by Dan Gardella
If you enjoyed the first week of Big East conference play, which saw down to the wire games and resulted in nine of the ten teams in the conference losing at least one game, then the second week did not disappoint.
After two weeks and crazy competition, here is my second edition of the season of Risers and Tumblers.
Last Week’s Rankings:
- St. John’s
- Seton Hall
This Week’s Rankings:
- Villanova (+2) – This Week: Win vs. St. John’s, Win @ Creighton
- Marquette (-) – This Week: Win @ Creighton, Win vs. Seton Hall
- Seton Hall (+1) – This Week: Win vs. Butler, Lost @ Marquette
- Xavier (+4) – This Week: Win vs. Georgetown, Win vs. Butler
- DePaul (+2) – This Week: Win @ St. John’s
- St. John’s (-5) – This Week: Lost @ Villanova, Lost vs. DePaul
- Georgetown (-2) – This Week: Lost @ Xavier, Win vs. Providence
- Butler (-2) – This Week: Lost @ Seton Hall, Lost @ Xavier
- Creighton (-) – This Week: Lost vs. Marquette, Lost vs. Villanova
- Providence (-) – This Week: Lost @ Georgetown
With the up and down non-conference season Villanova had, they have taken care of business in conference play, by handling St. John’s at home and Creighton in Omaha to remain as the league’s only undefeated team. Outside of the Wildcats, it is incredibly tough to decipher who is better than who in this league. With that said, some teams turned some heads while others proved there is still some work to be done.
What a difference a week makes. After week one of conference play, the Musketeers, who undoubtedly lost the most amount of talent outside of Villanova sat at 1-2 with tough losses to Seton Hall and Marquette. One week later, they sit as winners of two straight, courtesy of two gutsy performances at the Cintas Center.
In the first game of the week against a much improved Georgetown team, Xavier started off slow and saw themselves down 39-22 with four minutes left in the first half. However, they did not wavier and slowly chipped away at the Hoya lead and finished the first half on a 12-0 run to head into halftime down five. The Musketeers would battle back and forth but managed to pull away late to win by six. In the game, the front line of Tyrique Jones (19 points, 10 Rebounds) and Zach Hankins (23 Points, 10 Rebounds) dominated.
In the second game of the week, Travis Steele’s team sat in a position similar to the one against Georgetown. This time, there was far less time. With only four minutes to play, Butler led Xavier by ten with the Musketeer offense at a standstill. However, behind Paul Scruggs, they would use a 16-5 run to finish the game to stun the Bulldogs and pick up their third conference win of the season.
On top of 2-0 week, Xavier saw different players making improvements and coming up big in key situations. For a team that is supposedly in a rebuilding mode, they seem far ahead of schedule.
The Blue Demons have certainly proved their point to the rest of the conference that they are as good as any team in the Big East. After back to back losses to Xavier and Villanova, both by single digits to open conference play, DePaul rattled off a win against Seton Hall last week and went into Queens and took down a Shamorie Ponds-less St. John’s team to break even in conference play.
In their lone game of the week, DePaul took the lead from the opening jump and made things difficult on the Red Storm all evening while constantly applying pressure. On a night where leading scorer Max Strus managed to only shoot 4-13 from the field, sophomore Paul Reed and senior Femi Olujobi carried the workload as Dave Leitao emphasized working the ball inside.
There were question marks as to how high the ceiling was for this Blue Demons team. Sure, there was plenty of talent on the roster, highlighted by Strus and Eli Cain. But the pieces around those two are capable of big things, as we saw against St. John’s on Saturday.
Two weeks ago, Chris Mullin’s team sat as one of the remaining undefeated teams in college basketball, finishing the non-conference schedule at 12-0. Fast forward to now and they are losers of three of their last five games. While it is still early in conference play, the Red Storm have been exposed a little bit in different areas of their game.
Although the use of Marvin Clark as a stretch forward or center has benefited them on the offensive end, the Red Storm got outrebounded by nine and at times seemed overpowered in the paint against DePaul. Sedee Keita, whether starting or coming off of the bench needs to provide more stability and consistency down low.
While Shamorie Ponds was out with a lower back strain, the team at times looked lost on the offensive end and resorted to isolation ball to put the ball in the basket. There needs to be more of an organized look without the star if they wanted to manage to win games without the guard.
No team in the conference had a tougher week than the Bulldogs. During the week, Butler had to travel to both Newark and Cincinnati to face off with Seton Hall and Xavier looking to improve their 1-2 start to conference play. What they got instead was two heartbreaking losses, both by a single point. While both ended in the same result, the path to how they got there were different
In the game against Seton Hall, the Bulldogs got into a hole early and were unable to climb out of it as their comeback fell short. Butler was only two dimensional as Kamar Baldwin and Joey Brunk, who combined for 43 of the 75 points.
In their second game of the week, it was execution down the stretch that was ultimately their downfall as they blew a ten point lead in four minutes to fall by a point to Xavier to finish the week 0-2 and 1-3 in conference play.
While it is imperative to start off conference play on a good note, a 1-3 record, especially in a conference as even as the Big East is not the end of the world. However, to comeback and compete in the conference, there need to be other players that need to step up. Paul Jorgenson, who had a great non-conference season has struggled in conference play. Having him step up will help the Bulldogs get back into the mix.