Every game between now and Selection Sunday will be increasingly meaningful in the Big East as teams try to put themselves in prime position to make it into the field of 68. Villanova, Seton Hall, Butler, and Providence all won on Saturday, with the Pirates getting a valuable win on the road, and Nova bringing previous conference leaders DePaul back to the pack.
DePaul is not invincible
Just when you were afraid conference leader DePaul might be an unstoppable force, an upstart Villanova squad edged them out over the weekend. Well, they beat them by 17. It wasn't really that close, either. With 10 minutes left in the game, Nova was up 66-32 in 49 possessions of work. The Wildcats did the decent thing after that, but even that fairly flattering final score reinforces just how unequal 3-1 conference records can be.
Seton Hall is better off with Sterling Gibbs carrying the load
Isaiah Whitehead's commitment to Seton Hall was seen as a huge recruiting coup for the Pirates, but he was largely a volume scorer before going down to a foot injury. Since Whitehead went down, Seton Hall has ripped off a 4-1 stretch (the only loss was at Xavier) capped by Sterling Gibbs's game winning step back three at Creighton on Saturday. Gibbs boasts an ORtg nearly 30 points higher than Whitehead's. The freshman year can be a tough transition for any player; it will be interesting to see if Whitehead adjusts his game when he gets back into the lineup.
Nine teams could still win this thing
Villanova is 3-1 and leading the conference, that's not entirely unexpected. What may be unexpected is that three other teams are tied with them, three other teams are within a game, and really only Creighton looks completely out of it. Whether St. John's can recover from a nightmare start, Marquette can get going, Xavier or Georgetown can make a run, or DePaul is for real are all questions with answers that will get played out over the course of the next two months. There's a lot of exciting basketball coming up.
Georgetown needs another big game weapon
The story in both of the Hoyas' conference losses this season has not been teams shutting down all-Big East guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, or even their UCLA transfer Center Josh Smith. Instead, it has been the complete desolation that has surrounded those two on offense. No one else cracked double digits against Xavier, and in Saturday's loss Paul White joined them with 11 points on 12 field goal attempts and 4 turnovers. For JTIII's team to meet the potential they showed early on, other people have to get going. L.J. Peak and Jabril Trawick both went for double digits in both their conference wins thus far, and need to stand and deliver in bigger games to support the two main scorers.
Jones is the measuring stick for Butler
Roosevelt Jones seems like he has been at Butler since George Bush was president, and yet he is just a junior. However, few players performances have as large an impact on their team's fate within the Big East as Jones's does on Butler's. 5 of his worst 6 offensive showings this year have been Butler losses, and only North Carolina has held Butler's win to single digits when he goes over the magical 100 O Rating mark. Quite simply, Dunham might get the press, but when Jones is on, Butler becomes unbeatable.
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