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The Big East at the Halfway Point: Part One

We're essentially halfway through the Big East season and, for a lot of teams, things haven't gone exactly to plan. Here's the first four of our team capsules at the midway point.

The Bulldogs have spent a lot of time looking sad this year.
The Bulldogs have spent a lot of time looking sad this year.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Many of the teams in the conference haven't actually played half of their allotted games, so this isn't really a true halfway point. More pertinently, Xavier has a big lull in their schedule right now before playing one weekday game and one weekend game every week from here until the Big East tournament, so I'm going to take advantage of this time to sort through the pile and bring everyone up to speed before things take off.

First on the list are the bottom four teams in the Big East. It should be noted that the very worst of these teams in the KenPom ratings (DePaul at 138) is better than the bottom four in the American Athletic Conference and the bottom three in the Atlantic 10. The Big East is currently the third best conference in the nation, trailing only the Big 10 and the Big 12.

Joel will continue our look around the conference tonight, when he breaks down the top six teams.

The dreck:

One of these teams was supposed to be here, one was not. Neither of them is going to make the NCAAs this year, no matter how well things go. A couple of chances to ruin other team's seasons and some time to ruminate on where it all went wrong is all that is left.

Butler (1-7):

Current status: Almost laughably bad. Butler beat Marquette in overtime, but hasn't won anything else in the conference. Right now the offense is 166th in the nation in efficiency and not showing signs of improving any time soon. Kellen Dunham leads the team in scoring but doesn't even shoot 40% from the floor, the Bulldogs are next to last in in the conference in rebounding on both ends of the floor, and they play the second worst defense to cap it off.

How that could change: Next season could start? The Bulldogs are just really bad right now, and they are getting worse. Offensively, they could improve a bit with games against three of the four worst teams in the conference defensively still remaining on the schedule (Xavier, Seton Hall, DePaul). Even so, this is a bad team.

DePaul (2-6):

Current status: The Blue Demons probably didn't expect to be anywhere but dead last in the conference, but they aren't and they've played some decent basketball. DePaul is seventh in conference play in offensive efficiency and has parlayed that into decent output against good defensive teams. That doesn't win games though, and the Blue Demons don't score well enough to overcome some serious defensive issues.

How that could change: DePaul's defensive issues are myriad and devastating. On the plus side, they've forced turnovers nearly 20% of the time their conference opponents have the ball. The rest of the time, though, the Blue Demons get gashed to the tune of 52% from inside the arc and 35% from deep. A bit less feast or famine and DePaul could turn some of those 8-10 point losses into wins. My goodness though, they're currently a shooter's dream.

The should be better:

In the conference primer I ranked both of these teams much higher than their current records suggest they should have been. Big East holdovers, both of these squads took a beating from Xavier. It's going to take a minor miracle for either of them to go to the Big Dance now.

St. John's (2-5):

Current status: It's hard to say that a team is a harsh 2-5, but the Red Storm have run afoul of a bit of hard luck. Since conference play started they have the fourth best defense and the sixth best offense. Both of those, though, add up to leave them seventh in a ten team conference. Their effort against Villanova would've won the Xavier or Georgetown games that they lost, but they also inexplicably lost to DePaul.

How that could change: Teams that play defense like St. John's does have a chance to be in every game. If the defense goes back to pre conference form (97.5 efficiency, compared to 105.5 now) and the offense makes a shot every once in awhile, they could win some games. Right now, though, they shoot 47.5% inside the arc (217th), and 34.1% from deep (174th). They further compound that issue by shooting in 16.7 seconds on average. A team that shoots poorly and quickly could get better simply by waiting for better looks. Any Red Storm fan will be glad to tell you that would make a big difference for their team.

Georgetown (3-6):

Current status: Since conference play started, no Big East team has been as bad on offense as the Hoyas. Last year, offensive inefficiencies were corrected by the second most efficient defense in the nation. This year, the defense is 63rd. That's not bad, but it won't keep this dreadful offense in games. For long stretches in a home game against Villanova last night, the Hoyas looked like an open run team that had no plan and had never played together before. It's become painful to watch.

How that could change: More DSR, less Markel Starks. The boys at Casual Hoya love Starks, but he's not rewarded that in any meaningful way. Scoring simply because he shoots a lot, Starks is putting up a .407/.330/.859 shooting line and has gotten worse in every meaningful offensive category this year. That hasn't kept him from shooting and dribbling more. Across the backcourt, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera has a 119 offensive efficiency rating, is shooting .457/.427/.850, and has a lower turnover rate. Getting him the ball more, and Starks the ball less, could provide the offense Georgetown needs to win some of the games (Xavier and Marquette come to mind) they really should have.

And so that is the bottom four of the Big East as it stands right now. Joel will come back tonight to profile the teams that are on the bubble and those in legitimate contention for the conference title.