It was a bad week for Georgetown and the Big East at-large this week and the conference looks to regroup before kicking off interleague play on New Year's Eve. Despite leading by six late in the first half, the Hoyas were demolished by Kansas over the final 25 minutes. In the rest of the Big East, Marquette dropped yet another game to a quality opponent and both Providence and St. John's escaped potentially embarrassing losses. The top wins for the conference based on KenPom's rankings were Creighton's victory over Cal and Xavier's win at Alabama. However, neither of these are true marquee wins, leaving the Big East's overall performance against the top teams in the country a little shaky compared to other power conferences. It's hard to get excited after a week like this, and that Kansas loss isn't going to get any easier to stomach. The best chance for the league to improve its image after the first few months of basketball comes next Saturday when #8 Villanova travels to #2 Syracuse.
Publishing Note: There won't be a Power Rankings next week or a spotlight team of the week for the next three weeks for a number of reasons including: me being an overworked first year analyst, trying to go home for the Holidays, attending the wedding of my first prom date and going on a quick vacation with the Benimonstress. I'll be back to break down DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall and St. John's in early January. There's A LOT to talk about with these teams, but not in a good way.
Note: These Power Rankings are only meant to reflect the most recent results.
1. Villanova (11-0)
Last Week: W vs. Rider (88-67)
Next Week: @ Syracuse (12/28)
Why they're ranked here: Villanova remains as the only Big East team ranked in the top 10-or top 25 for that matter, grabbing the #8 spot this past week. The Wildcats are now off to their best start since 1961 and have a chance to pick up another statement win next Saturday when they travel to Syracuse to take on the #2 ranked Orange. In this week's game, Nova was led by freshman Josh Hart-a four star recruit out of DC-who scored 19 points off the bench. At the current moment, Villanova is the best team in the conference by a land slide with the kind of skilled players and depth that could lead to a runaway league title.
2. Creighton (9-2)
LW: W vs. Arkansas - Pine Bluff (88-51), W vs. Cal (68-54)
NW: vs. Chicago State (12/29)
WTRH: Based on KenPom rankings, Creighton's win over Cal on Sunday evening was the best win of the week for the conference. Creighton started controlling the game late in the first half when a 10-1 run gave the Bluejays a 30-19 lead heading into the break. Creighton never looked back from this point and finished with a 14 point victory. In almost a ho hum stat line for Doug McDermott, the two-time All-American recorded 20 points and 11 rebounds for the game. After his 33 point performance against Nebraska last week, McDermott is now averaging over 25 Points per Game. Creighton's two losses this season came against San Diego State and George Washington in the Wooden Legacy. Both of these teams are having great seasons thus far, so these losses aren't that worrisome for the Bluejays. Look for Doug McDermott and co. to finish 2013 strong and roll into the Big East season nationally ranked.
3. Xavier (9-3)
LW: W @ Alabama (77-74)
NW: vs. Wake Forest (12/28)
WTRH: According to KenPom rankings, the Xavier win over Alabama was the second-best win for the league this week. Xavier fell behind early and trailed by 12 with a little over 16 minutes to go in the game before mounting an inspired second half comeback to win the game. At the 16 minute mark, Alabama had around a 95% chance of winning the game before the Xavier rally began. The Musketeers tied the game with five minutes to go and held on for the close win. Xavier won the game with balanced scoring from a number of players including 17 points from Isaiah Philmore, 17 from Matt Stainbrook, 12 from Dee Davis and 10 from Miles Davis. As we learned with Georgetown a few seasons ago, it's tough to go into Alabama and pick up a road win. Xavier's now seemingly righted the ship after an ugly performance in the Bahamas.
4. Butler (9-2)
LW: W @ Evansville (68-59)
NW: vs. NJIT (12/28)
WTRH: While Butler was by no means impressive in their lone win this week, they get the #4 spot this week on the strength of their victory against Purdue earlier. Butler trailed Evansville by three at the half but was able to pull (somewhat) away after Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow hit consecutive deep bombs to put Butler up by seven with almost nine minutes to go. Despite their 6-6 record, Evansville has played two Big East teams tight this season, which gives me cause to worry for the rest of the season. If Xavier and Butler have both struggled to take care of business against this Missouri Valley Conference school, I have some serious doubts about their ability to win come March-if both schools get into the tournament. Ultimately, this is hopefully just an issue of small sample size, but I'd like to live in a world where two Big East teams can easily take care of business against a school from the Missouri Valley Conference not named Wichita State.
5. St. John's (8-3)
LW: W vs. San Francisco (81-57), W vs. Youngstown State (96-87)
NW: Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival vs. Columbia (12/28)
WTRH: This section became a fun game of "which one's worse, barely beating Yale or barely beating Youngstown State?" very quickly, which is something I hoped I'd never have to say in week six. St. John's easily handled San Francisco in their first game after the disappointing Syracuse loss. D'Angelo Harrison scored 18 in the San Francisco game and 29 against Youngstown State to lead the Johnnies in scoring this week. He also became the all-time leader in three point scores at St. John's with 152 makes, breaking Willie Shaw's record from 2003. Despite being tied at the half with Youngstown State, the Red Storm were able to pull away midway through the second half and build an 11 point lead. While the win wasn't impressive by any stretch, St. John's is still 8-3 heading into Big East play with two of those losses coming up against ranked teams. It's worth pointing out that the Johnnies were without Big East preseason Rookie of the Year in Rysheed Jordan during the matchup against Youngstown State.
6. Providence (10-2)
LW: W vs. Yale (76-74), W vs. Maine (94-70),
NW: @ UMASS (12/28)
WTRH: What's worse than being tied with Younstown State at the half? Beating a Yale squad by two points (and also the laundry list of offenses teams 7-10 committed). Yale ended the first half on an 18-3 run to tie the game going into the intermission and then hung around for the entire second half before barely losing in the last minute. Providence may be 10-2, but it's getting harder and harder to ignore the close wins against teams like Brown, Rhode Island and Yale. It can be said that this team finishes strong due to their great free throw shooting (second in the country), but that's only if you're trying to find a bright side for a team that almost lost to Yale. Another bright spot is leader Bryce Cotton. Cotton is playing the 17th most minutes in the country right now. He's an excellent distributer, ranking 37th in the country in Assist Rate and his scoring numbers are pretty good, averaging 19 Points per Game even though his Offensive Efficiency is by no means great. However, the team as a hole is lacking in key areas and has demonstrated terrible second-half defense. This week alone, Yale shot 68% from the field in the second half and Maine shot 57%.
7. Georgetown (7-3)
LW: W vs. Elon (85-76), L @ Kansas (86-64)
NW: vs. FIU (12/28)
WTRH: I won't use this space to complain about the games this week as I feel like we saw this team's ceiling against Kansas. Georgetown can play with quality teams for a certain period of time, but eventually the weaknesses will show up. Trailing Elon at the half was pretty miserable as well.
8. Marquette (7-5)
LW: W vs. Ball State (91-53), L vs. New Mexico (75-68, Las Vegas)
NW: No games
WTRH: Marquette and Georgetown should be ranked higher than #7 and #8, but these are "what have you done for me lately?" rankings, and lately Marquette's dropped yet another out of conference game. The #8 spot seems like it's too low for a team like Marquette who have went out and played quality opponents, but if you can't beat any of those teams, what's the point? Marquette has five losses going into Big East play, which can be rationalized away by saying "yeah, but they played Ohio State and Wisconsin and...," but I'd like to see at least one win come against a power conference team. To date, the Golden Eagles' best victory was against George Washington. Marquette took a seven point lead into the half against New Mexico at the MGM Grand, propelled by 58% shooting from the field in the first half. However, Marquette's shooting woes came back for the final 20 minutes when they only shot 36% compared to New Mexico's 50%. Although it didn't show in the New Mexico loss, Marquette still ranks highly in many defensive categories, but their inability to make a three point shot will continue to haunt this team over the course of the season. Only 19% of Marquette's points come from threes, compared to a national average of 26%. They rank 309th in 3PA / FGA and 263rd in 3P%, showing that the Golden Eagles cut back on the amount of deep shots they take in a game compared to the national average and still can't convert from behind the line. As I said last week, I really do like Marquette, it's just hard to ignore the five losses right now.
9. Seton Hall (8-4)
LW: W vs. Eastern Washington (92-70)
NW: vs. Lafayette (12/27)
WTRH: Seton Hall won handily this week! Despite only leading FCS football powerhouse Eastern Washington by two at the break (it seems like every Big East team was either tied or barely beating a terrible school at halftime this week), the Pirates were able to pull away in the second half to secure the easy 22 point victory. All five Seton Hall starters scored in double figures for the game, as did Fuquan Edwin off the bench. The Pirates also received good news earlier in the week when they learned that Sterling Gibbs would only be out a week or two with the knee injury he suffered against St. Peter's.
10. DePaul (7-5)
LW: W vs. Houston Baptist (78-58), L @ Illinois State (69-64)
NW: @ Northwestern (12/27)
WTRH: DePaul wrestles the #10 spot back from Seton Hall this week after dropping a game against Illinois State 69-64. A week after going to overtime with Chicago State, the Blue Demons sized up Seton Hall's control over the basement of these power rankings and allowed a Illinois State to win despite shooting 31% from the field and 19% from three to steal the#10 spot away. DePaul squares off against Seton Hall on Saturday, January 25th on CBS Sports Network and again on February 25th on Fox Sports 1, so set your DVRs accordingly.