Big East Basketball Power Rankings: A Two-Horse Race

Welcome to the fifth 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
Another Week, Another New Number One: 1/14/2019

1. Villanova

14-4 (5-0)
Previous: 1 (EVEN)

Since Last Week, 1-0: W, vs. Xavier

Week Recap: This week, Villanova improved to 11-1 vs. Xavier since the Musketeers joined the Big East five years ago. They did it in typical Villanova fashion as well, smothering the X-men with the 3-ball, connecting on 15 of 34 from behind the arc. Collin Gillespie was responsible for six of those threes and 10 of Nova’s attempts. Phil Booth’s newfound assertiveness and willingness to handle the ball has opened up the floor for Collin who has now hit 10-17 3’s in Nova’s last two games after hitting just 3-20 in Villanova’s previous four games. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree also broke out a mini slump with 11 points and six rebounds in 14 minutes after logging just one rebound and failing to score in just 10 minutes over Nova’s previous two games. Jermaine Samuels continued to play well as the Wildcats de facto starting center.

Ranking Explained: Villanova is 5-0 in the conference and is playing like the best team in the Big East. Phil Booth has put his name in the Big East Player of the Year award discussion and the role players have continued to improve.

Looking Forward: Villanova plays Butler next (1/22, 7:00) at Hinkle Fieldhouse, where they suffered one of their four conference losses last season. The Bulldogs have won two in a row behind the recently reinstated transfer, Jordan Tucker.

2. Marquette:

16-3 (5-1)
Previous: 2 (EVEN)

Since Last Week, 2-0: W, @ Georgetown | W, vs. Providence

Week Recap: Marquette grinded out a couple nice wins this week. They pulled out a win early in the week at Georgetown after losing Markus Howard to a back injury just three minutes into the game. They then came back from behind on Sunday vs. Providence. Sam Hauser posted a career high 31 points in the win at Georgetown and the Golden Eagles proved they’re more than just Markus Howard. They got contributions from a number of different players, and freshman Brendan Bailey posted nine points and four blocks off the bench. Marquette showed a lot of toughness in this one, winning on the road and winning without their best player. In Howard’s return on Sunday, Marquette fell behind by eight at the half, but outscored Providence 54-35 in the second half to complete the comeback victory. Sam Hauser once again led the way, scoring 25 points.

Ranking Explained: Marquette is looking like the only team that can compete with Nova at the top of the Big East and the Howard-Hauser-Hauser trio continues to establish themselves as the best triumvirate in the conference.

Looking Forward: Marquette draws DePaul (1/23, 8:30), winners of three of their last four, at home next, before heading out to the road to play Xavier and Butler.

3. Butler:

12-7 (3-3)
Previous: 9 (+6)

Since Last Week, 2-0:W, @ DePaul | W, vs. St. John’s

Week Recap: The story for the Bulldogs this week was Jordan Tucker. Tucker, who has just been eligible for 10 games this year, is really starting to settle in for Butler. He’s looking very comfortable in the offense and has posted back-to-back career highs, first posting 19 points on 7-14 shooting at DePaul, before scoring 24 points on 8-17 shooting vs. St. John’s. He’s been the scorer the Bulldogs have been lacking this year after Kelan Martin’s graduation. After losing four of five, Butler has turned their season around this past week. They first took out DePaul on the road behind a second half surge that saw them outscore the Blue Demons 51-29 in the final 20 minutes. Sean McDermott posted his first double digit scoring effort, 17 points on 6-10, since the Indiana game back in mid-December. Butler came back to Hinkle where they pulled away early vs. St. John’s and withstood a second half run to close out the week 2-0. Kamar Baldwin went for 30 points and he teamed up with Tucker to score 54 of Butler’s 80 points vs. the Johnnies.

Ranking Explained: Of the teams in the conference not named Villanova or Marquette, Butler is playing the best basketball and Jordan Tucker is beginning to emerge as an elite scorer next to Kamar Baldwin.

Looking Forward: Butler is home at Hinkle to take on Villanova next (1/22, 7:00), a match-up they won last year. This would obviously be a statement win for Butler and would help re-establish themselves as a top tier Big East team, or at least separate them a bit from the rest of the conference. After that, they go to Omaha to try to complete a regular season sweep of Creighton (1/25, 8:30).

4. St. John’s:

15-4 (3-4)
Previous: 4 (EVEN)

Since Last Week, 1-1: W, vs. Creighton | L, @ Butler

Week Recap: Shamorie Ponds came back for the home meeting vs. Creighton and St. John’s won convincingly. Then in typical St. John’s fashion, the Red Storm went to Butler, fell behind by 20 early, then stormed back before Butler finally held them off. This team has been extremely unpredictable to this point of the season and they seem to be underachieving since their 20 point defeat of Marquette at Carnesecca. Despite the disappointing showing vs. Butler, there were some positive takeaways from the win vs. Creighton. They did a great job slowing down the Blue Jay offense, holding them to just 66 points, their second lowest point total of the year. They also spread out the offensive attack and the starters combined for 79 points, with no one player scoring more than 22 points. However, despite the blowout, the Johnnies got just two points off the bench, a continuing theme throughout the season.

Ranking Explained: St. John’s holds even at number four in the rankings, but have taken a clear step back from Marquette and Villanova in the last two weeks. They still have the potential to break into the Big East’s top tier, but they still have work to do.

Looking Forward: The Red Storm take on Georgetown (1/27, 12:00) at the Garden next, the follow up to their overtime thriller in D.C. from earlier in the year.

5. DePaul:

11-6 (3-3)
Previous: 8 (+3)

Since Last Week, 1-1: L, vs. Butler | W, @ Seton Hall

Week Recap: DePaul followed up their two game winning streak with a 1-1 week, which featured a road win vs. Seton Hall. DePaul’s frontline of Femi Olujobi and Paul Reed have been the difference recently for the Blue Demons. Reed has set new scoring career highs in six of DePaul last nine games and has posted great scoring and rebounding numbers in DePaul’s last three games, 18-10 at St. Johns, 20-12 vs. Butler and 21-14 at Seton Hall. He has certainly made himself a candidate for the Big East’s Most Improved Player award in his sophomore campaign. His frontcourt mate, grad transfer Femi Olujobi, has scored 20+ in each of DePaul’s last three games with 27, 23 and 22 point outings. While DePaul feasted inside vs. a thin Butler front court, they could not handle their overwhelming second half offensive attack and lost that one at Hinkle. However, the inside attack was plenty vs. Seton Hall. The Blue Demons out-rebounded the Hall 42-19 and scored 25 points on 16 offensive rebounds. Transfer guard Lyrik Shreiner played his best game as a Blue Demon, putting up season highs nine points and three assists vs. the Pirates.

Ranking Explained: DePaul picked up some eye catching wins in these last couple weeks, but they definitely benefited from playing St. John’s without Shamorie Ponds and beating a clearly slumping Seton Hall team twice. Nevertheless, they have won three of four and are trending upward. This is the best DePaul team since the 2006-07 season.

Looking Forward: The Blue Demons have a great test next week with two road games. First they travel to Marquette (1/23, 8:30) to play the Golden Eagles, currently on a five game winning streak, before going to Providence (1/27, 12:00).

6. Seton Hall:

12-7 (3-4)
Previous: 3 (-3)

Since Last Week, 0-2: L, @ Providence | L, vs. DePaul

Week Recap: Seton Hall is now 1-4 in their last five after winning seven straight games. They look nothing like the team that beat Kentucky at a neutral site or won in College Park vs. Maryland. While they were most likely overachieving early on, they are clearing underachieving now. Myles Powell has slowed down a bit in these last five and it seems the excessive attention he has been getting from opposing defenses has, at least somewhat, wore him down. The Providence loss on Tuesday featured a lot of similar mistakes from the Marquette loss from two weeks ago. The Hall were sloppy and turned the ball over 22 times vs. the Friars. It’s hard to win games when you squander so many possessions. Back at the Rock vs. DePaul, Quincy McKnight posted 25 points and nine assists, both season highs, but Seton Hall surrendered 97 points in the loss. DePaul took full advantage of the Pirates inside, out-rebounding them 42-19. For Seton Hall’s 19 total rebounds, DePaul posted 16 offensive rebounds.

Ranking Explained: Seton Hall is trending downward at this point, but it’s hard to see this team playing this poorly over the rest of the season, especially after seeing what they accomplished earlier in the year. The past couple weeks looked like a regression to the mean for a team that was picked to finished eighth in the conference, but was playing like one of the best teams in the conference. They should still finish in the top half of the conference, but it’s hard to promise anything in the Big East this year.

Looking Forward: Seton Hall gets some time to get themselves right with nearly a full week off before going to Villanova (1/27, 2:30) on Sunday to take on the first place, and 5-0, Wildcats.

7. Xavier:

11-8 (3-3)
Previous: 5 (-2)

Since Last Week, 0-1: L, @ Villanova

Week Recap: Xavier fell to Villanova in the lone game they played this week and have now dropped 11 of 12 games they have played vs. Villanova in the new Big East. Zach Hankins came on strong for the Musketeers with 12 early points before sitting for much of the rest of the game. He played just 14 minutes in this one. However, his frontcourt partner Tyrique Jones continued his strong play of late with a season high 21 points and 12 rebounds. Unfortunately, Travis Steele did not get much from his perimeter players and Xavier was never truly in this game and hovered around 10 points down for most of the game.

Ranking Explained: Xavier could not build off their two close home wins from last week and fell at Villanova. With Butler and DePaul playing well recently, Xavier falls a couple spots this week. This team is still hard to read, they have already played both Villanova and Marquette on the road and have not played many games, particularly road games, vs. their fellow lower tiers Big East teams.

Looking Forward: They play two home games this week, first drawing Providence (1/23, 6:30), then Marquette (1/26, 2:00).

8. Georgetown:

12-6 (2-3)
Previous: 6 (-2)

Since Last Week, 0-1: L, vs. Marquette

Week Recap: Georgetown dropped their only game from last week at home to the Markus Howard-less Marquette Golden Eagles. Despite the loss, Mac McClung continued to establish himself as a great scorer in this league, as just a freshman. He’s now scored in double figures in each of his last eight games and has posted 38, 16, and 24 points in Georgetown’s last three. James Akinjo just shot 1-10 from the field, but still contributed eight points, seven rebounds and eight assists in the loss. Freshman Josh LeBlanc converted his first three of the season on his second attempt. An outside game could really help complement his athletic inside game.

Ranking Explained: Georgetown lost a winnable game at home after Markus Howard injured his back and has now lost three of four after the win on the road at Butler.

Looking Forward: The Hoyas will be at home to play Creighton (1/21, 8:30), before going to MSG to take on St. John’s. This could be a telling week for Georgetown, or rather, the Big East might continue to confuse.

9. Providence:

11-7 (1-4)
Previous: 10 (+1)

Since Last Week, 1-1: W, vs. Seton Hall | L, @ Marquette

Week Recap: Providence picked up their first win of the year on Tuesday by beating Seton Hall at The Dunk. David Duke posted his highest scoring game since November, with 18 points in what was also his first big game during A.J. Reeves’ eight games absence. Providence took control of the Seton Hall game behind a 42 point second half, their highest scoring half of Big East play. The Friars followed up their first conference win with a 11 point loss at the Fiserv Forum against Marquette. They led by eight at the break, but gave up 54 points to Marquette’s explosive offense in the second half and fell to the Golden Eagles. Nate Watson led the way for Providence, scoring 21 points. Watson has now scored 21 points in two of the Friars’ last three games. With Reeves still sitting with the foot injury, it’s crucial that Watson continues to be a reliable scorer.

Ranking Explained: Providence’s first win gets them out of last place in the rankings.

Looking Forward: Providence first goes to Xavier (1/23, 6:30), before taking on DePaul at home (1/27, 12:00). If this team is serious about making a run, these are must win games and very winnable games as well.

10. Creighton:

10-8 (1-4)
Previous: 7 (-3)

Since Last Week, 0-1: L, @ St. John’s

Week Recap: Creighton hasn’t exactly done anything wrong this season and their struggles seem to be a result of the parity of the league. They kicked off the conference with a nice road win at Providence, then lost on the road at Butler. Splitting a two game road stretch is certainly not a bad start to conference play. They then fell victim to Markus Howard’s 53 point game and Sam Hauser’s crazy overtime forcing buzzer beater, before falling to a surging Villanova team in Omaha. They went back on the road and lost to St. John’s last week. When you look at each game individually, the outcomes are not exactly surprising, but all together, in the course of a season, they needed to find a way to win at least one of those last four games. In this league, where there are no safe wins, Creighton needs to do a better job showing up on the road. Since the Providence road win, they are now 0-2 on the road, falling to Butler and St. John’s each by 15 points. Ty-Shon Alexander has struggled on the road, his FG% drops from 46.2% at home to 30.5% on the road and his 3P% falls from 42.7% at home to just 25% at home.

Ranking Explained: Four losses in a row has Creighton at the bottom of our power rankings.

Looking Forward: Creighton’s next four are looking like make or break games. They first go to DC to play at Georgetown (1/21, 8:30), then they play three straight home games vs. Butler (1/25, 8:30), St. John’s and Xavier. They could easily turn their four game losing streak into a four game winning streak, but there are no guarantees in this league.

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