Mat Mlodzinski gives his Big East basketball power rankings for week 15 of the season.
Matchup of the week: Xavier vs. Marquette
Sneaky good matchup of the week: Seton Hall vs. UConn
All games listed are EST
1) Creighton Bluejays
Last week’s ranking: 3 (+2)
Record: 17-8 (11-3)
Last week: @ Seton Hall (W) 75-62, #21 UConn (W) 56-53
Next week: @ #24 Providence (Feb. 14 – 7 p.m.), @ St. John’s (Feb. 18 – 7:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Xavier, UConn, Providence, Arkansas, Seton Hall (x2)
Worst losses: Nebraska, BYU
How wild is it to say that after a six-game losing streak that put Creighton at a measly 6-6 record, the Bluejays are now arguably the best team in Big East basketball?
Whether or not you believe that they are, no one can deny the Jays are the hottest team in the conference. Wins at Seton Hall and against #21 UConn have extended Creighton’s winning streak to eight games. After 19 turnovers against the Hall, Creighton settled down with just 11 against UConn, and that says a lot about this team. They can win in different ways and respond to coach Greg McDermott.
This week is another challenge, as the Bluejays travel for both games, starting with a ranked Providence team on Valentine’s Day.
2) Marquette Golden Eagles
Last week’s ranking: 1 (-1)
Record: 20-6 (12-3)
Last week: @ #21 UConn (L) 72-87, @ Georgetown (W) 89-75
Next week: #16 Xavier (Feb. 15 – 7 p.m.),
Best wins: Baylor, Providence, UConn, Creighton, @ Seton Hall
Worst losses: N/A
Despite an away loss to UConn, there’s no reason to panic about the Golden Eagles. Marquette is still 12-3 in the Big East and the only team in the conference with 20 overall wins.
Marquette got down big very fast against the Huskies and despite every effort, couldn’t slow down UConn. The Golden Eagles did step it up against Georgetown, putting up 89 points and slowing down Primo Spears to a 2-of-12 night from the field.
The Golden Eagles have an excellent chance to remain steady at the top of the power rankings and in many bracketology projections, as they host #16 Xavier in a very big Big East battle on Wednesday.
3) UConn Huskies
Last week’s ranking: 5 (+2)
Record: 19-7 (8-7)
Last week: #10 Marquette (W) 87-72, @ #23 Creighton (L) 53-56
Next week: Seton Hall (Feb. 18 – Noon)
Best wins: Alabama, Iowa State, Creighton, Marquette, Oklahoma State, Florida, Oregon
Worst losses: St. John’s, @ Seton Hall
UConn finally got the win people were waiting for, potentially ending any talk about the Huskies’ complete collapse. It was clear that Dan Hurley’s team meant business, doubling up Marquette in rebounds, 48-24, and shooting 12-of-23 from distance in the 15-point win over the Golden Eagles.
Perhaps a lot of the week’s juice was used up in that one game, because at Creighton, points were a struggle, with both teams finishing with under 60 points. A Jordan Hawkins two was originally ruled a three, but upon further review, the NBA prospect’s foot was on the line. So given that, UConn was literally inches away from a 2-0 week against teams both ranked in the AP Poll.
This week, the Huskies only have one game, at home, against a Seton Hall team that put together a magnificent second-half comeback the first time these two played. The Pirates have been reeling and are in need of another big win, but the Huskies seem to be getting back to how they were playing when they started 14-0.
4) Providence Friars
Last week’s ranking: 4 (-)
Record: 18-7 (10-4)
Last week: Georgetown (W) 74-62, @ St. John’s (L) 68-73
Next week: #18 Creighton (Feb. 14 – 7 p.m.), Villanova (Feb. 18 – 4:30 p.m.)
Best wins: UConn, Marquette, @ Seton Hall, St. John’s
Worst losses: @ St. John’s
Providence went 1-1 in a week where they probably should’ve gone 2-0, but because of Xavier’s head-scratching loss, the Friars stay at fourth in the Big East Basketball Power Rankings.
The win over Georgetown was business as usual, but the Friars then fell at Madison Square Garden to St. John’s. You can’t blame Bryce Hopkins, who had a game-high 29 points on 10-of-20 shooting. You can, however, blame the rest of the Friars’ squad, who combined to go 14-for-52 for the other 39 points. For a team with a very limited bench, losses like this are what worries you come March Madness.
This week, Providence has a chance to get right back on track against #18 Creighton, before hosting Villanova on Saturday. Even a 1-1 split would be fine, as the Friars are a lock for the NCAA Tournament at this point. However, I can imagine the Friar Faithful is asking for more.
5) Xavier Musketeers
Last week’s ranking: 3 (+1)
Record: 19-6 (11-3)
Last week: @ Butler (L) 67-69
Next week: @ #11 Marquette (Feb. 15 – 7 p.m.), DePaul (Feb. 18 – 4 p.m.)
Best wins: Marquette, Providence, UConn (x2), Creighton, Florida
Worst losses: @ DePaul, @ Butler
The Musketeers are still a top-tier team in the Big East, but they now have two of the worst losses in power conference basketball, to DePaul and Butler.
I am willing to cut Xavier a bit of a break, given they did beat Providence without Zach Freemantle. But now, the loss to Butler really makes you wonder how Xavier is going to be able to survive the next couple of weeks.
This week, a win over DePaul is a must and a win at Marquette seems very unlikely. I don’t think anyone would fault Xavier for a 1-1 week to get them to 20-7 overall.
6) Villanova Wildcats
Last week’s ranking: 7 (+1)
Record: 12-13 (6-8)
Last week: DePaul (W) 81-65, Seton Hall (W) 58-54
Next week: Butler (Feb. 14 – 8 p.m.), @ #24 Providence (Feb. 18 – 4:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Seton Hall, Oklahoma, St. John’s (x2)
Worst losses: Portland, Temple, @ DePaul, @ Butler
25 games into the year and Villanova got their best win of the season, to a now 15-11 Seton Hall team. That’s not to say that the Pirates can’t be a tournament team, but it is wild to think that’s how little the Wildcats have accomplished this season.
On the other hand, Kyle Neptune’s squad might be picking up steam. A healthy Cam Whitmore and Justin Moore make this Villanova team as dangerous as they have been all year. If they can take down Butler and Providence, it might be time to start taking this team seriously come Big East Tournament time.
7) Seton Hall Pirates
Last week’s ranking: 6 (-1)
Record: 15-11 (8-7)
Last week: #23 Creighton (L) 62-75, @ Villanova (L) 54-58
Next week: Georgetown (Feb. 14 – 6 p.m.), @ #20 UConn (Feb. 18 – Noon)
Best wins: @ Rutgers, UConn, Memphis
Worst losses: Siena, @ Villanova
An 0-2 week was far from ideal for a Seton Hall team firmly on the bubble. It was also how it happened, as a Pirates’ second-half lead slipped away against Creighton, and a Pirates offense was held stagnant for 40 minutes against Villanova.
Seton Hall is desperate for a win over Georgetown and could also use another upset over UConn, but even a 1-1 week with a win over the Hoyas will keep the Hall in contention. However, time is running short to get quality wins, and SHU needs at least one more to feel decent about their chances on Selection Sunday.
8) St. John’s Red Storm
Last week’s ranking: 8 (-)
Record: 15-11 (5-10)
Last week: @ Butler (L) 66-68, #20 Providence (W) 73-68
Next week: @ DePaul (Feb. 14 – 9 p.m.), #18 Creighton (Feb. 18 – 7:30 p.m.)
Best wins: @ UConn, Providence, Syracuse
Worst losses: Villanova, @ Butler
In most cases, a win over a ranked team would be enough to move someone up in the Big East Basketball Power Rankings. For St. John’s, it’s not that simple. The Johnnies lost earlier in the week to a terrible Butler team and lost twice in the regular season to Seton Hall. So the cards just aren’t in their favor.
Believe it or not, the Providence win makes me think the cards can still be in St. John’s favor in terms of making the NCAA Tournament. At 15-11, the Johniees hold two very good wins at UConn and versus Providence. I’m not saying they’re very close, but St. John’s should at least be considered, especially if they can dethrone Creighton later this week.
9) Butler Bulldogs
Last week’s ranking: 11 (+2)
Record: 13-13 (5-10)
Last week: St. John’s (W) 68-66, #13 Xavier (W) 69-67
Next week: @ Villanova (Feb. 14 – 8 p.m.), Georgetown (Feb. 19 – 3 p.m.)
Best wins: Kansas State, Xavier, BYU, Yale, St. John’s
Worst losses: @ St. John’s
Butler had as good of a week as you can in Big East basketball, taking down St. John’s and #13 Xavier in consecutive games. The defense was on point in both, as the Bulldogs limited the Red Storm to 66 points and the Musketeers to 67 points.
Can the streak continue this week? The Bulldogs’ only chance of making the Big Dance is a Big East Tournament Championship, but they can certainly impact other teams’ seeds these last few weeks.
11) DePaul Blue Demons
Last week’s ranking: 9 (-1)
Record: 9-16 (3-11)
Last week: @ Villanova (L) 65-81
Next week: St. John’s (Feb. 14 – 9 p.m.), @ #16 Xavier (Feb. 18 – 4 p.m.)
Best wins: Xavier, Villanova, Minnesota
Worst losses: Duquesne, @ Butler, @ Georgetown, @ Villanova
DePaul just couldn’t find a way to pull off a road win against Villanova and take the season series. Javan Johnson and Umoja Gibson both had 18 points in the loss, but nobody else had more than 9.
At this point, the Blue Demons’ goal should be getting to a dozen wins. Even the 15-win mark, which is what they hit last year, seems like a long shot.
10) Georgetown Hoyas
Last week’s ranking: 10 (-)
Record: 6-20 (1-14)
Last week: @ #20 Providence (L) 62-74, #10 Marquette (L) 75-89
Next week: @ Seton Hall (Feb. 14 – 6 p.m.), @ Butler (Feb. 19 – 3 p.m.)
Best wins: DePaul, Siena, La Salle
Worst losses: Loyola Marymount, American, @ Texas Tech, South Carolina, @ DePaul, @St. John’s
At this point, a win at Providence or at home against Marquette would have been close to impossible for a Georgetown team that just can’t contend with anyone besides the Big East basketball bottom-feeders.
Like how DePaul’s goal should be to get to a dozen wins, Georgetown’s ‘championship’ would just be getting another Big East win. It’s that bad in Washington D.C.