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Stumbling blocks in the Big East

The allure of the Big East was competition everywhere. This year, that may not be the case.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Seton Hall vs Georgetown
A bad coach
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The immediate caveat to this article is that the sample size is small. Somewhere between six and ten games isn’t enough to totally determine how good a team is. It is, however, enough to get us some idea.

The Big East isn’t as good this year. The conference is currently ranked fourth in overall efficiency for the second year in a row. Two years ago it was sixth. The Big East hasn’t had a run of finishing that low since 2001-2003. That’s been awhile. Xavier joined the conference in the hopes that they wouldn’t consistently have to schedule a monster non-conference in order to have a chance of earning an at large bid. This season the Musketeers have that monster non-con, and it may be a good thing.

The general consensus coming into the season was that Butler, DePaul, and Georgetown wouldn’t be very good. That has been borne out. The three teams are a combined 11-9 and have losses to Santa Clara, American, and Loyola Marymount. You get no points for guessing that Georgetown has the worst of those losses. Butler, DePaul, and Georgetown will all be Q3 games at home as things stand.

Georgetown is just barely hanging on, though, and could become a Q4. As hilarious as that is, it presents a serious problem for Xavier, because it becomes a conference trap game. There is almost no benefit to winning, and a loss could be devastating. The Hoyas will also be a Q3 away, while Butler and DePaul could at least be Q2 road games.

Wash out the preseason assumptions, though, and some more names creep in. Providence is 131st so far this season, because they have lost to both decent teams they have played. That puts the Friars hovering near that Q2/Q3 line on the road and definitely a Q3 at home. Villanova figures to get better (surely, right?) but they are also buried down at 144th in the raw numbers so far this season. If they don’t course correct, they’ll also present a resume issue. For what it is worth, Cincinnati is 136th.

It’s probably fair to assume that Providence and Villanova won’t stay sub 100 teams. It’s probably also fair to assume that the other three aren’t going to make some sort of run toward respectability. KenPom, with the preseason assumptions still alive and well, has 10 of the Big East 11 in the top 100 despite some early season issues.

The Big East isn’t as strong this year. Butler, DePaul, Georgetown, Providence, and Villanova are all struggling or simply not very good. Xavier will need to pick up tough wins against the top of the conference and avoid tripping over any of the dross in order to put together a good resume. The games are out there to do that, but it would behoove X to start racking up the wins fast.