by Dan Gardella
Last Week’s Rankings
- Seton Hall
- St. John’s
This Week’s Rankings
- Xavier (+1)
- Villanova (-1)
- Butler (-)
- Creighton (+3)
- Seton Hall (+3)
- Providence (-2)
- Georgetown (-2)
- Marquette (-2)
- DePaul (+1)
- St. John’s (-)
As the weeks progress and we creep closer to the Big East Tournament, the standings are beginning to find a little more clarity.
Well, sort of.
Xavier re-took the lead in the Big East with two games left in their schedule.
Omaha was too much for mighty Villanova as they fell Saturday afternoon.
Seton Hall had a heck of a week: A suspended game followed by a thriller at the Garden, both ending in wins.
After another week of play and as I’ve said in past weeks, Villanova and Xavier will continue to fight to see who will claim the Big East regular season title. In the middle of the pack is simply chaotic. Four teams sit at 9-7 in conference play, with tiebreakers further complicating things. Marquette seems like the closest to a done deal, sitting two games behind the clump of teams at 9-7, and two games ahead of Georgetown who sits at 5-11.
With week and a half until the Big East circus comes rolling into the World’s Most Famous Arena, here are this week’s Risers and Tumblers.
Creighton, like some other teams have finally gotten their season-defining win. After a rather embarrassing loss at the hands of Butler Tuesday evening, they returned home to one of the toughest places to play in college basketball: CenturyLink Center. They welcomed in Villanova, a team they had not beaten since the 2013-14 season, their first season in the Big East. They fought hard with Villanova and used the electrifying crowd to power them to an overtime victory over the number three team in the country.
The key to the victory on Saturday that was not there on Tuesday was efficiency, specifically the efficiency of Marcus Foster. In the loss to Butler, Foster was a mere 5-15 from the field and was never able to get into any kind of rhythm throughout the game. Khyri Thomas has been the Robin to Foster’s Batman all season long. However, Thomas only shot the ball seven times to Foster’s fifteen in the loss. On Saturday, Thomas and Foster shared the offensive workload more evenly as they combined for 52 points on a combined 18-36 shooting. Foster however was only 9-23 while Thomas was 9-13. It appears to me that Thomas should be getting more shots and take away some shots from Foster.
Creighton looks to finish the season on a good note as they welcome DePaul to Omaha for senior day before traveling to Milwaukee to battle with Marquette in the season finale.
Wild, chaotic, crazy, unexpected. Those are the adjectives that come to mind when I think of the Pirates week. Entering the week, Seton Hall sat at 7-7 in conference play, just outside the clump of spots three through five. It was crucial that Seton Hall needed a good week to be back up near the top of the standings. They certainly did not get any help from the elements and other circumstances. On Wednesday night, Seton Hall went into Providence on a particular warm day in Rhode Island. While many people enjoyed the weather, having a hockey rink under a basketball court is not good when it becomes warm outside all of a sudden. The warm weather created moisture on the court as the Pirates and Friars did battle. The game ended up being suspended after numerous players slipped over the court highlighted by Seton Hall senior Desi Rodriguez spraining his ankle after slipping on the floor. The following afternoon, the Pirates had to hold off Providence for the final 13 minutes of the game to walk away with the win.
Life got more hectic for the program as the FBI found that players who are now playing professionally were accepting money from people while in college, a big no-no. One of those players who was listed in the initial report was former Seton Hall standout Isaiah Whitehead. With allegations swirling around, the Pirates traveled to Manhattan to take on St. John’s, a team you cannot overlook. The Red Storm took them the distance before the Pirates edged out an overtime victory sans Rodriguez.
The Pirates are hitting their stride at the right time, winners of three straight after losing four in a row. They have a tough road between now and Madison Square Garden in a week and a half: Against Villanova and Butler. The good news? Both are at home, where Seton Hall is 13-2 this season.
The up and down year in Patrick Ewing’s inaugural coaching season continues. After the Hoyas has a chance to surpass Marquette in the conference standings, the Hoyas were home all week to face off against Xavier and Providence. In the first game of the week, Georgetown hung tough with Xavier but sloppy play and cold shooting proved to be their achilles heel as they fell by twelve. Looking to split the games this week, the Hoyas welcomed in Providence, a team who lost a day due to having their game on Wednesday night suspended. It was once again ball control and poor shooting that proved to be their downfall.
There were many reasons Georgetown struggled to find any sort of consistency as a team. However, this team has been driven by the recent play of Marcus Derrickson. Derrickson, who had flown under the radar as Jessie Govan’s sidekick has now played extremely well to the point that he is being considered as a sleeper to land on the All-Big East First Team at the conclusion of the season. This week however, Derrickson averaged only 10 points and 9.5 rebounds over the two contests. He managed to shoot 9-26 (35%) from the field in the two games, nearly sixteen percent lower than his season average. If the Hoyas want to finish the season strong, it is clear that Derrickson needs to be more efficient and more of a presence offensively.
Georgetown finishes the season at home against Marquette before traveling to Philadelphia to face off against Villanova.
Throughout the season, it has been clear that Marquette was the seventh best team in the conference. Throughout conference play, it seems like the Golden Eagles could not gain any traction to make a run at the higher ranks of the conference. Entering last week, Marquette sat at 6-8, a game and a half out of sixth place. Looking to gain ground, Marquette welcomed St. John’s to Milwaukee. The only issue with this week was that leading scorer Markus Howard was sidelined due to a bad hip. Sans Howard, Marquette took care of the Johnnies behind the strength of five players in double figures highlighted by a game-high 24 points from Sam Hauser. Following that, they took their two-game winning streak into Chicago to face off with DePaul. This game was a prime example of why you should not take any team lightly in the Big East as DePaul outscored the Golden Eagles 42-29 in the second half on their way to a 70-62 victory.
Of course, it never helps to be without your leading scorer for a game but they managed to find a way to win without him which goes a long way, regardless of who you are playing. However, that did not carry over on the plane ride to Chicago. Howard was back in the rotation against DePaul, playing 31 minutes but he did not start and did not look like the breakout player he has become. At this point, Marquette’s NCAA Tournament hopes are all but dashed unless the unthinkable happens. Sitting at 16-12 is a “First Four Out” record from the eye test. However, if they can find a way to get Howard 100% healthy before the Big East Tournament next week, Marquette can outscore almost any team in the conference and could be the first true underdog to run the table and steal an automatic bid in the newly configured Big East Tournament.
Marquette finishes the season in against Georgetown in D.C before returning home to face Creighton.