by Dan Gardella
It only took 13 games into conference play, but there is some separation between teams. The once logjam in the middle of the Big East has now separated teams by a game or two. With that said, it has become a little more apparent who the contenders towards the top of the conference are.
Last Week’s Rankings
- Seton Hall
- St. John’s
This Week’s Rankings
- Marquette (-): Win @ DePaul
- Villanova (-): Win vs. Providence, Loss @ St. John’s
- St. John’s (+4): Win vs. Butler, Win vs. Villanova
- Seton Hall (+2): Win vs. Georgetown, Win @ Creighton
- Xavier: (+4): Win vs. Creighton, Win @ Providence
- Butler (-3): Loss @ St. John’s, Win vs. DePaul
- Georgetown (-3): Loss @ Seton Hall
- Providence (-): Loss @ Villanova, Loss vs. Xavier
- DePaul (-4): Loss vs. Marquette, Loss @ Butler
- Creighton (-): Loss @ Xavier, Loss vs. Seton Hall
No one had a bigger week than the Johnnies. Prior to the week, St. John’s sat at 5-6 in the conference with their NCAA Tournament hopes still in question. They closed their homestand by welcoming Butler to Queens before a matchup with Villanova to conclude the weekend.
Looking to bounce back and split the season series with the Bulldogs, the Red Storm jumped out to a double digit lead early and took an eight point lead into the locker room. This lead would hold for the first ten minutes of the half before Butler would knot things at 51. The teams would fight back and forth and the game would need an extra five minutes to decide things. In the extra time, St. John’s would outscore Butler 11-7 to come away with the hard fought win.
Then the Red Storm had an opportunity to almost solidify their spot in the NCAA Tournament with Villanova coming to town, a team they had no beat at home since 2002. It was not pretty early on as the Wildcats exposed the Red Storm early on and all signs pointed to another Villanova victory in New York. However, it took a Justin Simon 70-foot shot to give the Garden faithful a reason to believe. The shot would help the Johnnies outscore Villanova 45-28 in the second half to knock off the defending national champs.
Being at the Garden personally Sunday night was an experience like none other. When a sold out crowd at the “World’s Most Famous Arena” gets going, it’s a vibe that is hard to replicate. The Red Storm face Providence on the road before welcoming Seton Hall on Saturday in the battle for third place in the conference.
The good week in the Metro area bled into Newark as the Pirates improved their chances for a big to the NCAA Tournament. Seton Hall, like St. John’s sat at 5-6 in conference play entering the week. Seton Hall began the week with a matchup at home with Georgetown, a team also fighting for a spot in the big dance. From the opening tip, it was all Pirates. They managed jumped out to a 20 point lead late in the first half and cruised to the 15 point victory behind a 30-piece from Myles Powell.
After a convincing win, they traveled off to Omaha, one of the toughest places to play in the conference to face off with the Blue Jays. Seton Hall jumped out to a 12-2 start to the game but then allowed Creighton to tie the game up at 14. Creighton would take a three-point lead into the locker room but Seton Hall was very much in it. Fast forward to the end of the game, Seton Hall trailed Creighton 73-67 with four and a half minutes to play. The Pirates clamped down defensively, scoring 14 of the final 16 points to stun Creighton and escape Nebraska with a six point win.
The Pirates are clicking at the right time. Now winners of three in a row and four of its five, the Pirates host Xavier before heading to Madison Square Garden to take on St. John’s Saturday evening.
Matchup-wise, the Blue Demons had a tough week in the middle of conference play. Entering the week 5-6, DePaul welcomed 10th ranked Marquette before travelling to Hinkle Fieldhouse. To the disadvantage of DePaul, they ran into a one man buzz-saw that was Markus Howard. The conference’s leading scorer and the fourth leading scorer in the nation went off for 36 points on 12-21 shooting to pace the Golden Eagles and put the Blue Demons out of it early and eventually fell by 19.
Looking to rebound against Butler, DePaul allowed the Bulldog’s Kamar Baldwin to go off for 25 points of his own on 9-14 shooting along with five rebounds, five assists, and four steals. It was the same story for the Blue Demons, who fell behind early and were unable to dig themselves out of a hole.
Now 5-8 in conference play, DePaul has another tough week against Creighton at home and Georgetown at the nation’s capital in hopes of one final attempt to climb the conference standings.
The Hoyas just had one game over the week, and it was safe to say the preparation was not up to par in the mind of Patrick Ewing. Georgetown did not get off the blocks well, falling behind by as much as 20 points in the first half and could not seem to get anything going on either end of the court. Jessie Govan led Georgetown with 20 points and Greg Malinowski scored 16 points. Outside of those two, no player reached double figures.
As the season goes on, it is becoming more apparent that the three freshmen of Josh LeBlanc, Mac McClung and James Akinjo are so important to the Hoyas if they want to have success. The three combined for 15 points on 4-18 shooting.
Sitting at 5-7 in conference play and losers of three of their last four, the Hoyas face an angry Villanova team who will be fresh off a frustrating loss against St. John’s before traveling to Creighton Saturday afternoon.