It's been really hard not to get sucked into this Xavier season so far. The optimism and excitement felt by the fan base is evident in the fact that 30% of you think Xavier has never been this good before. It's entirely possible to forget that there is basketball being played outside the warm confines of the Cintas Center unless it involves Xavier going on the road to win holiday tournaments or destroy Michigan. There has been a lot of other basketball being played though, and a lot of it has been played by the excellent Big East.
According to Ken Pomeroy and his incessantly quoted rankings, the Big East is the third best conference in the nation, trailing only the ACC and the Big 12. Leading the Big East is, of course, Villanova, trailed closely by our very own Xavier Musketeers. Here is what the rest of the league has been up to while Xavier has been taking up all of our time.
Villanova (8-1, 4th):
Winning. What Villanova does is win. The lone loss this year comes to Oklahoma, who currently ranks second in the KenPom rankings. The Wildcats bounced back by obliterating a bad La Salle squad. They continue a torrid close to the non-conference schedule with Virginia, currently first in the KenPom, on Saturday. While Jalen Brunson is leading the team in usage rate, it's Ryan Arcidiacono who has the highest offensive efficiency in 70.8% of the available minutes. Josh Hart and Daniel Ochefu are both providing the usual excellent support.
Butler (8-1, 28th):
Butler has also beaten UC, though not as easily as Xavier did. Andrew Chrabascz leads the team offensively in efficiency, but his shot chucking teammate Kellen Dunham leads in everything else. Dunham is shooting an astonishing, for a guard, 60% inside the arc and 39% outside it. Butler is actually getting by with an amazing offense, sixth in the nation, as opposed to their usual crack down defense.
Georgetown (6-4, 46th):
Uneven might be the best word to describe what the Hoyas have done thus far. Losses have come to an atrocious Radford, an excellent Maryland, Duke, and Monmouth. Wins have come over Wisconsin and Syracuse, but also Maryland Eastern Shore. DSR hasn't been himself yet, and the defense is yet to catch up to an offense ranked in the top 40 in the nation. As per the norm, Georgetown is hard to read.
Providence (10-1, 47th):
KRIS DUNN!!! isn't actually playing all that well. His assist rate is 47.1%, which is amazing, but his offensive efficiency is 108.2, which isn't terribly impressive. The fact that Dunn can't shoot is currently betraying him. Ryan Fazekas, a freshman, is 21st in the nation in efficiency and playing 55% of the available minutes. Arizona represents the best win for the Friars, and the only loss came against Michigan State in a neutral site game. These guys will be on the rise.
Seton Hall (8-2, 53rd):
They lost to Long Beach State, and they don't have a great win, but the Pirates are doing far better than most thought they would at this point on the year. Isaiah Whitehead shoots the ball a ton, using a ton of possessions, and still isn't very good. Jaren Sina would look good on a team that desperately needs an outside threat and someone who could actually make a free throw.
Creighton (7-3, 58th):
Great offense, poor defense, and no good wins. These guys can shoot the ball and they waste no time in doing so. As quickly as Xavier has been playing, the Bluejays get a shot off an average of 1.5 seconds faster each possession. They are yet another team let down by an inability to make free throws, but only six teams in the nation shoot better from the field. They've played a poor non-conference schedule, but they still look like a team that could make a run to the NCAAs.
Marquette (8-2, 74th):
If you want to call the Big East eight teams deep right now, it wouldn't be much of an exaggeration. The Golden Eagles are the opposite of the fowl listed directly above them, in that they play great defense and not much in the way of offense for a major conference team. They've beat Arizona State and Wisconsin and only lost to Iowa, who is very good, and Belmont. Henry Ellenson has been all he was projected to be, if Duane Wilson remembers how to play basketball they could actually be quite good.
DePaul (5-4, 166th):
There is no one who will remember how to play basketball well enough to save these guys. They were supposed to be bad, and they are bad. No good wins, but at least no particularly awful losses. They're just DePaul, you know?
St. John's (7-3, 167th):
CHRIS MULLIN!! is one of only two stories in the Big East that mainstream media has demanded that we always yell about. Unfortunately, it turns out his team is really bad and lost to Fordham. They did beat Syracuse recently, but they aren't challenging anyone in the Big East and they don't have a single player, not one, with an offensive efficiency over 100. That's really bad.