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Big East Breakdown

Conference play has started up, and here’s what each team is bringing to the table.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Creighton
These guys have soared (bird pun!) out of the gates.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

We’re all very familiar with what Xavier has done this year, both the very good (hiding Providence), and the very bad (that second half at Baylor). While focusing on only Xavier used to work when they played in the Atlantic 10 and the opposition consisted of Temple and whoever was the flash in the pan that year, the Big East is an entirely different animal. So, for those of you just tuning in to college basketball, here’s where the rest of the beasts in the Big East are as we enter conference play.

Should be going dancing:

Villanova 13-0 (KenPom: 5th, Massey Composite: 1st)

The Wildcats last lost on March 12th. That is one of their grand total of three losses in this calendar year. In that span they have won the national championship, the Big East regular season, and basically everything else in front of them. This season, their offense is second in the nation and their defense is 19th. There hasn’t been much of a letdown since Kris Jenkins buried the shot that sent Roy Williams off in search of something to whine about. Once again, Jay Wright’s boys are the cream of the crop.

Best win: Either Purdue (79-76) or Notre Dame (74-66). Nova won both of those games away from home and both teams to figure to be very involved come tournament time.

Worst loss: Does only beating Western Michigan by 11 count?

Xavier 11-2 (KenPom: 16th, Massey 18th)

Have a quick spin through the archive if needed to catch yourself up to speed, but this is where the Musketeers slot in.

Butler 11-2 (KenPom: 17th, Massey 13th)

The Bulldogs are defending their title as best college basketball team to play in a barn. Their doing it with an offense ranked in the top 20 and a lot of Tyler Lewis. Kelan Martin does most of the shooting for the team but, like Kellan Dunham before him, he’s not as efficient as other players on the team. Butler’s defense isn’t as good as their offense, but you don’t land at 17th without being good at both.

Best win: 69-65 over Arizona on a neutral court looks pretty good, but then so does 83-78 over Indiana on a neutral court. A win over UC at home will also stand up well. These guys have some quality on the schedule.

Worst loss: On the road at Indiana St. There are no sure things in college basketball, but this should have been really close to one.

Creighton 13-0 (KenPom: 19th, Massey 12th)

The Bluejays are something the opposite of the consistency of Nova. They struggled last year, but have come out of the gate blazing away. The team is shooting a nation’s best 44.6% from behind the arc, is fourth in the nation inside the arc, and rarely turns the ball over. The defense is only 71st overall, but these guys are more than willing to just gun you into oblivion. They’ve cracked 100 three times already in a game where doing so once is becoming noteworthy.

Best win: The one that served notice of how good the Jays would be was beating 8th ranked Wisconsin, 79-67. Wins over Seton Hall and NC State, when they scored 112, will also look good come March.

Worst loss: Somehow Creighton only beat Oral Roberts by one. That’s the closest they’ve come to losing.

Marquette 10-3 (KenPom: 35th, Massey: 48th)

Steve Alphabet has his guys playing at a high level. Henry Ellenson was a huge loss, but he was the only loss out of a good class that was backed up by another good group of recruits. The Golden Eagles shoot a second best in the nation 81.4% from the line, take care of the ball, and are in the top 30 in every shooting category. Defensively, they gamble for steals and can be torched from deep. They’re solid, but there’s a gap here.

Best win: By 10 over Georgia, at Georgia. That’s a good win. They also crushed a decent Vanderbilt team.

Worst loss: By three to Pittsburgh (60th) on a neutral court. The Golden Eagles have three losses, but none of them are bad.

On the bubble:

Seton Hall 10-3 (KenPom: 51st, Massey 42nd)

These guys are wretched from the line and still play a style of offense more akin to Rucker Park than anything else. That leads to too many turnovers and not great shooting, but also plenty of second chances and a quick pace. Defensively, the Pirates are a mid pack team that tries to chase teams off the line and limit second chances.

Best win: 67-64 over South Carolina (who is actually good) at the Garden. The Pirates also have a nice win over Cal on a neutral court and Iowa on the road.

Worst loss: Stanford by 14 on a neutral court. As bad losses go, there are much worse.

Georgetown 8-5 (KenPom: 53rd, Massey 56th)

How long can GT III keep getting less than the best out of good talent? Apparently at least one more year. The Hoyas are all over the place. they score from behind the arc and from the line well, they block shots and chase shooters from deep pretty well also. What they don’t do is take care of the ball or rebound at all. 62nd on offense and 61st on defense is pretty much what passes for mediocre in the Big East. At some point in time, these guys have to get good for Thompson to save his job.

Best win: 78-71 over Syracuse on the road (because Jim Boeheim never travels). The Orange aren’t what they were before they chased football, but this is still a tidy win.

Worst loss: By six at home to Arkansas St. You can pencil in at least one of these utterly head scratching early season losses every year for Georgetown.

Providence 10-4 (KenPom: 67th, Massey 51st)

This team, like Ed Cooley’s coaching resume, flatters to deceive. They play horrid offense and rely on a defense that gambles (usually well, in fairness) on creating turnovers and hoping opponents keep shooting 59% from the line against them. This team is going to have to win ugly to win and when they hit a team with a good offense, like the did Wednesday night, they run the risk of an absolute boatracing. They’ll pick off some good wins on the back of Bullock and steals, but they need a lot of help to be dancing come March.

Best win: Providence has one top 50 win, by three at home over Rhode Island. Interestingly, they only have five top 200 wins. That glittering record isn’t all it seems.

Worst loss: By 12 at Boston College. No, Jared Dudley didn’t suit up. Good teams shouldn’t lose to teams like this iteration of the Eagles.

Maybe next year:

St. John’s 7-7 (KenPom 96th, Massey 146th)

So Massey doesn’t love them, but these guys are finally winning a handful of games. They’re still callow and Chris Mullin is still clueless, but talent does eventually come to the fore. They shoot the three well and they block a ton of shots. This is a team that can, and has, lose to anyone but also can, and has, beat some of the best teams in the nation. They aren’t going anywhere this year, but they are going to pull at least one more big upset before the conference is done.

Best win: Last night over Butler. St. John’s defense stifled any outside threat and Shamorie Ponds handled the rest.

Worst loss: #339 in the KenPom, Delaware St. at home. Not only did the Red Storm lose, they weren’t really in the game.

Probably not ever:

DePaul 7-7 (KenPom: 173rd, Massey 186th)

Dave Leitao’s plan to restore the Blue Demons to their former glory is categorically not working. I could spill ink on how they don’t defend at all or expound on how bad their offense is, but instead consider this: offensively the second worst team in the Big East is a play without a plan Providence squad. DePaul is 61 spots worse than them. Defensively, second worst belongs to St. John’s (who still slot a respectable 100th), DePaul is 69 spots worse than them. There’s the rest of the Big East, a huge gap, and then the Blue Demons.

Best win: Missouri St, the 107th best team in the nation, must have been mortified to succumb to this team. DePaul has zero other top 250 wins.

Worst loss: The Big East, back in 2006 when they admitted this team. Since then, DePaul has been above .500 once. In the last nine full seasons, they’ve won a grand total of 22 conference games.