Big East Basketball Power Rankings: Closing out the Non-Conference

(Lila Bromberg/Testudo Times)

Welcome to the second edition of RoundTable Time’s 2018-19 Big East East Power Rankings. Look out for new rankings out every week, typically on Sundays or Mondays. Non-conference resume reviews for all ten teams will be coming on the YouTube channel (link on bottom of page) toward the end of the week!

Previous Power Rankings:

6 Week Roundup: 12/16/2018

1. Marquette: 10-2 (0-0)

Last Week: 1, Since Last Week, 2-0:

W, vs. North Dakota
W, vs. Buffalo

Markus Howard is one of the rare players you’ll find in the nation that can single-handedly win games. But with this team, when he goes off they can blow out really good teams. They showed that last week with a 103-85 thrashing of Buffalo at the Fiserv Forum. With all their pieces around Howard, they should be downright unstoppable when he decides to have a huge game. In last year’s 52 point performance from Howard at the Dunk in Providence, it took overtime for the Golden Eagles to prevail over the Friars. This year, games like that won’t happen. With Marquette’s many offensive options and ability to get stops on the defensive end, a 52 point performance from Howard should be more than enough for a regulation win, even against tough opponents.

Theo John has been a big part of this team’s improvements on the defensive end, as he’s made a noticeable jump in his sophomore year. His improvements were on full display in the Buffalo win, as he posted a career high seven blocks to go with nine rebounds. John has upped his blocks per game average from just 0.8 last season to 2.3 this year, and in fact, he has already surpassed last season’s blocks total this year. A strong big guy on this inside who can block shots and rebound is exactly who you want on a team to go along with perimeter threats Markus Howard and Sam Hauser.

Despite the balance in the conference, I think Marquette is the clear best team in the conference at this point and is looking like Big East favorites. However, there is still a long way to go, and how Coach Wojo handles this team’s success will be important. Of course, as a longtime assistant and 2-time national champion as an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Wojohowski’s no stranger to winning, but it’s certainly different being the head guy. At Marquette, Wojo has career highs of 21 wins and 10 conference wins (coming in different seasons). The expectation is that this team should pass both these marks fairly easily, but doing so for the first time is always a little harder than it looks.

Marquette holds as the number 1 team from last week.


2. Seton Hall: 9-3 (0-0)

Last Week: 4, Since Last Week, 2-0:

W, vs. Sacred Heart
W, @ Maryland

It’s the Pirates of Seton Hall who make the biggest leap in our rankings from last week, jumping from the fourth spot to the second. They do so behind a 78-74 win over Maryland in College Park last week. Seton Hall teamed up with Providence this week to grab the two best true road wins in the conference this year, as Providence tackled University of Texas in Austin.

After struggling to start the year, Myles Cale is really coming on. He can score, rebound and defend for this Seton Hall team and is looking like a great Robin to Myles Powell’s Batman. Coach Kevin Willard gave Romaro Gill a start vs Maryland’s big front line and he played well and looked like a potential contributor for this season. Despite lacking a consistent standout big inside, there are not many teams that have as solid four man big rotation as the Hall with Gill, Mamu, Nzei and Thompson. Powell has continued his great start to the season over these last couple weeks, but it’s been the play of the guys around him that have propelled this Hall team into national relevance.

With a couple real nice signature wins so far, this team has proven it is for real. Next week’s home games vs. St. John’s should tell us a lot about how these next few teams stack up after Marquette. It’s getting hard to ignore what Seton Hall has done out of conference, especially in these last few weeks, and they’ve been playing like the second best team in the Big East at this point.


3. St. John’s: 12-0 (0-0)

Last Week: 2, Since Last Week, 3-0:

W, vs. Wagner
W, vs. St. Francis
W, vs. Sacred Heart

Three more wins at Carnesecca last week has pushed the Johnnies to 12-0. It was yet another week of weak competition, but also another week of winning. Good teams beat the teams they are supposed to beat and that’s what St. John’s has done this year.

Shamorie Ponds has been much more efficient this year compared to last, as noted last week, but this year he is also more than just a scorer. He is averaging 6.0 assists per game, up from 4.7 last season, and just 1.6 turnovers per game, down from 2.7 last season. More importantly, he is running the offense like a point guard and consistently creating for others while also scoring at a high rate.

Despite the lack of a healthy center on the roster, the Johnnies have not struggled inside due to size, length and athleticism at every position. Marvin Clark has taken over at center and has done a very nice job playing big.

St. John’s is clearly a very good team, but their weak non-conference slate leaves them with a lot to prove in the Big East. Going to Seton Hall on the 29th will by far be their biggest test of the year and would be their best win of the year as well.

They drop from three to two in this week’s rankings more because of what Seton Hall has done rather than any of their own shortcomings.


4. Villanova: 9-4 (0-0)

Last Week: 3, Since Last Week, 1-0:

W, UConn

Just one game for Villanova last week as they pick up a win against a former Big East foe in UConn at Madison Square Garden. In many ways this game was another step in the right direction for this Villanova squad. But if this was a Big East tryout for the Huskies, they failed pretty miserably. It’s obviously still very early for Danny Hurley in Connecticut, but this team showed it still has a long way to go before they’re competitive again (for the record, I’d bet on Hurley and I’m still hoping for a return to the Big East for UConn).

But focusing back on Villanova, this was a great game for the Wildcats, especially in the second half. Unfortunately, Villanova’s senior duo of Eric Paschall and Phil Booth managed to turn the ball over eight times in the first half alone while playing without injured starting guard Collin Gillespie. However, they turned it around in a much better second half overall with just one turnover between the two of them.

Jahvon Quinerly was the first guy off the bench, and along with Joe Cremo, took Gillespie’s usual minutes. JQ played what what easily his best game as a Wildcat. He took care of the ball well, with just one turnover, and blended in fairly well on both sides of the floor. Much like this team, his game was far from perfect, or what he is capable of doing down the line, but this week was another step forward for both Quinerly and the team as a whole. At his best, Quinerly should be just what this team so desperately lacks, an explosive ball-handler and playmaker. He showed subtle flashes of his potential, but still has a long way to go.

Much like St. John’s, Villanova’s drop in the rankings is due to what Seton hall did last week rather than a warning sign for Villanova. This team has gotten better with every passing game and are looking like at least a top four team in the conference with top 15 national potential.


5. Butler: 9-3 (0-0)

Last Week: 5, Since Last Week, 2-0:

W, vs. Presbyterian
W, vs. UC Irvine

The Bulldogs racked up a couple pretty inconsequential home wins last week knocking off Presbyterian and UC Irvine.

However, this week was big for Butler as it gave Jordan Tucker some warm up games before Big East play. Tucker scored 10 points in just 12 minutes vs. Presbyterian before scoring 14 points in 14 minutes in the win over UC Irvine after getting just eight minutes in his Butler debut vs. Indiana.

Aaron Thompson had a good week as well scoring a career high 18 points vs Presbyterian. Thompson has star potential as an elite defender and playmaker but also showed some offensive ability in this one. On the season the 6’2″ Thompson is shooting 64.2% from the field, taking just 4.4 shots a game. He was on the bench for just nine minutes in the last two games this week.

Butler has a pretty important game in Gainesville vs Florida coming up on the 29th. Butler already beat the Gators in the Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas, a true road win would be huge for the Bulldogs.

They did what they needed to do this week by beating two inferior teams and hold at five in this weeks power rankings.


6. Providence: 10-3 (0-0)

Last Week: 7, Since Last Week, 3-0:

W, vs. Central Connecticut State
W, vs. Albany
W, @ Texas

Last week Providence won a potential season transforming game at Texas after a pretty uninspiring start to the season. What made their victory over the Longhorns even more impressive was that it came without injured freshman standout A.J. Reeves. The win gives the Friars two road wins out of conference, with Texas joining Boston College on Providence’s list of road wins. That’s not a bad start to a December tournament resume.

Alpha Diallo has been every bit good as advertised this year upping his scoring to 17.4 points per game while introducing a 3-point shot to his game. He has nearly doubled his 3-point percentage from last season improving from 21.4% to 42.0% this year. He has scored 20 in each of the last two times out and has been in double figures in all but one game so far this season. Sophomore Nate Watson has addressed a flaw in his game by becoming more aggressive on the boards this year especially on the offensive glass where he is averaging 2.3 a game. He had a clutch putback late in the Texas game to essentially ice the game for the Friars. Overall, he has increased his rebound average from 1.9 per game last season to 5.4 this season.

Providence is starting to gel and they’re looking like a sleeping giant right now in the conference. The Wichita State and UMass losses are looking pretty far in the rear-view mirror at this point, and this team, like all five ranked above, has enough talent to win the conference. The win at Texas really showed what this team is capable of.

The Texas win coupled with a Creighton loss at Oklahoma pushes the Friars into the top six this week.


7. Creighton: 8-4 (0-0)

Since Last Week, 2-0 (1-0 vs. D-I):

L, @ Oklahoma
W, vs. Coe

Coming off a blowout loss to Nebraska in their previous road game, the Oklahoma game was looking like a big one early on for the Blue Jays. Unfortunately, Creighton did fall in Norman in what was a winnable game vs. a good Oklahoma team. Creighton’s dynamic sophomore duo of Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock struggled in this one combining for just nine points on 3-21 shooting, 3-15 from 3, and a 3-4 assist to turnover ration to go with 7 fouls. Ballock especially struggled, failing to score for just the fourth time in his young career. In those other three scoreless outing, he hoisted up two shots or less.

These are the types of bumps that teams will take when they’re lead by young talent, especially playing behind two guys that are playing in much larger roles compared to last season.

Creighton followed up the Oklahoma loss with a convincing win vs. Division III Coe College. Alexander and Ballock played much better games and the game gave freshman bench guys Marcus Zegarowski and Sam Froling a chance to star. Creighton will have one more tune up game vs. UMKC before opening Big East play.

While the Oklahoma loss was disappointing, Creighton at least kept the game close, despite not getting much from Ballock and Alexander. The Blue Jays also struggled mightily to shoot from 3 in an out of character performance.

Creighton drops to seven in this week’s rankings.


8. DePaul: 8-3 (0-0)

Last Week: 8, Since Last Week, 1-1:

W, vs. Incarnate World
L, vs. Boston College

Due to the Blue Demon’s pretty awful non-conference wins, outside of Penn State, their home game vs Boston College game seemed like a must win. After leading the entire game, DePaul let the lead slip away in the last minute and dropped the game to the Eagles.

While a home win vs Boston College is not exactly a great win, it would have at least given DePaul a third win vs a Kenpom top 200 team. The second best win at this point is a home win vs Kenpom ranked 198th Illinois Chicago.

DePaul will open conference play on the 29th vs Xavier with really just one significant win. Despite all that, there still a lot to like about this team. There is talent on this roster and the pieces on this team complement each other fairly nicely without any obvious flaws on the team. Despite some reasons for optimism, this team and program is still a ways away from being a legit contender.

DePaul holds at eight from last week’s rankings. While they have enough talent to compete with the top seven in the conference, the lack of quality wins is creating a pretty large gap between seven and eight in the conference.


9. Georgetown: 9-3 (0-0)

Last Week: 10, Since Last Week, 2-0:

W, vs. Appalachian State
W, vs. Arkansas Little Rock

Maybe it took overtime for Georgetown to beat the worst team in Arkansas, or maybe we just saw another breakout game from the future of the Hoyas backcourt. Mac McClung scored 38 and James Akinjo scored 25 in Georgetown’s 102-94 overtime win vs Little Rock. Fellow freshman Josh LeBlanc also posted his second career double-double in the win over Appalachian State before recording his first career start vs. Little Rock.

It’s clear the focus is on the future for this team and the future is bright in D.C. However, there’s also enough here that they’ll win some Big East games this year as well.

The Hoyas move up a slot from last week and escape the Big East basement this week.


10. Xavier: 8-5 (0-0)

Last Week: 9, Since Last Week, 1-1:

L, @ Missouri
W, vs. Detroit

Once again X got flattened on the road, this time falling to a pretty mediocre Missouri team, 71-56. In their two road games, losses to Cincinnati and Missouri, Xavier is averaging just 51.5 points per game. Even after losing seniors Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura and Kerem Kanter, as well as head coach Chris Mack it’s getting hard to continue to make excuses for this team 13 games into the season.

On the bright side, Quentin Goodin set two career highs this week. He scored 21 points in the loss to Missouri, then followed it up with a 22 point performance in the win vs Detroit. X also racked up 20 assists on 22 made field goals in the Detroit game.

It might not happen this year for the
Musketeers, but the talent is there along with an impressive incoming recruiting class for next year that this year’s struggles should not last too long.

I still don’t want to totally write this team off and it’s way too early to already be talking about next season, but at this point they’ve been the clear worst team in the conference.


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