Villanova stormed to the top of the Big East Power Rankings this week by unexpectedly knocking off #2 Kansas and taking the Battle 4 Atlantis crown. The Wildcats thankfully helped the rest of us ignore an overall bad week for the conference in which the two ranked teams combined to lose four games and Seton Hall dropped a matchup against Fairleigh Dickinson. Things weren't all smiles and glory for the Big East in the Bahamas either as Xavier dropped all three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis en route to a last-place finish. Regardless of some of the disappointing results, this week I was thankful that we're only a month away from in-conference games. The New Year's Eve Big East marathon is rapidly approaching, as is Georgetown's game at Kansas.
Note: These Power Rankings are only meant to reflect the most recent result as the itinerary for the delusion train has a clearly marked stop at the #1 spot in the near future.
Last Week: W vs. USC (94-79, Battle 4 Atlantis), W vs. Kansas (63-59, Atlantis), W vs. Iowa (88-83 OT, Atlantis)
Next Week: vs. Penn (12/4), @ St. Joseph's (12/7)
Why they're ranked here: More on Villanova at the bottom.
LW: W vs. Washington State (76-69, Old Spice Classic), L vs. Oklahoma State (69-67, Old Spice), L vs. LSU (70-68 OT, Old Spice)
NW: vs. North Dakota (12/7)
WTRH: The #2 spot in the Big East normally wouldn't go to a team that lost two games in the previous week, but the Butler Bulldogs played well enough in the Old Space Classic to deserve this placement. Butler took fifth-ranked Oklahoma State down to the wire and came within two missed free throws of earning a top-5 upset. The Bulldogs were trailing by 14 at the half and by nine with four minutes left in the game before rallying behind strong guard play. Butler also rose to #2 in the nation in Turnover % during the Old Spice Classic. The Bulldogs have a relatively easy December schedule before kicking off their first season of Big East play on New Year's Eve against Villanova.
LW: W vs. Lipscomb (70-49)
NW: vs. High Point (12/5), vs. Colgate (12/7)
WTRH: This ranking is probably a spot or two too high, but I'm a homer and how great was it to see actual dunks on Saturday afternoon? The Hoyas started off slowly but used a 13-0 run in the second half to cruise to an easy victory. DSR was the hero of the game, leading the team in points, assists and rebounds while also canning four three-point shots. Markel Starks looked particularly off the entire game, making only two of his 13 attempts from the field. Two more weeks of cupcakes awaits the Hoyas before a trip to play the Kansas Jayhawks, who are winless against the Big East this season.
4. St. John's
LW: W vs. Longwood (65-47, Barclays Center Classic), L vs. Penn State (89-82 OT, Barclays), W vs. Georgia Tech (69-58, Barclays)
NW: vs. Fordham (12/7)
WTRH: St. John's is preparing its bubble resume for selection Sunday. In the early going this season, the Johnnies are 5-2 but with no true bad losses. An overtime loss against Penn State this week in Brooklyn stings, but rallied to beat Georgia Tech after falling behind 19-4 early. D'Angelo Harrison is averaging nearly 20 Points per Game and is taking over 35% of St. John's shots when he's on the court. Overall, the Red Storm are 15th in the nation in Offensive Steal %, coughing up the ball on only 6.3% of their possessions. If this team can reverse their trend of falling behind early in games, they have the potential to finish toward the top third of the new Big East.
LW: L @ Arizona State (79-77), W vs. Cal State Fullerton (86-66, The Wooden Legacy), W vs. George Washington (76-60, Wooden), L vs. San Diego State (67-59, Wooden)
NW: @ Wisconsin (12/7)
WTRH: I turned off Marquette's game against Arizona State at the end of the first half because I assumed that I knew how this game ended based on Marquette's woes of late. The Golden Eagles struggled to shoot in the first half and seemed to be heading towards a blowout loss. However, they fought back to barely lose to a team that should be in the top 25 this season and followed that up with two wins in The Wooden Legacy. Marquette's shooting problems continued in their other loss this week as the Golden Eagles shot 9% from three against San Diego State. Marquette had no answer for San Diego State's Xavier Thames, who dropped 29 points and five threes in the game. A tough battle against Wisconsin looms next Saturday for Marquette. A road win would be a large boost for a team that already has three losses, all of which are away from home.
LW: L vs. Maryland (56-52, Paradise Jam), W vs. Fairfield (78-69), L vs. Kentucky (79-65)
NW: @ Rhode Island (12/5)
WTRH: Providence gets the #6 spot almost by default this week and certainly not due to any on-court achievements. The Friars began the week by narrowly losing the Paradise Jam championship game to Maryland despite a furious rally led by Bryce Cotton that narrowed a 19-point Maryland lead to only two points with a minute and a half left. The Friars defeated one-win Fairfield by only nine points. The game was never in doubt, but still failed to impress. In their loss to Kentucky, Providence shot over 50% from three, riding their hot shooting from deep to a respectable showing on Saturday despite only shooting 31% from the field overall. Providence's defense has been great thus far this season, ranking in the top 20 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
LW: W vs. Arizona State (88-60, The Wooden Legacy), L vs. San Diego State (86-80, Wooden), L vs. George Washington (60-53, Wooden)
NW: @ Long Beach State (12/3), vs. Nebraska (12/8)
WTRH: Creighton started off The Wooden Legacy strong by destroying Arizona State, avenging a loss from last year's Las Vegas Invitational championship game. Doug McDermott was too much for the Sun Devils, scoring 27 points while Devin Brooks also contributed 23 in the win. The rest of the tournament in Orange County was forgettable for the Bluejays. Creighton allowed a 31-9 run against San Diego State on Friday and then fell to George Washington in Sunday in Doug McDermott's first game scoring in single digits since January of last season. The silver lining for the Bluejays is that they still lead the nation in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. This team gets to enjoy an easy December before taking on Marquette on New Year's Eve.
LW: L vs. Wichita State (90-72, CBE Hall of Fame Classic), L vs. Texas (77-59, CBE), W vs. Oregon State (93-81)
NW: vs. Arizona State (12/6)
WTRH: The Blue Demons find themselves out of the conference basement this week despite a poor showing at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. They avoided a truly embarrassing loss of the same caliber as Seton Hall's loss to Fairleigh Dickinson this week, but also left Kansas City without a statement win. DePaul struggled mightily against #12 Wichita State and then had no answer for the size advantage of Texas in their second tournament game. Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young both put up over 20 points in the win against Oregon State and all five DePaul starters scored in the double digits. The Blue Demons only used eight players in the game and all starters played 30+ minutes. Their short bench-approach may work against Oregon State, but will lead to trouble come January.
LW: L vs. Iowa (77-74 OT, Battle 4 Atlantis), L vs. Tennessee (64-49, Atlantis), L vs. USC (84-78, Atlantis)
NW: vs. Bowling Green (12/7)
WTRH: Xavier's trip to the Bahamas was brutal for a team with high hopes this season. The Musketeers held a 15-point advantage in the second half but fell apart down the stretch before losing in overtime. Semaj Christon left the game during the second half due to cramping-a problem he dealt with last season as well. Xavier coach Chris Mack summed up this game, and the tournament, well when he bluntly stated "the wheels fell off." Xavier finished last in the Battle 4 Atlantis and was embarrassed by a Tennessee team they had already defeated this season.
10. Seton Hall
LW: L vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (58-54)
NW: vs. LIU Brooklyn (12/5), @ Rutgers (12/8)
WTRH: The only bright side for Seton Hall's embarrassing loss this week is that Rutgers also fell to the 3-6 Northeastern Conference foe this season. I was on a flight during this game and had no intentions ever of DVRing the matchup, so I'm not a trusted source on what went down Sunday afternoon. However, nothing in the box score jumps out in particular (no Marquette-level shooting percentages, egregious foul differences, etc.), so we're going to chalk this game up to Seton Hall playing down to the level of its competition and losing to a terrible team. Speaking of which, I will also not be watching or DVRing their upcoming tilt with Rutgers because sometimes a man has to have a little bit of dignity.
Spotlight Team: Villanova
What's Going On With Villanova:
It may be too early for this, but Villanova is the pleasant surprise of the 2013-14 Big East season. Sure, expectations were already up there for the Wildcats, but this was a team that barely beat out St. John's for fourth place in Big East preseason voting. Since being slotted to finish in the middle of the pack, Villanova has went 7-0 with two wins over ranked teams. One of those wins was a thriller against #2 Kansas in which Ryan Arcidiacono drained a three-pointer with ten seconds left to put the Wildcats ahead. The shot was Arcidiacono's first make of the game. Villanova was leading by ten late in the game before blowing the lead by not making a single field goal until the aforementioned three. The game had all the makings of a classic "David crumbles down the stretch to lose to Goliath" game before the corner three put the Wildcats ahead for good. The next night, Villanova returned to the bizarrely lit (think dimmer switch but with strange blue lights in the background) gym on Paradise Island to defeat a ranked Iowa team in overtime for the Battle 4 Atlantis title. Villanova ranks sixth in the nation in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and 22nd in Forced Turnover %. Further, the Wildcats are 30th in the country in 2P% while also holding their opponents to the 16th-lowest 2P%. Through the first seven games, Villanova fans have to feel great about their team. This team is successful in nearly every facet of the game and already has a statement win against Kansas.
Why They'll Beat Georgetown:
Against Kansas, Villanova used small ball formations to cause trouble for the Jayhawk's talented guards. The result was that Kansas' three starting guards recorded only 17 points and also turned the ball over eight times. The Kansas guards combined to shoot 6-20 from the floor and made only a single three-point shot. Further, JayVaughn Pinkston recorded seven rebounds in that game, the most of any player. Villanova thwarted Wiggins and crew and also dominated the boards, outrebounding the Jayhawks 43-34. Against the Hoyas, Pinkston will outrebound Lubick and Hopkins while Daniel Ochefu handles Joshua Smith. Ryan Arcidiacono will irritate Markel Starks and the Villanova guards will force DSR into a handful of bad turnovers. The Georgetown offense will struggle to find its rhythm en route to a loss at the Verizon Center on January 27th.
Why They'll Lose to Georgetown:
It's difficult to point to a single position as the reason why Georgetown will beat Villanova this season. Villanova has denied big men all season, and against USC the Wildcats held the Trojan's starting big men to only seven total points. However, the Wildcats are prone to allowing opponents the opportunity to take three-point shots and are slightly below average in defending threes. If the Hoyas can calmly run their offense and avoid turnovers, DSR will have the opportunity to let a few fly from deep. Villanova also takes a large number of threes, with over 30% of their attempts from the field coming from behind the arc. The good news about this tendency is that the Wildcats are ranked 242nd in America in 3P%. This poor performance drags the team's overall FG% to just the 168th best in the country. If Jabril Trawick can shut down Battle 4 Atlantis MVP James Bell and the Hoyas can limit JayVaughn Pinkston's shooting attempts in the paint, Georgetown will stand a good chance to win. Optimistically, we're only working with a 7-game sample size for Villanova at the moment, so more weaknesses will emerge as time goes on. Georgetown wants revenge for last year's upset, and the Hoyas do have recent history with one player putting the team on his back to knock off a ranked Villanova team. My optimistic prediction is that D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera casually scores 30 on a barrage of threes and leads the hometown team to a victory in that game.