Mat Mlodzinski gives his Big East basketball power rankings for week 11 of the season.
Matchup of the week: Providence vs. Marquette
Sneaky good matchup of the week: UConn vs. Seton Hall
All games listed are EST
1) Xavier Musketeers
Last week’s ranking: 3 (+2)
Record: 15-3 (7-0)
Last week: Creighton (W) 90-87, #25 Marquette (W) 80-76
Next week: @ DePaul (Jan. 18 – 8:30 p.m.), Georgetown (Jan. 21 – Noon)
Best wins: UConn, Marquette, Creighton, Florida, West Virginia
Worst losses: N/A
Having the 8th toughest strength of schedule has been no problem for the Xavier Musketeers, who are the last Big East basketball team standing that’s still undefeated.
Last week, the Musketeers got a pair of home wins over two NCAA Tournament hopefuls in Creighton and Marquette. Souley Boum was lights out all week, posting 26 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds on the Bluejays and following it up with 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists on the Golden Eagles.
The Musketeers haven’t lost a game since November 27 against Gonzaga, and are not only the hottest team in the Big East but arguably the country. Barring a major upset, the Musketeers can make it 13 straight wins after this week.
2) Marquette Golden Eagles
Last week’s ranking: 4 (+2)
Record: 14-5 (6-2)
Last week: #6 UConn (W) 82-76, @ #12 Xavier (L) 76-80
Next week: #22 Providence (Jan. 18 – 9 p.m.), @ Seton Hall (Jan. 21 – 4 p.m.)
Best wins: UConn, Baylor, Creighton
Worst losses: N/A
Marquette added a signature win to its resume, taking down UConn by six at home. It was a shot-making contest, but the Golden Eagles proved clutch down the stretch, holding on against a pesky Huskies team.
The Golden Eagles continued to shoot the ball well against Xavier, with the five starters going 27-for-51 from the field for over 50%. You could argue that Marquette really outplayed Xavier in most aspects of the game. The Musketeers got to the free-throw line six more times and made five more. Xavier also outplayed Marquette when it mattered, with the last Golden Eagles’ lead coming with over 10 minutes left in a back-and-forth second half.
The tour of the Big East’s best continues early this week against Providence before Marquette heads on the road to face Seton Hall on Saturday afternoon.
3) Providence Friars
Last week’s ranking: 2 (1)
Record: 14-4 (6-1)
Last week: @ Creighton (L) 67-73
Next week: @ #20 Marquette (Jan. 18 – 9 p.m.), DePaul (Jan. 21 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: UConn, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall
Worst losses: N/A
Only one game was on the schedule last week for Providence, who fell at Creighton by six points. The Jays have been playing much better basketball, and Omaha is a tough place to win at, so a two-possession loss is nowhere near the end of the world for the Friars.
If a few more shots would have dropped, Providence did own the glass, finishing the game +15 on the boards. But the team shot below 40% from the field and 21.1% from three. Bench production was a key going into this game as both teams rely heavily on their starters. Neither team won that battle, with the opposing benches each only going for four points. Either way, it’s still something to watch, because when Providence inevitably gets in foul trouble, they’re going to need a role player to step up.
4) UConn Huskies
Last week’s ranking: 1 (-3)
Record: 15-4 (4-4)
Last week: @ #25 Marquette (L) 76-82, St. John’s (L) 74-85
Next week: @ Seton Hall (Jan. 18 – 6:30 p.m.), Butler (Jan. 22 – Noon)
Best wins: Alabama, Iowa State, Creighton, Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma State
Worst losses: St. John’s
I continued to back UConn and keep them in the top spot of my Big East basketball power rankings, even after a stretch of two road losses against Xavier and Providence.
But now, as the Huskies have lost four of their last five games, I’m forced to make a drastic change.
First, UConn fell on the road to another Big East contender, Marquette. But following that up with a loss to an underperforming St. John’s team is very concerning. In the loss to the Red Storm, UConn only got Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan a total of nine shot attempts. Jordan Hawkins was lights out with 31 points, but the Johnnies’ ability to take away UConn’s two bigs from the scoring department was a huge key in their upset.
The Huskies do move into a week where a 2-0 record could be expected. UConn travels to a hot Seton Hall team on Wednesday and then returns home to face Butler. The Huskies are still very much in the mix for a one-seed in March, but the turnaround needs to happen ASAP.
5) Creighton Bluejays
Last week’s ranking: 5 (-)
Record: 10-8 (4-3)
Last week: @ #12 Xavier (L) 87-90, #19 Providence (W) 73-67
Next week: @ Butler (Jan. 17 – 7 p.m.)
Best wins: Providence, Arkansas, Seton Hall
Worst losses: Nebraska, BYU
Don’t look now, but the Creighton Bluejays are stacking a few wins to make a case for March. At 24th in the NET, the Jays are a shaky 1-6 in Quad 1 games. But, the wins over Providence and Arkansas are a great starting point. Not many 10-8 teams in the country have a pair of wins over likely locks.
The Jays nearly took down Xavier on the road, which really would have made things interesting. Creighton held a six-point lead with 9 minutes to play but saw it slip away, never regaining control.
This week, Creighton has just one game on the schedule, and one would think it should be a win. The Jays kick off the Big East basketball week on Tuesday at Butler at 7 p.m.
6) St. John’s Red Storm
Last week’s ranking: 9 (+3)
Record: 13-6 (3-5)
Last week: Butler (W) 77-61, @ #6 UConn (W) 85-74
Next week: Villanova (Jan. 20 – 7 p.m.)
Best wins: @ UConn, Syracuse, Butler
Worst losses: N/A
All is well in Queens again, after St. John’s had the best week in the Big East, going 2-0 and picking up a monstrous road win over #6 Connecticut.
While the Butler win may have calmed some nerves in Johnny Land, the UConn win puts St. John’s right back into consideration for the Big Dance. The Red Storm were in dire need of a resume win and got it in style, by 11 points over a Final Four hopeful.
Joel Soriano dominated the paint, which doesn’t come easy against the Huskies. The St. John’s big man went for 19 points and 13 rebounds, shooting 70% from the floor. Posh Alexander helped control a physical and chippy game in which the Red Storm only committed 10 turnovers.
Up next is a home contest against Villanova. And how much has Big East basketball changed? St. John’s is the likely favorite to win that game.
7) Seton Hall Pirates
Last week’s ranking: 7 (-)
Record: 11-8 (4-4)
Last week: @ Georgetown (W) 66-51, @ DePaul (W) 71-67
Next week: #15 UConn (Jan. 18 – 6:30 p.m.), #20 Marquette (Jan. 21 – 4 p.m.)
Best wins: Memphis, Rutgers, St. John’s
Worst losses: Siena
The week ahead could be the biggest of the year for the Seton Hall Pirates.
One week after taking care of business on the road against Georgetown and DePaul, the Hall will return home for a pair of massive games against #15 UConn and #20 Marquette. It will be important for Seton Hall not to look at this week as an all-in-one package. A 1-1 split would still be major for a Seton Hall team hanging on to tournament hopes.
On both ends of the spectrum, a 2-0 week might as well push the Pirates into the bracket as we speak. An 0-2 week, and SHU better gear down, because 11-10 (4-6) isn’t an easy record to come back from this late into the season.
Have fun, Shaheen Holloway!
8) Butler Bulldogs
Last week’s ranking: 8 (-)
Record: 11-8 (3-5)
Last week: @ St. John’s (L) 61-77, Villanova (W) 79-71
Next week: Creighton (Jan. 17 – 7 p.m.), @ #15 UConn (Jan. 22 – Noon)
Best wins: Kansas State, BYU, Yale
Worst losses: N/A
It’s wild that a win over Villanova doesn’t even count as a “best win” anymore, but in the same breath, it was still a very big win by Butler’s standards. It’s also crazy to believe that Butler is now 5-3 all-time against Villanova inside Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Whatever the case may be, the Bulldogs have at least gotten out of the Big East basketball cellar. They still have a long ways to go if they want to make a run at the tournament, but the Bulldogs are a competitive team who can challenge any of the top teams if they don’t bring their A-game.
9) DePaul Blue Demons
Last week’s ranking: 10 (+1)
Record: 8-10 (2-5)
Last week: Villanova (W) 75-65, Seton Hall (L) 67-71
Next week: #8 Xavier (Jan. 18 – 8:30 p.m.), @ #22 Providence (Jan. 21 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Minnesota, Villanova, UTEP
Worst losses: Santa Clara, Duquesne, @ Butler
DePaul not only beat Villanova but did so by 10 points, controlling for nearly all of the second half.
The Blue Demons now have two conference wins, but this one comes with a round of applause, however bad Villanova might be this season.
Da’Sean Nelson dropped 24 points off the bench in the win, while the Blue Demons put on a defensive clinic, holding the Cats to 41.1% from the field and forcing 14 turnovers.
The Blue Demons nearly went 2-0 on the week, just getting edged out at home to Seton Hall by four points.
If DePaul can even get one win over Xavier or Providence this week, maybe we need to start taking them out of the Big East basketball power rankings basement too.
10) Villanova Wildcats
Last week’s ranking: 6 (4)
Record: 9-10 (3-5)
Last week: @ DePaul (L) 65-75, @ Butler (L) 71-79, Georgetown (W) 77-73
Next week: @ St. John’s (Jan. 20 – 7 p.m.)
Best wins: Oklahoma, St. John’s, Boston College
Worst losses: Portland, Temple, @ DePaul, @ Butler
In a matter of days, Villanova went from having an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament based on their brand, to having no chance outside of a Big East Tournament Championship.
As if a loss to DePaul wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Wildcats lost again to Butler, going 0-2 on the week.
Then, on Monday, Villanova nearly lost to Georgetown, which would have definitely moved the Wildcats into 11th place. It’s not a good situation right now in Philly.
11) Georgetown Hoyas
Last week’s ranking: 11 (-)
Record: 5-14 (0-8)
Last week: @ #8 Xavier (Jan. 21 – Noon)
Next week: Seton Hall (L) 51-66, @ Villanova (L) 73-77
Best wins: La Salle, Siena, Coppin State
Worst losses: American, Loyola Marymount, @ DePaul, South Carolina
I’m actually going to give Georgetown some credit this week. They nearly one AT Villanova, at one point leading by 2 points with under 2 minutes to go. It didn’t end up in a win, but at this point, being competitive is all you can ask for.