Another week is in the books in Big East play, and the league is shaping up to be a fight the whole way. Villanova is - as expected - the cream of the crop, but there are six teams within a game of one another sitting just off the pace if the Wildcats stumble. Things are wide, wide open in the hunt for the top spots right now. Here's what Big East fans will be chatting about around the water cooler (if that's still a thing; my office is pretty dysfunctional).
The home team is never out of it
You probably remember Xavier's game against Marquette on Saturday, in which the Muskies were down 11 in the second half before thundering back for the win. Even those dire straits didn't put Xavier's win probability under 35%, thanks to a bad opponent and home-court advantage. Georgetown did X one better and fell behind a dozen with 2:26 left in the first half against a Butler squad that I'm having to start admitting is very good.
With a win probability in the high teens, Georgetown ripped off a 12-2 run to get back into it, setting up a tense final 20 minutes. Neither team led by more than five in the second half or more than a single basket for the final ten minutes. It wasn't until D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera blocked Roosevelt Jones's shot with two seconds on the clock that the home team could finally have their win.
Kris Dunn might be the best point guard in the league
Who would argue with it after he went into Creighton's Century Link Center and came out with a stunning 21/8/7 line with just 2 turnovers on 7-15/1-1/6-8 shooting. Dunn turns the ball over more than Providence fans would like, but he's also the only player in the country with an assist rate over 50%. After injuries cost him almost all of last season, he's making his case as the premier ball distributor in the Big East.
Round robin small conference is the way to go
The top two conferences in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy are the Big 12 and the Big East. Both are ten team leagues that play a straight round robin in conference. Following in third is the 15 team ACC, where Virginia plays Virginia Tech (184th) twice, and Duke (9th). The SEC has 14 teams but plays only 18 league games. Big leagues are a lot of fun, but they aren't equitable. In at leas the Big East and Big 12 this year, the champion will be decided fairly on the floor.
St. John's is leaving themselves a lot of work again
Last year, St. John's came into conference play 9-3, sporting no losses outside the top-100, and generally looking like a squad who could very well play themselves onto the bubble if they performed in conference play. They proceeded to lose their first five Big East games and, despite going 10-3 after that stretch, fall out of contention for an NCAA tournament bid. Sunday, they had a chance to put a much less damaging slow start behind them and build on an impressive non-conference slate, but blew an 11 point lead to DePaul on their way to an overtime loss. D'Angelo Harrison slumped badly, scoring 11 points on 2-10 shooting and fouling out. At 1-4, the Johnnies are, once again, going to need a big turnaround to keep their hopes alive.
We are about to see what DePaul can really do
The surprise story of conference play has definitely been Oliver Purnell's Blue Demons, who snapped a two game losing streak to improve to 4-2. Their only two losses have come to the two teams atop the standings right now, Georgetown and Villanova, and Billy Garrett has been a consistent force for the role players to build around. However, DePaul's next 6 games are: @ Seton Hall, @ Xavier, @ Providence, Villanova, Seton Hall, @ Butler. If DePaul can even split these games, the rest of the conference will be force to sit up and take notice, but a poor showing here could spell the end for the Blue Demons chances at making a shock return to the NCAA tournament this year.
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