Big East Basketball Power Rankings: Another Week, Another New Number One

(Nati Harnik/AP)

Welcome to the fourth edition of RoundTable Time’s 2018-19 Big East Power Rankings. Look out for new rankings every week, typically on Sundays or Mondays.

Previous Power Rankings:

6 Week Roundup: 12/16/2018
Closing out the Non-Conference: 12/24/2018
Week 1 of the Big East: 1/6/2019

1. Villanova: 13-4 (4-0)

Previous: 3 (+2)

Since Last Week, 2-0:

W, vs. St. John’s
W, @ Creighton

When we look back at this season, we’ll identify this week as a pivotal week for the Wildcats.

The week started with a huge showdown with a seemingly surging St. John’s team that was coming off back-to-back Big East wins after their loss at Seton Hall. The Johnnies had just knocked out Marquette by 20 at Carnesecca then followed up with a overtime road win over rival Georgetown. But St. John’s took a step back in this one and Villanova rode Phil Booth, 23 points on 16 shots, and Eric Paschall, 25 points on 14 shots, to another win. Even amid Villanova’s struggles, they have continued to find ways to win behind their top two seniors and the best coach in the conference.

The Creighton road win looks like the season altering win for Villanova. The 90 points they scored were the most they scored since the season opener vs. Morgan State and Nova got contributions from a bunch of different guys. While Jahvon Quinerly continues to struggle defensively, his contributions on offense are huge as his playmaking opens the floor up for the Wildcats and allows Collin Gillespie to slide to the 2, where he excels as a spot up shooter. Quinerly’s offensive game has flowed better with the team with every passing game. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Joe Cremo were both demoted to bench roles as their struggles continued, but Jermaine Samuels and Saddiq Bey started in their place and both gave quality minutes.

Cremo, who averaged nearly 18 PPG at Albany last year, extended his scoreless streak to 3 games and has now just scored 22 points in Nova’s last seven games, 11 of them coming in the blowout win over UConn. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree played just five minutes in each game this week, his season has slowed down after a hot start. Both these guys can, and hopefully for Jay Wright, will do more as the season progresses.

Phil Booth continued his recent success, he’s now scored 22.7 PPG on 53.7% shooting in Nova’s last 6 games, after scoring just 15.8 PPG on 41.8% shooting in their first 11. He’s recognizing his potential and is establishing himself as one of the best guards in a conference loaded with elite guards. His emergence has also allowed Eric Paschall to take a step back as a scorer and focus more on his strengths on the floor.

2. Marquette: 14-3 (3-1)

Previous: 2 (EVEN)

Since Last Week, 2-0:

W, @ Creighton
W, vs. Seton Hall

Marquette’s week was highlighted by a historic scoring performance from junior guard Markus Howard. Howard, maybe the smoothest player in the conference, seemingly never hit the rim on the way to a Big East record 53 points in Omaha on Wednesday. Howard’s efficiency was equally impressive as his point total, he shot 15-26 from the field and knocked down 10 of 14 3’s. His 53 points beat his own scoring record set last season in a 52 point performance at Providence (His 52 point game last year tied Providence’s Marshon Brooks from the 2010-11 season). Howard’s 14 overtime points powered Marquette to the victory after a controversial buzzer beater by Sam Hauser. Replay showed Hauser’s fingertips might have still been in contact with the ball as time expired, but the incredible shot counted and allowed Marquette to capture the come from behind win at Creighton. The win was Marquette’s first road win, previously falling to Indiana and St. John’s on the road, both by 20+ points.

Marquette continued the impressive week by beating Seton Hall at home on Saturday. Despite five turnovers and just a 7-20 shooting night from Howard and a meager two Marquette bench points, the Golden Eagles grinded out a win vs. a tough Seton Hall team. Sacar Anim kept Myles Powell in check as he shot just 3-9 from 3 and turned the ball over 5 times as well. Theo John posted his second double-double of the season and his first since the season opener vs. UMBC. He also kept his stranglehold on the Big East blocks leaderboard with three, upping his season average to 2.0.

Marquette showed their versatility this week, first getting into a shootout vs. one of the nation’s most explosive offenses and then playing a muckier game with Seton Hall. They passed both tests, something the more one dimensional offensive minded Marquette teams of recent memory might not have been able to do.

Seton Hall and St. John’s definitely are not going away and every night in this conference will be a struggle, but at this point Marquette and Villanova look like the top two teams in the conference.

3. Seton Hall: 12-5 (3-2)

Previous: 4 (+1)

Since Last Week, 1-1:

W, vs. Butler
L, @ Marquette

Seton Hall bounced back very nicely after a momentum crushing lost at DePaul broke their seven game win streak. The Hall took control mid way through the first half and while they never pulled away from Butler, they never ceded control of the game either. Importantly, the Pirates played much harder than they did in the loss at DePaul. Particularly Myles Powell’s effort was much better, after an uncharacteristically lazy game at DePaul. Powell recorded his third 30 point game of the season and all ten guys who played in this one scored. The Pirates even got quality minutes from Darnell Brodie who saw action for just the fourth time of the season. Brodie played a career high 19 minutes and grabbed 6 boards to go with 4 points, after logging just 12 minutes in his previous games combined. I’d imagine he’ll continue to get some minutes as Romaro Gill continues to sit with an ankle injury.

Seton Hall ended the week by going to Marquette and playing one of the sloppier games you’ll see. Seton Hall turned the ball over 17 times, with their backcourt of Powell and Quincy McKnight both contributing five turnovers each. While 17 turnovers doesn’t jump the screen, it was the nature of how they turned the ball over that was most upsetting. Many were unforced drops of the ball or simply stepping out of bounds. Despite a second half comeback, something we’ve become accustomed too, Seton Hall did not execute very well at the end of the game, something not expected from this team. Despite the loss, Seton Hall proved themselves capable as a team that can beat Marquette and both Quincy McKnight and Shavar Reynolds defended Markus Howard very well.

While a win at Marquette would have been huge for the Pirates’ resume and a big early step toward winning the conference, it’s certainly not a back-breaker. The week was a plus overall as Seton Hall got back on track after the DePaul loss and took care of business at home.

4. St. John’s: 14-3 (2-3)

Previous: 1 (-3)

Since Last Week, 0-2:

L, @ Villanova
L, vs. DePaul

St. John’s took a huge step back this week and missed out on two huge opportunities.

On Monday they went to Villanova and lost a very winnable game. A win at perennial Big East favorite, Villanova, would have made a huge statement for the Johnnies. However, St. John’s lead themselves to their own downfall in this one and beat themselves by settling for jumpshots and playing at Villanova’s pace. While the Johnnies should have been running up the floor on the break and taking advantage of Villanova’s slower guards in the halfcourt, they became content with walking the ball up the floor, passing it around and hoisting up threes. They played just well enough to keep Villanova at bay for most of the game, until a late Wildcat burst, fueled by Phil Booth’s hot shooting, allowed Nova to take and maintain the lead.

This St. John’s team seems to lack that “take charge” ability needed to win these types of games. Whether it’s coaching, on court leadership, fatigue due to a short bench or a combination of the three, this team has some problems taking control of games. On the other hand, this team just recently took down Marquette by 20 and the Nova loss did at least come on the road. It seems like consistency might be this team’s biggest flaw and it comes from how they play. There’s a lot of talent on this team, but there are too many guys on this team that play out of control. It’s hard to win consistently playing like that. At times, their frenzied style of play combined with their talent will overwhelm opponents, but at other times they’ll lose how they lost on Tuesday. It seems that Jay Wright’s calculated coaching style is the perfect foil to Chris Mullin’s more loose approach and it’s hard to be totally surprised with how this one went down. It also wouldn’t have been surprising had St. John’s athletic, fast break offense and Shamorie Ponds’ shotmaking had taken over and St. John’s walked away with key win. But alas, that team did not show up and St. John’s started the week 0-1.

They followed up the road loss by coming back to Carnesecca and falling to DePaul. This was an opportunity to show this team was more than just Shamorie Ponds and that the bench could contribute for this team. Instead, the Johnnies fell to perennial Big East basement dweller, DePaul, and the bench only spent 28 minutes on the floor.

So after an undefeated non-conference, the Johnnies stand at just 2-3 in the Big East. This week was easily the low point of the season so far, and St. John’s should bounce back However, it’s tough to say anything certain about this inconsistent team.

5. Xavier: 11-7 (3-2)

Previous: 9 (+4)

Since Last Week, 2-0:

W, vs. Georgetown
W, vs. Butler

This is were it starts to get pretty murky in the conference as there does not seem to be much separating the next six teams. Xavier takes the 5 spot in the rankings almost by default after winning both games they played this week.

Xavier got punched in the mouth early vs. Georgetown at the Cintas Center as Georgetown took a nearly 20 point lead vs. the X men in their own building. Late in the first half, Xavier went to a zone defense and totally took control of the game. The addition of Tyrique Jones back into the starting lineup, filling in for the injured Quentin Goodin, also proved effective for Xavier. This time he played in the front court side by side with Zach Hankins. Despite their inability to slow down Georgetown big Jessie Govan, these two played well together and both posted double-doubles, Jones with 19-10 and Hankins with 23-10. Xavier also played with much better energy, something that has been a bit of a problem this year. Their play in this one seemed to match their team’s personalities better than what we’ve seen this year. For a team that has a lot of high energy guys who seem to play with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, effort on the floor should not be a problem, and it certainly was not this week.

In game two of the week, Xavier once again overcame a double digit deficit at home to win. This time they did so on the back of Paul Scruggs, who has started to emerge as a star in his sophomore year. Scruggs scored 23 points and made five 3’s to go along with eight rebounds and six assists to just two turnovers. Kyle Castlin played one of his better games of his Xavier career, scoring a season high 12 points in a season high 35 minutes. It was a three from the struggling Columbia grad transfer that tied the game with under a minute to go, before a Naji Marshall free throw gave X the lead for good. It was Castlin’s first three point make in over a month, and maybe the the beginning of the end to Castlin’s shooting woes.

Xavier still has work to do to get themselves out of the hole they have dug for themselves this year, but this week was a great first step. They still have a lot to prove, especially on the road, but these were two nice wins against a couple mid tier Big East teams and quietly Xavier has improved to 3-2 in the conference.

6. Georgetown: 12-5 (2-2)

Previous: 5 (-1)

Since Last Week, 1-1:

L, @ Xavier
W, vs. Providence

Georgetown was looking like they were going to establish themselves as a solid upper mid tier team in the Big East after winning at Butler, pushing St. John’s to overtime, then jumping out to a huge lead on the road at Xavier. Of course the Big East was going to throw up for a loop, and Xavier of course stormed back to beat Georgetown and restore chaos to the conference, particularly to the bottom half.

Despite the hot start and beautiful basketball Georgetown played early in this one, they found a way to blow their huge lead as they struggled to solve the Xavier zone. Jessie Govan was excellent with 27 points on 11-17 shooting from the field and 3-5 from deep to go along with eight rebounds. He’s quietly averaging 25.5 PPG in four Big East games. Greg Malinowski put up 12 in the loss and he ended his four games starting stretch averaging 15 PPG on 58.3% from the field and 46.4% from 3. He also chipped in 6.5 RPG, 5.5 APG and over a steal per game in the four games he started filling in for the injured Mac McClung.

Georgetown bounced back in the latter part of the week with a crazy double overtime home win vs. struggling Providence. Govan was excellent with a monster 33 point, 14 rebound double-double, but it was the heroics of Georgetown’s freshman backcourt that stole the show. First, with just three seconds left in regulation with Georgetown down three, Mac McClung, in his first game back from his ankle injury, dribbled the length of the floor to bank in a nearly halfcourt buzzer beater to force overtime. Then with just seconds to play in the second overtime, it was James Akinjo’s turn to shine as he hit a deep three after losing his defender off the dribble. After an unsuccessful Providence possession, the game went to double overtime where the Hoyas would finally close out the win. It was another gutsy performance from this promising backcourt.

This team is probably a couple years away from really making some noise in the Big East, but when you combine their young talent with Govan you get a pretty solid, tough team.

7. Creighton: 10-7 (1-3)

Previous: 6 (-1)

Since Last Week, 0-2:

L, vs. Marquette
L, vs. Villanova

It was a tough week for Creighton who first drew Marquette and a red hot Markus Howard before welcoming a Villanova team that appears to finally be turning the corner after a slow start.

Creighton can score with anyone in the country and they showed that putting up 103 points on Marquette, connecting on 17 of 33 three point shots, or 51.5%. They truly are one of the nation’s best offenses, currently sitting seventh in kenpom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. And while their defense usually lags behind most, they actually defended Markus Howard pretty well, despite his Big East record 53 points. The Blue Jays have a pretty legitimate gripe with how the Marquette game ended, as it seemed the Sam Hauser buzzer beater probably should not have counted. However, it’s hard to feel too sorry for them considering how they failed to close out the game. Creighton should not have even given the Golden Eagles the opportunity to tie the game, but an errant inbound pass gave Marquette the ball under Creighton’s own basket before the Hauser buzzer beater.

They finished up the week with another home loss, this time to Villanova. They led by four at the half but struggled in the second on both sides of the floor. They surrendered 52 second half points to Nova and had some difficulties scoring, putting up just 36 points.

Their inexperience has shown recently with just a 1-3 start to conference play. It’s hard to get too upset after losing to the two best teams in the conference, but neither of these games were out of reach, both were at home and Creighton gave up a whopping 196 points combined. The still have tournament potential, but they need to clean up their kenpom 175th ranked defense to get there.

8. DePaul: 10-5 (2-2)

Previous: 8 (EVEN)

Since Last Week, 1-0:

W, @ St. John’s

DePaul followed up their home win vs. Seton Hall with a road win at St. John’s. It’s DePaul’s first back to back conference wins since the 2014-15 season, maybe the weakest year for the new conference. Coincidentally, in 2015 DePaul beat unranked St. John’s at home before winning on the road vs. number 24 Seton Hall. It was almost fate that they would take down, this time, number 24 ranked St. John’s even if they needed a Shamorie Ponds injury to make it happen.

Femi Olujobi feasted inside against the St. John’s small ball lineup, putting up 27 points on 11-19 shooting to go with eight rebounds. Both were season highs for the graduate transfer. Olujobi’s frontcourt mate Paul Reed put up a career high 18 points. Reed had just come off a career high 17 points to open up conference play a few games ago in the loss to Xavier. He should push his career high north of 20 points before his sophomore season ends.

After four conference games, DePaul sits at 2-2 and has two wins over top tier Big East teams. If you don’t come ready to play, this team will make you pay.

9. Butler: 10-7 (1-3)

Previous: 7 (-2)

Since Last Week, 0-2:

L, @ Seton Hall
L, @ Xavier

Butler’s season is starting to move into the danger zone now after dropping four of their last five games, including a 1-3 start to Big East play.

Joey Brunk has been a bright spot for the Bulldogs recently and he put up career highs in both scoring and rebounding with a 20 point-10 rebound double-double in the loss to Seton Hall. Butler was within striking distance across the entirety of the game but never really made a run at the lead and never seemed like a real threat to Seton Hall.

Butler, like Georgetown, took a pretty nice lead over Xavier before watching it slip away. Jordan Tucker played maybe his best game as a Bulldog posting 12 points in a season high 25 minutes. Unlocking his potential could be a huge key to this season for Butler. However, at this point this team is relying too much on Kamar Baldwin for offense, which is not exactly his strong suit. After losing Kelan Martin to graduation, someone was going have to pick up the slack on offense and early on it seemed like Paul Jorgensen and Sean McDermott would fill Martin’s big scoring shoes. However, both have struggled to score recently after strong starts to the season and Jorgensen has even been demoted to the bench in Butler’s last three games. In Butler’s first nine games, Jorgensen averaged 17.2 PPG on 44% shooting, conversely in the last eight games he’s scoring just 8.4 PPG on 37.5% shooting. Sean McDermott has had a similar drop in scoring production, first averaging 12.9 PPG on 46.7% shooting in his first 10, and now averaging just 6.4 PPG on just 42.1% from the field in Butler’s last seven games.

Butler just dropped two road games in a highly competitive conference, which does not seem like too big a deal, but I’m getting a little nervous for Butler at this point.

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

Previous: 10 (EVEN)

Since Last Week, 0-1:

L, @ Georgetown

Providence has now dropped three straight Big East games and most recently lost a wild one in DC against Georgetown. Alpha Diallo had a nice game and hit some big late shots. Nate Watson had one of his better Providence games putting up 21 points on 9-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds. But when you’re playing without one of your best players and scorers, there is not much room for error in order to win, especially in the biggest spots. First, the Mac McClung buzzer beater was an unlucky break for Providence that they could not afford. Then, at the end of overtime a defensive breakdown lead to a wide open three for James Akinjo that pushed the game to double overtime. When you’re playing short handed you’re just trying to survive, the longer your opponent sticks around, the more likely you are to lose and Georgetown prolonged the game just long enough to outlast Providence.

Providence did not get much from their starting backcourt in this one as David Duke and Maliek White were essentially non-factors, fortunately Drew Edwards stepped up with a season high 19 points after scoring just six points previously on the season. Jimmy Nichols has a ton of potential, but probably is not contributing enough either as a starter.

This team has some talent, but they might not have enough fire power to survive the Reeves injury and make a run this year.

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