By Dan Gardella
It’s no question that Villanova is still the cream of the crop with Marquette following close behind. This makes their first matchup of the season on Saturday in Milwaukee more intriguing to tune in to.
As for the rest of the league, all I can say is I did my best.
Last Week’s Rankings
8) Seton Hall
10) St. John’s
This Week’s Rankings
1) Villanova (-): Won @ DePaul, Won vs. Georgetown
2) Marquette (-): Won @ Butler
3) Georgetown (+2): Won vs. Xavier, Loss @ Villanova
4) Butler (+3): Lost vs. Marquette, Won vs. Seton Hall
5) DePaul (+4): Lost vs. Villanova, Won vs. Providence
6) St. John’s (+4): Won @ Creighton, Loss @ Duke
7) Seton Hall (+1): Won vs. Providence, Lost @ Butler
8) Creighton (-4): Lost vs. St. John’s, Won vs. Xavier
9) Xavier (-3): Loss @ Georgetown, Loss @ Creighton
10) Providence (-7): Lost @ Seton Hall, Lost @ DePaul
This past week, six teams in the conference split their two games during the week. Six. This week was as good an indicator of how even and unpredictable the conference. The even week led to quite a shakeup in my rankings.
The Hoyas sit in a three way tie with a 4-5 mark at the midway point of conference. At this point of the season, I evaluate them as a team that has a solid chance of finishing right below Marquette and Villanova. In the topsy-turvy conference, the Hoyas have exhibited some form of consistency along with wins at Hinkle Fieldhouse and Madison Square Garden.
In their 1-1 split this week, Georgetown took care of business against Xavier at home and kept things close on the road before falling to Villanova in Philadelphia. In their matchup with the Musketeers, freshman James Akinjo stepped up and showed off the full arsenal, scoring 23 points, 10 of which in the final five minutes of play, along with five rebounds and four assists. In game two, the Hoyas took a one-point halftime lead but fell behind midway through the second half in an eventual 12-point loss.
The difference in the two games? The Georgetown freshmen trio shot 18/33 (55%) in their win against Xavier and 11/31 (35%) in the loss to Villanova. As the season has progressed, Patrick Ewing has relied on his first-year players, who are the top three scorers behind Jessie Govan. They need to produce consistently if Georgetown wants a shot at dancing in March.
While the ice cold weather slammed the Chicago area, the Blue Demons still had work to do. They sit in the thick of the conference with a 12-9 overall record and 4-7 conference record. The 12 wins this year already passes their win total from last season and four wins in the Big East ties last year’s mark. There’s obvious improvement with the possibility of finishing in the top half of the conference still in the air.
DePaul welcomed Villanova to Chicago to begin their week and got the brunt of how well the Wildcats have been playing, serving up a 14 point loss. Looking to get into the win column, Providence came into town with newly revived energy with the return of A.J. Reeves. The Blue Demons defense held the Friars to only 29% shooting from the field and used an 18 point, 15 rebound performance from Paul Reed to bounce back and win by 12.
With all the talk around Ty-Shon Alexander being the frontrunner for Big East Most Improved Player, Reed has put together a solid sophomore campaign. It’s obviously Max Strus’s team and the offense revolves around him, but Reed has provided a solid second option on the offensive end along with a glass eater.
Following the 2-0 week last week in the return of A.J. Reeves, the Friars came up flat this week and went 0-2, putting them at 3-6 in conference play at the halfway point. In their losses to Seton Hall and DePaul, Providence failed to shoot above 40% from the field.
Against the Pirates, Ed Cooley’s team trailed early but found a way to fight back and eventually take a seven point lead with 14 minutes left in the game. The Pirates would manage to erase that lead in eight minutes to knot things at 56. Providence would re-take following a three from Alpha Diallo. Seton Hall would outscore Providence 9-4 over the final four minutes of the game to fall by two.
Looking to bounce back, the Friars carried their cold shooting in Newark to frigid Chicago against DePaul. In their matchup with the Blue Demons, the weather wasn’t the coldest thing there. Providence only connected on 29% of their shots and was never able to get things going, falling to DePaul by 12.
While Reeves continues to get his legs back under him, someone other than Alpha Diallo needs to perform on a consistent basis. It is something Cooly has been struggling to find recently but you would be a fool to bet against the Friars.
The Musketeers are sputtering. Losers of their last five games and now sitting at the bottom of the pack in the conference with a 3-7 record, Xavier needs to get back on track. While it was thought of as a rebuilding year for first-year head coach Travis Steele, they don’t want to see it as such.
The Musks traveled to the nation’s capital to take on the Hoyas. Xavier scored the first nine points of the contest and began to roll throughout the first half, ending in an eight point halftime lead. Xavier would not trail for the first 31 minutes of the contest. With 9:38 to go, the Musketeers would trial for the first time of the game. Xavier would lead for just a moment but the Hoyas’s late run would be too much to handle as they would fall by seven.
They then traveled to Omaha to face off with the Creighton Blue Jays, who were coming off of a loss to St. John’s on their home court. Creighton took their anger out on Travis Steele’s team, flexing their muscles from behind the arc and win by 22, a rare blowout in conference play.
At 3-7, there is a lot to change and work on but no need to get ready to finish at the bottom of the conference. As it has been said time and time again, it only takes one good week to bounce back into the conversation. Najee Marshall and Paul Scruggs have struggled recently and need to step up and complement Quentin Goodin if Xavier wants to snap their losing skid.
PHOTO; James Akinjo/georgetownhoyas.com