(Photo: Kathy Willens/Associated Press)
Welcome to the twelfth and final regular season edition of RoundTable Time’s 2018-19 Big East Power Rankings.
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: 1/13/2019
A Two-Horse Race: 1/21/2019
Trying to Separate 3-10: 1/28/2019
Still Searching for Order: 2/5/2019
More Unexpected Results: 2/11/2019
Reestablishing the Second Tier: 2/19/2019
Don’t Count Anyone Out: 2/25/2019
It’s March and We Still Know Nothing: 3/4/2019
1. Seton Hall:
Previous: 9 (+8)
Since Last Week, 2-0: W, vs. Marquette | W, vs. Villanova
Ranking Explained: Seton Hall’s inconsistencies this season may only be rivaled by that of Big East foe St. John’s. However, unlike the Johnnies, the Hall are on another upward trend after taking down both Marquette and Villanova at home last week. Myles Powell is playing as well as he has at any point this season and he looks like he’s on a mission to take this team to great places. While the Hall do lack go to guys behind him, they make up for it by usually going 10 deep. But it’s not a consistent group of role guys that wins games for Seton Hall, rather it’s a inconsistent group that usually produces a few good performances a game behind Powell. Behind Powell, one of four unanimous All-Big East First Team selections, Seton Hall has nine guys that can be difference makers on any given night. Kevin Willard just bets on any combination of two or three at a time to show up. Despite his own ups and downs this season, Powell is playing like the best player in the conference right now. If the guys behind him play to their collective potential, this team can make a run in March. With not one seizing the Big East throne, the Pirates sit at number one in the rankings by a very slim margin.
Looking Forward: Seton Hall gets the nightcap of the four game Big East Quarterfinal day versus Georgetown (3/14, 9:30). The Pirates beat the Hoyas at home and lost a double-OT game in D.C.
Previous: 4 (+2)
Since Last Week, 2-0: W, vs. Providence | W, vs. DePaul
Ranking Explained: This may be the first time this season that a Big East team went into a week with a very realistic chance to go 2-0 and actually converted. Creighton is entering the Big East Tournament riding a five game winning streak and is one of, if not, the hottest team in the conference. After they started the conference slate 1-4, they bounced back with a 3-1 stretch that was erased by a 0-4 injury riddled stretch where Marcus Zegarowski missed 3 games and Ty-Shon Alexander missed 1. They’ve since righted the ship and head to Madison Square Garden with a real chance to grab their first Big East Tournament championship and an automatic NCAA Tournament bid. If they continue to get production from their young trio of guards, Zegarowski, Alexander and Mitchell Ballock (Ballock tied a Big East record with 11 made 3’s versus DePaul) around Martin Krampelj, this team can be dangerous. Krampelj has quietly averaged 17.8 PPG and 8.0 RPG over his last 12 games. He has found a great groove late in the season after coming back from his third career ACL tear.
Looking Forward: Creighton will draw Xavier (3/14, 2:30) in the Big East Quarterfinal. The Jays split the season series with the X-men, losing by 3 in Cincinnati and winning big in Omaha.
Previous: 3 (EVEN)
Since Last Week, 1-1: L, @ Butler | W, vs. St. John’s
Ranking Explained: Since I pronounced Xavier’s season over three power rankings ago, they’ve gone 6-1 with their lone loss coming at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Butler’s senior night. They were too talented a roster to fade away that early in this conference and they certainly have flipped the script on their season. At this point, much of their fate in the Big East Tournament, and beyond, depends on the health of Naji Marshall. While Xavier beat St. John’s without Marshall, their chances in the Big East are greatly diminished if he can’t go on Thursday. Graduate transfers Ryan Welage and Kyle Castlin combined to shoot 7-12 from 3 in Marshall’s absence. Hopefully for the Musketeers, these two can build off their increased roles from Saturday and contribute again for a Xavier teams that lacks outside shooters, especially versus Creighton, the Big East’s second most efficient offense per possession.
Looking Forward: Xavier gets Creighton (3/14, 2:30) in the Quarterfinals. These two split their season series with both teams winning at home.
Previous: 1 (-3)
Since Last Week, 0-1: L, @ Seton Hall
Ranking Explained: After a 10-0 start to Big East play, Villanova is just 3-5 in their last eight games. Despite this, the Cats still managed to grab their fifth outright Big East regular season championship in six years. However, you would not have expected that given their play of late. The most concerning aspect of Villanova’s recent play has been their lack of depth. Jay Wright had been playing 7-8 guys all season and recently it seems like their lack of depth is weighing on them a bit. There just are not enough guys to rely upon on this team. When Phil Booth and Eric Paschall aren’t totally on, they become vulnerable. It helps that these two are terrific players that were the conference’s only pair of teammates to make All-First Team in the conference (both unanimous), but they’ve been shouldering a heavy load all season and it seems they might be giving out a bit, as we close out the season. While Nova still has guys like Collin Gillespie, Saddiq Bey, Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree who all are productive, none of them have been consistent this season and all four of them rely on the two top guys, especially Booth. This team certainly is not going away, especially being led by the best coach in the conference, but their recent play is concerning.
Looking Forward: Nova will get the winner of Butler and Providence in the Big East Quarterfinals (3/14, 12:00). They swept both the Friars and the Bulldogs in the regular season.
Previous: 5 (EVEN)
Since Last Week, 1-1: L, @ DePaul | W, @ Marquette
Ranking Explained: The Hoyas are young, but boy are they tough. That gutsiness was on full display in Milwaukee as Georgetown took down Marquette on their home floor behind great performances from their freshman backcourt duo, James Akinjo and Mac McClung. Even when these two don’t combine to score 48 points, like they did at Marquette, they bring a level of intensity and toughness that wins in March. Unfortunately, similar to any other freshman laden team, this team is inconsistent. Even senior All-Big East team member Jessie Govan has been up and done of late. Over his late five games, Govan has had two games scoring 21 points or more taking 18 or more shots. In the remaining three, he has scored 10 points or less on 8 or less shots. While this team is still in the NCAA Tournament picture, their youth could be a hindrance, but that does not mean they won’t leave their fingerprints on this postseason.
Looking Forward: Georgetown will play Seton Hall (3/14, 9:30) in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals. These two split the season series with both home teams winning.
Previous: 2 (-4)
Since Last Week, 0-2: L, @ Seton Hall | L, vs. Georgetown
Ranking Explained: The losing streak is now at four games, two of which came at home. Even while fellow Big East heavyweight Villanova has limped to the finish, the Cats have not lost a home game since their back-to-back November losses to Michigan and Furman. Before the Georgetown loss, Marquette had averaged 61.7 PPG and 19.3 TPG over their then 3 game losing streak. In the loss to Georgetown, Marquette flipped the script by scoring 84 points and turning the ball over just 5 times. They even took 16 more shots than the Hoyas and still could not secure a win. It’s even more jarring that a win, on Matt Heldt senior day, would have secured a share of the Big East regular season title and given the Golden Eagles the one seed in the Big East Tournament. This team has a lot to figure out in a short amount of time, but wins in March are as good as at least four in the regular season and in a way there’s still a huge opportunity to make a Big East Tournament run and turn it around before the NCAA Tournament.
Looking Forward: After their four game losing streak, Marquette ends up as the 2-seed in the conference which puts them on the same side of the bracket as Seton Hall, Georgetown and St. John’s. Their collective record against these three teams in the regular season was 2-4. In their first game in the Quarterfinals (3/14, 7:00), they’ll play the winner of the St. John’s-DePaul first round matchup. The Golden Eagles were 2-0 versus DePaul and 0-2 versus St. John’s in the regular season.
Previous: 7 (EVEN)
Since Last Week, 1-1: L, @ Creighton | W, vs. Butler
Ranking Explained: Ed Cooley knows how to get his teams ready for March. This young team looked lost early on, but they closed the regular season with a respectable 4-4 stretch and have some positive momentum heading into the Big East Tournament. Over this stretch, the Friars have been using the consistent play and toughness of Alpha Diallo, and the impressive bruising offensive attack of center Nate Watson to beat teams. However, it was the play of some unlikely contributors that pushed Providence to a blowout senior day win over Butler. Senior Isaiah Jackson scored 20 points in the win and he has now scored 14, 21 and now 20 points over the Friars last 3. Previously, he had been averaging just 7.5 PPG in 15 Big East games. Junior big man Kalif Young has also been a key factor of late. He had a big 7 point and 8 rebound day versus Butler. A.J. Reeves played his best game since returning from his foot injury in the Butler win, scoring 24 points on 9-13 shooting. He had been averaging just 6.3 PPG since returning, after averaging 14.2 PPG before the injury. If these three build off their strong finishes to the regular season and Watson and Diallo continue their outstanding play, Providence becomes another team that can be a factor in the Big East.
Looking Forward: Providence will play Butler (3/13, 7:00) for the third time in four games in their first round matchup. They’re 2-0 versus the Bulldogs on the season. However, it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season, yet alone doing it over such a short time span.
Previous: 8 (EVEN)
Since Last Week, 1-1: W, vs. Georgetown | L, @ Creighton
Ranking Explained: Despite their first season finishing with a record above .500 since 2007, the Blue Demons will enter the Big East Tournament as the 10 seed. However, unlike most bottom seeds, this team is a threat in the Big East. Max Strus, who struggled for most of the Big East season is officially back after that 43 point senior day game and is now averaging over 26 PPG on over 50% shooting and nearly 50% from 3 in DePaul’s last 6 games. Eli Cain, who has taken a back set in DePaul’s offense this season, had his two best scoring games of conference play over their last 2, posting 24 and 19 point games on 15-28 shooting combined. With Paul Reed, the conference’s most improved player, struggling, Cain should continue to be aggressive on offense. With Strus playing well, this team has a legitimate chance to make a run.
Looking Forward: DePaul will play St. John’s (3/13, 9:30) in their first round game. The Blue Demons were 2-0 versus the Red Storm this season and Max Strus dropped 43 points in their last meeting. Femi Olujobi averaged 25 PPG and 9 RPG in the two meeting with the Johnnies.
9. St. John’s:
Previous: 6 (-3)
Since Last Week, 0-1: L, @ Xavier
Ranking Explained: Whenever I discuss the 2018-19 St. John’s Red Storm, I will always refer to the Jon Rothstein preseason tweet that proclaimed that the Johnnies had the most talented roster in the Big East after Mustapha Heron was granted a hardship waiver. It was hard to argue with that statement then, and it’s even a pretty legitimate claim now, even after we’ve seen them coast to a 8-10 conference record and fall to the 7 seed where they’ll have to compete in a Big East play-in game. This team has very talented players, but the team as a whole is much less than the sum of its parts. Whether it was a lack of depth, lack of focus, a few injuries, lack of size, poor coaching, lack of on-court leadership, or anything and everything in between, this team had problems all throughout Big East play. Despite all of this, we have still seen glimpses of what they can be. Even with a soft non-conference schedule, their 12-0 start was impressive and they of course also went 3-1 against Marquette and Villanova (before it was popular to beat up on those two). The question now is which form of the Johnnies will show up for the postseason. Something tells me they’ll rise to the challenge, but at this point, I’ll have to see it to believe it.
Looking Forward: The Johnnies will see DePaul (3/13, 9:30) first in the Big East Tournament first round. St. John’s is 0-2 against the Blue Demons in the regular season.
Previous: 10 (EVEN)
Since Last Week, 1-1: W, vs. Xavier | L, @ Providence
Ranking Explained: If Providence’s late season sweep of Butler and Butler’s 1-4 finish to the season tell us anything, it’s that this team probably is not good enough to make a Big East Tournament run. However, this is still a tough team that typically plays the right way and keeps most games close. When their inconsistent shotmakers are hitting shots around Kamar Baldwin they’re a tough out. At the point, the Bulldogs are fighting a steep uphill battle to play a factor in the Big East Tournament.
Looking Forward: Butler draws Providence (3/13, 7:00) in a Big East first round meeting. These two will meet for a third time in just 3 weeks. The Friars swept the Bulldogs in those previous two meetings. It’ll be a challenge for Providence to go 3-0 against Butler in such a short time span.