By Dan Gardella
The more things change, the more they stay the same. I am beginning to run out of words to describe the state of the Big East Conference and how crazy and unpredictable it has been. So far in three weeks, eight of the ten teams have three losses or more.
DePaul just swept the season series against Seton Hall
Butler has won two straight after starting conference play 1-3.
Safe to say I will attempt to try and put together this week’s Risers and Tumblers.
Last Week’s Rankings:
3) Seton Hall
6) St. John’s
This Week’s Rankings
1) Villanova (-) – This Week: Win vs. Xavier
2) Marquette (-) – This Week: Win @ Georgetown, Win vs. Providence
3) DePaul (+2) – This Week: Win @ Seton Hall
4) Xavier (-) – This Week: Lost @ Villanova
5) Butler (+3) – This Week: Win @ DePaul, Win vs. St. John’s
6) Seton Hall (-3) – This Week: Lost @ Providence, Lost vs. DePaul
7) St. John’s (-1) – This Week: Won vs. Creighton, Lost @ Butler
8) Georgetown (-1) – This Week: Lost vs. Marquette
9) Providence (+1) – This Week: Won vs. Seton Hall, Lost @ Marquette
10) Creighton (-1) – This Week: Lost @ St. John’s
Like I said, I’m glad this ranking is a week to week basis.
It seems that DePaul continues to open more and more eyes every time they take the floor, regardless of the result. After taking down Seton Hall and St. John’s in succession, they took a tough loss to Butler to bring them to below .500 in the Big East. However, they took the trip to Newark in hopes of sweeping the season series with the Pirates.
The Blue Demons managed to outrebound Seton Hall 42-19 and close out the game to win 97-93 and find themselves winners of three of their last four games. In the victory, DePaul had four players in double figures, with Max Strus and Femi Olujobi leading the charge with 22 points apiece. Olujobi also had 11 rebounds while Paul Reed had 21 points and 14 rebounds.
It’s obviously clear that Max Strus is the number one option offensively. But when Olujobi and Reed are rocks in the post and Eli Cain simply complements whatever is going on, the Blue Demons are as complete a team as there is in the conference. I think it’s time to start taking them seriously (If you haven’t already).
What a bounce back week for the Bulldogs. After losing two straight and sitting at 1-3 through the first four games in conference play, something needed to change in LaVall Jordan’s game plan. Whatever they did change, it certainly worked, picking up wins against DePaul and St. John’s to get back to even in the Big East.
In game one of the week, Butler had four players in double figures, including a then-career high 19 points from Jordan Tucker in an 18 point win against the Blue Demons. Tucker then proceeded to outdo himself, scoring 24 points in 32 minutes while knocking down six three pointers in a nine point win against St. John’s.
There’s a reason Tucker was recruited by and attended Duke. He is able to get buckets and adds another dimension to the team where Kamar Baldwin doesn’t feel the need to take a huge chunk of the offense into his hands. As he continues to get his feet under him, Tucker will provide a spark that has been lacking with Paul Jorgenson struggling of late.
While the competition across the conference is good for the teams who were picked near the bottom of the conference, it has bitten the Johnnies in the behind. After beginning the season 12-0, the Red Storm have lost 4 of their last seven contests to now sit near the bottom of the conference as we approach the halfway point of the conference season.
While there have been bad calls costing them games along with Shamorie Ponds being sidelined with injury, the step up in competition from non-conference to conference has hit Chris Mullin’s team in the face like a ton of bricks.
Unfortunately, it does not get any easier for them. After taking on Georgetown at the Garden next weekend, the team travels to Creighton, Duke, and then Marquette. While that is a tough string of games to compete in while dealing with a losing skid, but a 2-2 or 3-1 record in those games could be what the Johnnies need to get back into consideration as the best team in the conference.
Similar to St. John’s, the Pirates have seen the overall competition of the conference hurt the teams that were, at one point, near the top. Seton Hall started conference play 3-1 with wins against St. John’s, Butler, and Xavier but have lost three straight to bring them to 3-4 overall in conference play.
This week, the Pirates came out slow against Providence and could not seem to put the pieces together, resulting in a nine point loss, giving the Friars their first Big East win of the season. It appeared that there was a letdown effect from their loss at Marquette to their loss in Friartown. They had a chance to snap the streak Saturday evening against DePaul, who already beat this earlier in conference play. The Pirates once again however, could not seem to stop the Blue Demons on the glass and on the scoreboard. They allowed 97 points, the most at home in Kevin Willard’s nine season at the helm.
The Pirates next game does not get any easier. They travel to Villanova to take on the Wildcats, who are still undefeated in conference play. The best part of conference play is that any team is just a good game away from getting back on track and gaining momentum. Kevin Willard’s team has a chance to do just that in Philly.