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The state of the Big East after non-conference play

League games start this weekend; here’s where everybody sits heading into Big East action.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Creighton vs Georgetown
Georgetown is cruising for a repeat title (they aren’t).
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Before you get into the comments to correct me, I know there are a handful of non-con games still hanging around out there. For the sake of this post, I’m going to more or less ignore them. The vast bulk of non-conference play is in the rearview, and the next time Xavier will take on a team that doesn’t call the Big East home will be in March.

With league play tipping off, the only teams that matter for the next 3 months are the other 10 in the conference. Every chance to improve the resume - or in a couple of cases, torpedo it - will happen in-house. Here’s where everyone stands at the present.

Sitting pretty

Xavier (10-1, #23 KenPom, #9 WAB, #13 NET)

In terms of building a resume, I don’t know that anyone in the league has done better than Xavier. The lone loss to Iowa State on a neutral court doesn’t appear in any danger of falling out of Q1, and the wins against Ohio State and Va Tech look fairly secure. Oklahoma State is on the brink of dropping to Q2, but that’s not the end of the world for a resume with no bad losses and a 4-1 record in the top 2 quads. The Muskies handled business heading into conference play.

Seton Hall (9-1, #26 KenPom, #17 WAB, #24 NET)

Kevin Willard’s squad is one Meechie Johnson heave from being undefeated, but there’s no shame in losing to a really good team like Ohio State. The win at Michigan is an excellent Q1, and home to Texas will likely also stay in the top quad all year. The home game against Wagner that makes up their entire experience in Q2 at this point is quietly a very good win. Jared Rhoden is putting together a solid senior campaign and Bryce Aiken appears to finally be healthy. Willard has the Hall defending well and they’d need a collapse to no be playing for seeding down the stretch.

Providence (10-1, #57 KenPom, #16 WAB, #41 NET)

Is Ed Cooley a good coach? Is Providence a good team? I don’t have answers to either of those questions, but I can tell you that the Friars have assembled a really good resume heading into league play. They’ve got solid Q1 wins at Wisconsin, home to Texas Tech, and on a neutral site over Northwestern. Friars fans will be watching TTU and Northwestern closely, as they’re not far from sliding down the NET to rankings that would make both those games Q2, and their loss against NET #99 Virginia on a neutral site might be a Q3 by the time the season is out. If they hold serve in conference play, they’ll be fine on Selection Sunday.

They’ll be fine

Villanova (7-3, #6 KenPom, #28 WAB, #9 NET)

Nova has tested themselves in the non-con, taking on four top-ten KenPom teams away from home. They’ve by and large failed that test though, controlling the UCLA and Purdue games before giving them away down the stretch and getting completely handled by Baylor from tip to horn. They partially redeemed those efforts by beating Tennessee fairly handily, but they’re 1-3 in Q1 with nothing backing it above Q3. They have some questions about their depth and their ability to defend for 40 minutes, but their Q1 games are in no danger of dropping and they don’t have any bad losses. Their record and resume to this point are deceptive; this is still the best team in the league.

UConn (9-2, #22 KenPom, #31 WAB, #14 NET)

Like Nova, the Huskies are just a couple of bounces from having a really good resume. They led inside the final four minutes against Michigan State and West Virginia and really should have won at least one of those games. Both times, they went dry down the stretch. Those two games will stay Q1, as will their neutral-site win over Auburn. Neutral-site wins over St. Bonnie and VCU make them 2-0 in Q2 and give their resume a little polish. With the amount of high-end games available in the league and how good this team is, they’ll be fine come Selection Sunday.

In with a shout

Marquette (8-3, #79 KenPom, #42 WAB, #74 NET)

The Shaka Smart era has begun in Marquette, and there are reasons for optimism. They’re 2-1 in Q2 with games against West Virginia and Kansas State in little danger of dropping to the next lower quadrant. The same can’t be said for their home win over NET #30 Illinois; if the Illini fall to #31, that becomes a Q2. They’ve dropped Q1 games against UCLA and Wisconsin, but by and large they’ve given themselves a chance to make hay in the conference by avoiding bad losses and snaring a trio of important Ws. Smart’s teams can occasionally run hot and cold, but they’re in a league where one good week can punch your ticket to the big dance.

DePaul (9-1, #89 KenPom, #36 WAB, #52 NET)

Say what you will about Tony Stubblefield and his constant proximity to allegations of sexual impropriety where there’s definitely smoke but not enough fire for anyone to get in trouble (as long as they keep playing well) - and I definitely think you should - but he has DePaul in a better position than they’ve been in some time. Their only loss is a close one at home to Loyola Chicago, and they went on the road and beat a Louisville team coached by the saddest man I’ve ever seen attempt to answer questions about his coaching at a press conference. Louisville might fall to Q2 by the time the season is over; the rest of their resume is largely built on not losing any of their seven (7!) Q4 games. They could technically build from where they are to a solid at-large contender, but I’m going to go on record right now and call them paper tigers, if they’re tigers at all.

Needing a turnaround

Creighton (8-3, #63 KenPom, #81 WAB, #81 NET)

Their neutral-site win over BYU is the gem of an otherwise unimpressive resume. They are 1-2 in Q1 and have everything else on their record in Q3 or lower. Their loss against Arizona State at home is already poison, and there’s a non-zero chance it will be a Q4 by the end of the year. They struggled to put away NET #245 SIU-Edwardsville and NET #241 Kennesaw State, both at home. They’re not shooting very well at all and have proven really permeable on defense. I think Greg McDermott is a good coach, but he’s got his work cut out for him turn this thing around.

St. John’s (8-2, #65 KenPom, #53 WAB, #84 NET)

With Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander back, I thought this team was gonna be really good if they could put some pieces around them. Instead they’ve lost both their Q1 games, trailed St. Francis (NY) by 9 with 10 minutes to play, needed OT to beat NJIT, and padded their record with a 7-0 mark in Q4. They have a home win over Monmouth that will be Q2 on Selection Sunday but nothing else to hang their hats on. If they can get right in conference play, they can run with anyone in the league in terms of top-end talent. Easier said than done though.

No

Butler (7-3, #86 KenPom, #80 WAB, #133 NET)

They picked up a Q1 win at Oklahoma, somehow, but got beaten like rented mules against Michigan State and Houston and were out of the game by halftime against Texas A&M. That leaves them at 1-2 in Q1 and 0-1 in Q2 to go with 4-0 in Q4 and 2-0 against teams outside of D1. You don’t schedule regular season games against teams that aren’t even in the division if you think you’re going to earn at at-large bid.

Georgetown (6-4, #111 KenPom, #191 WAB, #166 NET)

They started the season by losing a Q4 game at home. They haven’t played a Q1 game yet and were fairly uncompetitive in going 0-2 in Q2 games. They have a Q3 loss on a neutral site to Saint Joseph’s and are 4-1 in Q4. That magical run to the Big East Tournament title last year likely just prolonged the program’s suffering under Patrick Ewing.

As it stands now, there are almost no bad games in the Big East. Only five total games are outside quads 1 and 2, and only one of them is a road game. The below table shows where each game in the league falls in terms of the quadrants based on their NET ranking as of this moment.

Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Nova Providence Creighton Georgetown
at Nova DePaul St. John's
Xavier Marquette Butler
at Xavier at Creighton at Georgetown
UConn at St. John's
at UConn at Butler
Seton Hall
at Seton Hall
at Providence
at DePaul
at Marquette

The league has five teams comfortably in the tournament right now. With this kind of quality depth and the firepower some of the currently on the outside have at their disposal, we could end up seeing 7 or 8 teams with a reasonable hope of hearing their names called on Selection Sunday.