It's time to get excited, Georgetown fans. Our fighting Hoyas travel to Kansas this weekend to take on the nationally-ranked Jayhawks in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of idiot who books a cross-country flight right at tip-off, so I'll be missing the game and Casual gamethread live. While Georgetown wasn't in action this week, the rest of the Big East went 9-2 this week with one of the losses coming at the hands of Syracuse. Xavier and Butler picked up big wins against power conference teams at neutral sites and both looked good throughout. Eight Big East teams are currently ranked in the top 64 of KenPom's rankings, so good things are starting to happen throughout the league.
Note: These Power Rankings are only meant to reflect the most recent results.
1. Villanova (10-0)
Last Week: W vs. LaSalle (73-52)
Next Week: vs. Rider (12/21)
Why they're ranked here: Aside from cracking the top 10, Villanova also picked up their third win against a fellow Big 5 school. Since 2000, the Wildcats have swept the Big 5 on five separate occasions and will get the chance to add a sixth when they play Temple in February. Since their Bahamas breakout, I've used this space to gush over Villanova's stats, which continue to be impressive. Defensively, they rank 2nd in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, 6th in Defensive 2P% and 16th in Defensive Turnover %. Behind JayVaughn Pinkston's 17.8 PPG and James Bell's 17.6 PPG, this team is dangerous. Ryan Arcidiacono has been a mixed bag this season. His turnovers are way down, but he also throws up six three-point shots a game and only makes 25% of these. He hasn't taken a massive step forward in his sophomore campaign, but the guys over at Big East Bias (with help from VU Hoops) like how he runs this pretty great offense, so even a perceived weakness for this team isn't that bad. Villanova travels to Syracuse on the 28th in a battle of unbeaten teams.
2. Xavier (8-3)
LW: W vs. Evansville (63-60), W vs. Cincinnati (64-47, US Bank Arena)
NW: @ Alabama (12/21)
WTRH: The Evansville game was a near disaster for the Musketeers as the team trailed by 13 in the second half before going on a 23-8 run to go ahead and ultimately win the game. Eking out a close victory against a Missouri Valley opponent isn't what propelled Xavier to the #2 spot though, that's all due to their statement win against Cincinnati in this season's Crosstown
Classic Shootout. Despite Semaj Christon's early foul trouble, Xavier spent the majority of the first half getting interior buckets and kicking out for open threes while Cincy settled for mid-range jumpers. The Musketeers finished the game with 11 threes and outrebounded the Bearcats 33-20. Xavier joined the Big East this season while Cincinnati was left out of the realignment shitshow and was forced to join the American Athletic Conference with the rest of the Big East leftovers. With this blowout win, Xavier asserted itself as the city of Cincinnati's true Big East team.
3. Butler (8-2)
LW: W vs. Manchester (100-41), W vs. Purdue (76-70, Indianapolis)
NW: @ Evansville (12/21)
WTRH: More on Butler at the bottom.
4. Marquette (6-4)
LW: W vs. IUPUI (86-50)
NW: vs. Ball State (12/17), vs. New Mexico (12/21)
WTRH: Marquette's lone game this week was a Saturday afternoon matchup with IUPUI, whose notable alumni include the author of Clifford the Big Red Dog. The Golden Eagles led by 25 points at the half and never let off the throttle, leading by 45 points during the second half. The difference in the game was Marquette's shooting. They shot 65% from the field and 67% from three, well above their season averages. The Golden Eagles were led by Devante Gardner's 20 point, 11 rebound performance. Despite owning the 200th-ranked Effective FG% in the country, Marquette is still dangerous defensively as they rank 11th in the nation in Defensive 2P%. I'm still not sure how to project this team for the rest of the season as all four of their losses came against quality opponents. Losing to two top-10 teams doesn't doom the Golden Eagles to the NIT, but their limitations on the offensive end are tough to ignore.
5. St. John's (6-3)
LW: L vs. Syracuse (68-63)
NW: vs. San Francisco (12/18), vs. Youngstown State (12/21)
WTRH: I fell victim to the Santa Monica Pub Crawl on Saturday night and have since sworn off alcohol forever, so I missed the first half of this game. When I first turned on this matchup at halftime, I was greeted with a scenic shot of the ceiling of Madison Square Garden for at least 30 seconds. Well done, FS1, I'm going to miss your technical difficulties when you get things figured out. After the exceptional camerawork, I then saw that Syracuse was up by 12 points. My thoroughly dehydrated brain signaled it was time to turn off the game and order Domino's, but the basketball junkie in me overruled that decision and I was treated to a nice second half performance by the Johnnies. Sure, they lost the game, but clawing back from a double digit halftime deficit to take the lead in the second half against the #2 team in the country counts as a moral victory in my book. St. John's only bad loss this season was to Penn State over Thanksgiving, so there's no reason to believe they can't win a couple of big conference games and make the tourney as the season progresses. Another random note from the game also comes courtesy of Fox Sports 1. During a graphic about C.J. Fair, FS1 listed one of his skills as "Keeping Happy Coach Happy" or something equally bizarre and disturbing as that. If anyone caught this and took a screenshot, I'd like to have this documented.
6. DePaul (5-4)
LW: W vs. Florida Atlantic (81-70), W vs. Chicago State (69-64, OT)
NW: vs. Houston Baptist (12/18), @ Illinois State (12/22)
WTRH: I spent too many words on my hangover and FS1 experience in the St. John's paragraph, so I'm going to be short with these two horrendous teams. DePaul barely escaped Chicago State in overtime on Sunday in an ugly game of "basketball." Chicago State has lost to Bradley, Alabama State and Illinois State thus far, showing exactly how bad DePaul can be this season. The game against Illinois State could be particularly brutal, as the Redbirds defeated Chicago State by 19 two weeks ago.
7. Seton Hall (7-4)
LW: W vs. NJIT (71-55), L vs. St. Peter's (83-80, OT)
NW: vs. Eastern Washington (12/22)
WTRH: The only thing worse than barely escaping Chicago State is losing at home to St. Peter's. Seton Hall also lost Sterling Gibbs to an ugly knee injury at the end of regulation, an injury that could've been avoided if the Pirates had actually taken care of business in the game and didn't have their starters in with 10 seconds left. DePaul is bad, but Seton Hall might be worse.
Teams Without Games Last Week
1. Creighton (7-2)
LW: No games
NW: vs. Arkansas - Pine Bluff (12/17), vs. Cal (12/22)
2. Georgetown (6-2)
LW: No games
NW: vs. Elon (12/17), @ Kansas (12/21)
3. Providence (8-2)
LW: No games
NW: vs. Yale (12/17), vs. Maine (12/21)
Spotlight Team: Butler
What's Going On With Butler:
Normally for new Big East teams, I provide a brief background of the school's basketball history. Considering the events of the last few years, that isn't necessary for Butler. We all remember Brad Stevens and the two national title games, so there's no need to beat a dead horse here. Butler's piecing together a nice non-conference resume this season, with only two losses by a total of four points. They took LSU to overtime and battled #7 Oklahoma State to the wire in the Old Spice Classic and have performed well in their wins. Against fellow major conference opponents, Butler has a point differential of +16 and own a set of nice wins against Vanderbilt, Washington State and Purdue. Yes, it would be better if they had blown a few of those teams out, but at the end of the day, they count as wins all the same. Statistically, they rank slightly above average in most categories except for FT%, which cost them the chance at upsetting Oklahoma State. The Bulldogs are 44th nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, 19th in Opponent's Offensive Rebounding % and 24th in Turnover %. None of these stats jump off the page, but sometimes doing things the right way pays off. In their game against Purdue, the Bulldogs fell behind early but responded quickly to take a three point lead into the half en route to a win. Kellen Dunham was especially impressive on Saturday, scoring 25 points. Early in the first half, Dunham dribbled around a screen on the right side of the floor and hoisted up a terrible off-balance shot that still floated through the air perfectly and barely missed off the rim. Given the terrible lead-up to shooting, I assumed that I was about to see an air ball, but his shooting touch willed the ball to nearly go in. As the game progressed, it became apparent that 6'6" sophomore guard stands a good chance to make any shot on the court, even if his body's moving away from the basket in an ugly fashion. He's shooting 48% from three for the season and is putting up 19 Points per Game, making him Butler's best offensive threat. Khyle Marshall makes up the second half of Butler's dual threat, as he's averaging 17 Points per Game on 53% shooting from the field.
Why They'll Beat Georgetown:
If Marshall and Dunham are on, Butler has no problem scoring the basketball. The duo take 31 and 27% of Butler's shots when they're on the floor, respectively, and both have a knack for finding the basket. Aside from their shooting, the Bulldogs also take care of the ball, turning the ball over on less than 15% of their possession. By comparison, Georgetown ranks 280th nationally in the same category, coughing the ball up over 20% of the time. The Bulldogs also defend the rim well. They rank 19th nationally in Opponent's Offensive Rebounding %. Georgetown is a decent offensive rebounding team, but Kameron Woods and Khyle Marshall should be able to clean up the glass against the Hoyas and eliminate second chance points. When Georgetown travels to Hinkle Fieldhouse, they'll also have to contend against Butler's dominance at home. In what could be leftover voodoo from Hoosiers, the Bulldogs have played exceptionally well at home during their recent run of success. Since 2007 (excluding 2012 because that team had a crippling inability to score), they average only 1.3 regular season home losses a year. Butler takes care of business when playing in the state of Indiana, as they are undefeated in the Crossroads Classic and knocked off #1 Indiana in that tournament last season.
Why They'll Lose to Georgetown:
There are a few problem spots for Butler in regards to squaring off against Georgetown. For starters, Butler's style of play lends to giving opposing teams opportunities to shoot inside the arc. The Bulldogs are 222nd nationally in Defensive 2P% while the Hoyas rank in the top 10 in Offensive 2P%. Georgetown only has one true deep threat in DSR, but that shouldn't be a problem against Butler. If the Georgetown offense is effective in getting interior looks, the Hoyas could give the Bulldogs their required one loss at home for the season. Georgetown also defends shooters well, ranking 2nd in Defensive Effective FG%. I explained above a play in which Dunham took a bad shot to demonstrate his pure shooting stroke, but in this game, that decision making could doom Butler. If Georgetown can disrupt Dunham and Marshall, the Bulldogs will struggle to score and would have to look to Kameron Woods to increase his production. A strategy of feeding the ball to the interior offensively and locking down Butler's two scorers on defense will lead to a Hoyas win come January.