by Dan Gardella
Last Week’s Rankings
- St John’s
- Seton Hall
This Week’s Rankings
- Villanova (+1)
- Xavier (-1)
- Butler (-)
- Providence (+4)
- Georgetown (+1)
- Marquette (+1)
- Creighton (-3)
- Seton Hall (+1)
- St. John’s (-4)
- DePaul (-)
Let me tell you, this conference does not fail to provide storylines week in and week out. For the second straight week, six of the ten teams in the Big East split their two games this week, making another tough week for me.
Providence got their signature win by taking down Villanova in Rhode Island on Wednesday.
Marquette went into Omaha and escaped with the victory over a now streaky Creighton.
After another week, the standings are becoming more solidified as it is clear that Villanova and Xavier will be duking it out for the regular season title while Creighton, Providence, Butler, and even Seton Hall are fighting for spots 3-6. Don’t also count out Marquette, who sit just a game behind the Pirates in the standings. Towards the bottom of the Big East, DePaul and St. John’s are fighting for the ninth spot while a now trending Georgetown are on the verge of climbing into the seventh spot of the conference.
As the Big East Tournament is just under three weeks away, here is another edition of Big East Risers and Tumblers.
Ed Cooly has got his big win! After an up and down conference year, it is clear that Providence deserves to sit near the top of the conference. While Providence sits in a tie for third in the conference, the Friars have taken down eight of their nine opponents in the conference (they have not defeated Seton Hall). The wild week started by taking on Villanova Wednesday evening in front of a packed Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The Friars had four players score in double figures along with forcing an astounding 19 turnovers in a 76-71 win over the then top team in the Big East. Following that, they traveled to Indianapolis to take on the Butler Bulldogs. It seemed that the high of winning against Villanova did not translate over the following game as Butler ran away with the 15-point victory.
While Providence went 1-1 over the week, it was the victory over Villanova that pushed them over the top in my opinion. Whenever you can make a team such as Villanova turn the ball over that much deserves recognition. Now sitting at 17-10 and 8-6 in conference play, it looks more and more likely Providence will once again be dancing in March. However, in the likelihood that they stumble into New York for the Big East Tournament, there’s a chance they could miss out. That situation however is highly unlikely.
Providence looks to continue to be led by their core senior leadership this week when they welcome Seton Hall to Friartown before traveling down to D.C to face off with Georgetown.
Patrick Ewing is earning every bit of his coaching paycheck. It has been mentioned time and time again that Georgetown was expected to be a cellar dweller in the conference this season. After an expected start to conference play by going 2-5 through the first seven, the Hoyas have won three of their last seven and sit at 5-9 in conference. While this is not a record to go bragging about, Georgetown has won two straight against Seton Hall and Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse respectively.
Heading into the season, the talk was surrounded around Jessie Govan and how long he could carry a young team that was inexperienced and considered not as talented as the rest of the conference. However, the talk has shifted to fellow junior Marcus Derrickson. Derrickson, has strung together back to back 20 point performances and has talked his way as a possible sleeper for the All-Big East First team. Beside Govan and Derrickson, freshmen Jamorko Pickett (9.4 PPG) and Jahvon Blair (9.3 PPG) have complemented the upperclassmen well on both ends of the court.
The Hoyas remain at home this week as they welcome in Xavier and Providence.
Creighton has begun to sink into mediocrity in the Big East. Since losing Martin Krampelj for the season on January 19th, the Blue Jays have gone 4-4 and sit in a clump of teams in the middle of the conference standings. This week, Creighton finished off the conference’s non-conference schedule with a win over Division 2 program Bemidji State. Following that, they welcomed Marquette to Omaha. The Golden Eagles entered the game losers of five of their last six games. On top of that, Markus Howard left the game in the first half due to injury. Creighton would jump out to a lead as large as 15 in the second half. However, Marquette would use a 26-9 run to tie the game halfway through the second half. The game continued to go back and forth until Marquette made a late push to seal the comeback victory.
While Creighton seems to be holding their own, they are really missing Krampelj’s presence in the paint. Since Krampelj’s injury, the Blue Jays have been outrebounded in six of the eight games, going 2-4 in games where they’ve been outrebounded. While Greg McDermott has had to turn to smaller lineups, Creighton will need to find a way to re-take the edge on the glass. One of the possible answers is the progression of freshman Jacob Epperson. Epperson, who came out of his redshirt following Krampelj’s injury to have another big man in the rotation. So far through his first six games, he is averaging six points and close to three rebounds in eleven minutes of play per game. It would not hurt to try and give Epperson more minutes to speed up his progression as the conference and NCAA tournament inches closer.
Creighton travels to Hinkle Fieldhouse to battle with Butler on Tuesday before hosting Villanova in Omaha on Saturday.
Sigh… Xavier is not making the pursuit to dethrone Villanova easy. Entering Saturday, the Musketeers were in the driver’s seat: A game and a half ahead of the mighty Wildcats with a chance to all but seal the regular season championship with a win, at home nevertheless. However, once again Xavier was a victim of the buzz saw offense that is Villanova. From the opening tip, Villanova got hot in the opening half in took the wind out of the Musks’ sails. Although Xavier fought back and got it to as close as three midway through the second half, Villanova proved why they are still the team to beat in the conference.
In both games against Villanova, Xavier has gotten a balanced attack from the entire team but cannot seem to put it all together. Another glaring issue that Xavier has had when facing the Wildcats is defense. Chris Mack’s crew has allowed Villanova to shoot 55% and 60% respectively in both matchups this season and allow an average of 92 points. It is apparent that Xavier tries to outpace and outscore Villanova in order to gain the upper hand. If this was a couple seasons ago, this strategy would work in Xavier’s favor. But trying that against Jay Wright’s most offensively efficient team is a different story.
Xavier still leads the Big East by half a game as they travel to the nation’s capital to face a sneaky good Georgetown team in the lone game this week.