needs to be addressed. Whether that is who gets the touches on offense or who needs to play more or less minutes, if you told me this team would be in this kind of slump at the beginning of the season I would not believe you.
Yes, I’m sure you’re wondering. “How can you rank Seton Hall so low?”. Well, the way I see it, Seton Hall is the team on a downward spiral and hasn’t shown signs of upward progress over the past two and a half weeks. With the plethora of senior leadership, this skid is dangerous for a team that has disappointed in many people’s eyes over the last two years.
They look to snap their slump on Wednesday when they travel to Xavier in hopes of any positive momentum. Following that, they return home to welcome DePaul.
The up and down season for Ed Cooly’s team continues. At one point, the Friars sat at 5-2 in conference play and were looking prime for another high spot in the conference. Over their last five games however, they have gone an average 2-3, putting them at 7-5, which has them sitting at third place. However, it’s not where they stand now that concerns me, it’s been the inconsistency that Providence has played with over the past couple of weeks.
This week, they squeaked out a narrow four-point victory over a resilient Georgetown at home to start the week off right. Following that, they ran into a buzz saw in DePaul who shot 60% from the field in a 17-point victory over Providence. Defense has been an area where the Friars have struggled. They have allowed 42% shooting or better to their opponents in their last five. If they want to break out of their slump, they need the senior leaders in Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright. Isaiah Jackson will also be a wild card for this team as he’s scored in double figures in each of the past three games.
Friartown has a tough week ahead of them as they welcome Villanova to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Wednesday before taking a trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse to face off with Butler. This week becomes important for Providence as they could end up as low as sixth in the conference by the end of the week.