by Dan GardellaFollow @gardelladan
Another week down in college basketball and the Big East. Some teams held serve while others struggled. While we are a little over one-third of the way through the conference season, things are still settling in for conferences across America.
That being said, I attempt to describe the wild Big East for yet another week.
Last Week’s Rankings
- Seton Hall
- St. John’s
This Week’s Rankings
- Seton Hall (-)
- Villanova (-)
- Creighton (+2)
- Butler (+2)
- Marquette (-1)
- Providence (-3)
- Xavier (+2)
- St. John’s (+2)
- Georgetown (-1)
- DePaul (-3)
Outside of Seton Hall and Villanova leading the way, there hasn’t been a third team that has proven that they are third in line for conference bragging rights. For a while, Butler was in that mix, but has since lost three of their last four. This left the door open for the Blue Jays, who have won three in a row, highlighted by a 2-0 week.
After taking down DePaul on the road followed by a home victory against Xavier, the Blue Jays are flying high at 5-3 in Big East play with just one game on the docket this week.
When award voting comes around, there should be no one but Marcus Zegarowski when it comes to the conference’s Most Improved Player. Through today, the sophomore has upped his points per game by six and his assists per game by around an assist and a half. Zegarowski also shoots the three-pointer at a 43% clip, making him a threat inside and out. It’s no secret that the Blue Jays have a high octane offense that can light any team up on any given day.
That high octane offense will be put to the test on Saturday, when they travel to take on Villanova, one of the stingiest defense in the conference.
Yes, the Johnnies are just 2-6 to begin conference play. What makes them a riser this week outside of their win against DePaul is the effect of having a team coached by Mike Anderson. While most fans wanted a more popular figure at the helm, the well-traveled college basketball coach has never had a losing season in his coaching career and does not seem like he wants to break that streak now.
Given that he had to inherit some talent and bring in the rest on short notice, the Red Storm defense is as tough as it gets when it comes to ball control for the other team. The team philosophy of “40 Minutes of Hell” strikes fear into opposing teams. Last week, it took a career-high game from LJ Figueroa helped the Red Storm pull away from the Blue Demons in Chicago.
This week, the Johnnies get a test when they host top-ten foe Villanova inside the World’s Most Famous Arena followed by a date with Georgetown, a team that handled St. John’s by 21 earlier in the season, on Super Bowl Sunday.
The up and down season continues for the Friars. It was just two weeks ago that people were high on Providence after a quick 4-1 start to the conference season. There were rumblings of the team playing their way back onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. This week, they had chances against top-ten ranked Seton Hall and Villanova, which would boost their shaky resume to date. Now, Ed Cooley’s team are losers of three straight and fall back into the crowded core of teams at 4-4.
In an attempt to ease the blow of a three game losing streak, the Friars have lost those three games by a combined 17 points. They are able to hang around in games, but cannot seem to find those stretches that push them over the top.
Providence gets another crack at a Top 25 team on Saturday, when they battle Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
A team that once seemed destined to break their NCAA Tournament drought is now at the bottom of the Big East. The fall has been anything but pretty for the Blue Demons, who have lost six of their last seven games and are now just 13-7 with 11 games remaining. This week, they dropped home games against Creighton and St. John’s to fall to 1-6 in Big East play.
For a league as deep as the Big East has been this year, there are those teams that are bound to lose close games and get the short end of the stick in close games. This year, like many others, DePaul has been the winner of this unfortunate prize.
That being said, conference play is not even halfway completed yet. There is still time to turn things around and keep the DePaul name floating around the NCAA Tournament Bubble. It has to start immediately. The Blue Demons have tough road tests against Seton Hall followed by Marquette in Milwaukee.