Mat Mlodzinski gives his Big East basketball power rankings for week 6 of the season.
Matchup of the week: Creighton vs. Marquette
Sneaky good matchup of the week: Providence vs. Seton Hall
All games listed are EST
1) UConn Huskies
Last week’s ranking: 1 (-)
Last week: @ Florida (W) 75-54, LIU (W) 114-61
Next week: @ Butler (Dec. 17 – 7 p.m.)
Best wins: Alabama, Iowa State, Oregon, Florida, Oklahoma State
Worst losses: N/A
Not only is UConn separating itself from the rest of the Big East, but there are very few teams – if any – on the Huskies’ level in college basketball. Now 11 games into the season, UConn has yet to WIN a game by less than 10 points. Mind you, they’ve already played five power conference programs, including the current #4 team in the country in Alabama.
Big East conference plays starts this week for Connecticut, who will start with a road game at Butler. Hinkle Fieldhouse is arguably the most difficult place to play in the Big East. But the way the Huskies are playing, that might not even matter.
2) Xavier Musketeers
Last week’s ranking: 2 (-)
Last week: @ Cincinnati (W) 80-77
Next week: Southern (Dec. 13 – 7 p.m.), @ Georgetown (Dec. 16 – 6:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati
Worst losses: N/A
The Musketeers only played one game last week, escaping with a road win at Cincinnati in the annual Crosstown Shootout. While some might question a 3-point win over a struggling Bearcats team, in rivalry games, you shouldn’t expect much different.
Souley Boum has been great for Sean Miller all season long, putting together his fifth 20-point game of the season. If you haven’t bought stock in Xavier yet, it might be wise to now.
3) Marquette Golden Eagles
Last week’s ranking: 3 (-)
Last week: NC Central (W) 90-78, @ Notre Dame (W) 79-64
Next week: Creighton (Dec. 16 – 8:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Baylor, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech
Worst losses: N/A
Marquette is starting to put together a very nice resume, taking down Notre Dame on the road by 15 points. And when you look at the grand scheme of things, this is a Golden Eagles team that could be 11-0. Their three losses to Purdue, Mississippi State, and Wisconsin came by a combined 11-points.
This week sets up for a very interesting game with Creighton. The Blue Jays have lost five straight games after looking like one of the best teams in the country. Meanwhile, Marquette has been a shocker of a story in Big East basketball. It’s a battle to see who owns the midwest in the Big East.
4) St. John’s Red Storm
Last week’s ranking: 5 (+1)
Last week: DePaul (W) 86-67, New Hampshire (W) 64-51
Next week: Florida State (Dec. 17 – 2:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Syracuse, Nebraska, DePaul
Worst losses: N/A
A lot has been said about the light schedule that St. John’s has been dealt with, and it really does seem that way, after a 2-0 week against DePaul and New Hampshire. But the Blue Demons are still a Big East team, so handling a conference opponent by 19 points deserves a little bit more credit.
In both games last week, Joel Soriano played out of his mind, averaging 15.5 points and 14 rebounds per game. The former Fordham Ram is turning into a mighty weapon for the Red Storm.
Last week’s ranking: 7 (+2)
Last week: Penn (W) 70-59, Boston College (W) 77-56
Next week: @ St. Joseph’s (Dec. 17 – 4 p.m.)
Best wins: Oklahoma, Penn, Boston College
Worst losses: Portland, Temple
It’s wild to even say these words for a Villanova Wildcats program, but was Cam Whitmore the missing piece all along? Since the freshman made his debut against Oklahoma, the Wildcats are 3-0. And he’s been putting up numbers.
Against Penn, Whitmore went for 21 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes. Then, in the win over BC, Whitmore had 19 points and 7 rebounds. He checks off a few big boxes that Villanova was missing at 3-5. Whitmore adds more scoring and can pull down rebounds. Watch out, because the Wildcats are CLIMBING.
6) Providence Friars
Last week’s ranking: 6 (-)
Last week: Manhattan (W) 99-59, UAlbany (W) 93-55
Next week: @ Seton Hall (Dec. 17 – 12:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Rhode Island, Rider, Northeastern
Worst losses: N/A
The Friars absolutely ran through Manhattan and UAlbany, winning by an average of 39 points. If you know one thing about Ed Cooley, it’s that his teams are going to play tough defense. They seem to be listening, as the Friars grabbed 51 rebounds and came away with 13 steals against the Jaspers. UAlbany fell victim on the glass as well, with Providence outrebounding the Great Danes, 48 to 30.
It’s just one week for the Friars this week, and it’s a big one, as they travel to Newark to face Seton Hall in an interesting Big East matchup between two middle-of-the-pack Big East basketball teams.
7) Creighton Bluejays
Last week’s ranking: 4 (-3)
Last week: BYU (L) 80-83, Arizona State (L) 73-75
Next week: @ Marquette (Dec. 16 – 8:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Arkansas, Texas Tech, UC Riverside
Worst losses: Nebraska, BYU
What in the world is wrong with Creighton? It’s not that they’ve had many terrible wins, although BYU and Nebraska are certainly nothing special. But the mere fact of the matter is that the Jays, who were once ranked 7th in the country, have been searching for their 7th win of the season for three weeks now.
It’s tough to really point a finger at the problem. Creighton is averaging over 16 assists per game as a team, so the ball movement is there. The defense was surely an issue against BYU, but Nebraska held the Blue Jays to just 53 points. Whatever the issue is, Greg McDermott better find out quickly because things won’t get any easier against Marquette on Friday.
8) Seton Hall Pirates
Last week’s ranking: 9 (+1)
Last week: Lincoln (PA (DII) (W) 82-55, @ Rutgers (W) 45-43
Next week: Drexel (Dec. 14 – 7 p.m.), Providence (Dec. 17 – 12:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Memphis, Rutgers, Monmouth
Worst losses: Siena
Sometimes rivals play up a level and make it a close game (cue Cincinnati against Xavier). And other times, rivals just make it flat-out impossible for each other to score. That would be the case in Seton Hall’s 45-43 win at Rutgers. The Pirates had one player score 10 points (Dre Davis) and made 15 field goals all game. Somehow, that was still enough to come out with a road win at the RAC.
The season has been tough to watch at times for a Pirates’ offense that still doesn’t – and may never have – a clear leader this season. But even then, with two quality wins against Memphis and Rutgers and a 6-4 overall record, Seton Hall is still very much in the thick of things heading into Big East play.
9) Butler Bulldogs
Last week’s ranking: 8 (-1)
Last week: Yale (W) 71-61, @ Cal (W) 82-58
Next week: #3 UConn (Dec. 17 – 7 p.m.)
Best wins: Kansas State, BYU, Yale
Worst losses: N/A
I think it’s time to start taking Manny Bates very seriously. The NC State transfer is now averaging 13.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game, giving Butler one of the best post men on both sides of the court in Big East basketball.
Bates and the Bulldogs took down Yale and Cal last week, which is at least better than some of the cupcake schedules other teams routinely face in the non-conference. But on Saturday, Butler will host UConn, which should give Thad Matta a very telling measure of where his team is at.
10) DePaul Blue Demons
Last week’s ranking: 10 (-)
Last week: @ St. John’s (L) 67-86, UTEP (W) 91-70
Next week: @ Duquesne (Dec. 14 – 7 p.m.), @ Northwestern (Dec. 17 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Minnesota, Loyola Chicago, UTEP
Worst losses: Santa Clara
There’s really only one team that can keep another team from moving down a spot in the power rankings, despite a 19-point loss to a conference opponent. The Blue Demons looked totally outclassed against St. John’s, coughing it up 14 times and going a rough 7-of-30 from deep.
Two away games this week highlight an interesting non-conference slate as the Blue Demons look to improve on a few things before Big East basketball play really heats up.
11) Georgetown Hoyas
Last week’s ranking: 11 (-)
Last week: Siena (W) 75-68, @ Syracuse (L) 64-83
Next week: Xavier (Dec. 16 – 6:30 p.m.)
Best wins: La Salle, Siena, Coppin State
Worst losses: American, Loyola Marymount, Northwestern, South Carolina
Usually, I try and bring up at least a few positives for each team in my power rankings. But I just have to put this bluntly. Georgetown sucks.
And I say this because Georgetown should not suck. This is a program that was once one of the jewels of the Big East. And it shouldn’t be much to ask for the Hoyas to at least be competitive and reach the 20-win mark more often than not. But following a 19-point loss to their biggest rivals, the Syracuse Orange, Georgetown continues to head closer and closer to rock bottom.