Mat Mlodzinski gives his Big East basketball power rankings for week 16 of the season.
Matchup of the week: Marquette vs. Creighton
Sneaky good matchup of the week: UConn vs. St. John’s
All games listed are EST
1) Marquette Golden Eagles
Last week’s ranking: 2 (+1)
Record: 21-6 (13-3)
Last week: #16 Xavier (W) 69-68
Next week: @ #19 Creighton (Feb. 21 – 8:30 p.m.), DePaul (Feb. 25 – 7:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Baylor, Xavier, UConn, Providence, Creighton, @ Seton Hall
Worst losses: N/A
In one of the best games of last week, Marquette stunned Xavier on an Olivier Maxence-Prosper dunk to give the Golden Eagles the 69-68 win with 1 second left. Marquette’s ball control was elite, turning it over just 7 times, compared to 17 giveaways for the Musketeers.
The win vaults the Golden Eagles to first in the Big East basketball power rankings, and it also calms some nerves of Marquette fans, as the team avoided being swept in the regular season by Xavier.
This week, another challenge presents itself in a midwest battle at Creighton. One would think that a 2-0 week out of Marquette could get them to the 2 seed line in some bracketology projections.
2) UConn Huskies
Last week’s ranking: 3 (+1)
Record: 20-7 (9-7)
Last week: Seton Hall (W) 64-55
Next week: #20 Providence (Feb. 22 – 6:30 p.m.), @ St. John’s (Feb. 25 – Noon)
Best wins: Alabama, Marquette, Iowa State, Creighton, Oklahoma State, Seton Hall, Oregon
Worst losses: St. John’s, @ Seton Hall
So much can be said about the defensive performance the Huskies put together to take down Seton Hall on Saturday. UConn outrebounded the Hall by 14, had 7 team blocks and kept the Pirates to below 40% from the field and an atrocious 2-of-11 from deep. The result was UConn winning by a baker’s dozen and reaching 20 wins on the season.
One has to think that while the offense still has some work to go, UConn is playing its best basketball since the beginning of the season. Dates with Providence and then with St. John’s this week should give very good insight into whether or not that statement is true.
3) Providence Friars
Last week’s ranking: 4 (+1)
Record: 20-7 (12-4)
Last week: #18 Creighton (W) 94-86, Villanova (W) 85-72
Next week: @ #18 UConn (Feb. 22 – 6:30 p.m.), @ Georgetown (Feb. 26 – 12:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Marquette, UConn, Creighton, @ Seton Hall
Worst losses: @ St. John’s
Providence fans have started to become restless as it seems as if the team isn’t getting enough credit for their good play. I’ll try and fix that.
The Friars went 2-0 last week and in a convincing fashion. They outlasted Creighton’s offensive superpowers in overtime, with Devin Carter, Bryce Hopkins, and Noah Locke all going for 20+ points and 5+ rebounds.
Then, against Villanova, it was Ed Croswell leading the charge, dropping a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double in the season sweep of the ‘Cats.
Needless to say, Providence has a handful of options in one of the most loaded starting fives there is in the country. The week got the Friars to 20 wins, the seventh time they’ve done that in 12 seasons under Ed Cooley. They’ll try to add to that total this week with two road games at UConn and Georgetown.
4) Creighton Bluejays
Last week’s ranking: 1 (-3)
Record: 18-9 (12-4)
Last week: @ #24 Providence (L) 86-94, @ St. John’s (W) 77-67
Next week: #10 Marquette (Feb. 21 – 8:30 p.m.), @ Villanova (Feb. 25 – Noon)
Best wins: UConn, Providence, Xavier, Arkansas, Seton Hall (x2)
Worst losses: Nebraska, BYU
Big East basketball is so tight at the top, Creighton loses one game in overtime and falls three spots. That’s just life in this conference!
The Jays scored the ball just fine against the Friars, but couldn’t defend to save their lives. It was about as even as a game that you could draw up, but one less three-pointer and five fewer free throws made cost Creighton the game.
They did follow that up with a 10-point road win at St. John’s. That puts Creighton in a three-way tie for second place in the Big East. Tuesday’s battle against Marquette could make it even crazier if the Jays are able to knock off Marquette, who stands alone at 13-3 in the Big East. But don’t discredit Villanova, who might look to be playing the spoiler at this rate.
5) Xavier Musketeers
Last week’s ranking: 5 (-)
Record: 20-7 (12-4)
Last week: @ #11 Marquette (L) 68-69, DePaul (W) 82-68
Next week: Villanova (Feb. 21 – 6:30 p.m.), @ Seton Hall (Feb. 24 – 7 p.m.)
Best wins: Marquette, Providence, UConn (x2), Creighton, Florida
Worst losses: @ DePaul, @ Butler
With Zach Freemantle, I believe Xavier would be at least 21-6 and probably 22-5 overall. They most certainly would not have lost to Butler, and he would have given them the edge over Marquette.
Luckily for Xavier, Sean Miller provided some positive updates on the senior, which leads me to believe he could get minutes against Villanova or Seton Hall this week.
I’ll say this – if Freemantle comes back and is effective, I’d be hard-pressed to not think the Musketeers close out the regular season with at least a 3-1 record, if not 4-0. The chips are lining up for an epic finish of the Big East regular season, and Xavier’s chips might be getting fresher as we speak.
6) Villanova Wildcats
Last week’s ranking: 6 (-)
Record: 13-14 (7-9)
Last week: Butler (W) 62-50, @ #24 Providence (L) 72-85
Next week: @ #16 Xavier (Feb. 21 – 6:30 p.m.), #19 Creighton (Feb. 25 – Noon)
Best wins: Seton Hall, Oklahoma, St. John’s (x2)
Worst losses: Portland, Temple, @ DePaul, @ Butler
At this point, Villanova’s season should be graded on the potential for next year. Considering Cam Whitmore will probably be off to the NBA, the future is in the hands of guys like Mark Armstrong and Brendan Hausen. Armstrong had 10 points in the loss to Providence.
This week will be a huge challenge for a young team, playing a duo of games against Xavier and Creighton, who are both in the AP Top 25 Poll.
7) Seton Hall Pirates
Last week’s ranking: 7 (-)
Record: 16-12 (9-8)
Last week: Georgetown (W) 76-68, @ #20 UConn (L) 55-64
Next week: #16 Xavier (Feb. 24 – 7 p.m.)
Best wins: @ Rutgers, UConn, Memphis
Worst losses: Siena, @ Villanova
Chances for the Pirates to sneak into the NCAA Tournament with one of the last bubble spots are dwindling. A loss to UConn means the Hall only has three more games left in the regular season.
The good news? Two of those are against Xavier and Providence, so there is still hope for Seton Hall to improve its resume even more.
The bad news? If Zach Freemantle returns on Friday, it certainly hurts the Pirates’ chances at an upset win. But that’s the only game this week for SHU and it sort of feels like a must-win.
8) St. John’s Red Storm
Last week’s ranking: 8 (-)
Record: 16-12 (6-11)
Last week: @ DePaul (W) 92-83, #18 Creighton (L) 67-77
Next week: @ Georgetown (Feb. 22 – 9 p.m.), #18 UConn (Feb. 25 – Noon)
Best wins: @ UConn, Providence, Syracuse
Worst losses: Villanova, @ Butler
St. John’s is 100% looking at an NIT appearance, with the Creighton loss exposing their lack of being able to compete against the best of the best in Big East basketball.
Overall, the Johnnies do have multiple quality wins, but at 6-11 in the conference, they never lived up to somewhat lofty expectations.
This week, they can certainly get a win over a Georgetown team and will then look for the unfathomable season sweep of the UConn Huskies.
9) Georgetown Hoyas
Last week’s ranking: 11 (+2)
Record: 7-21 (2-15)
Last week: @ Seton Hall (L) 68-76, @ Butler (W) 68-62
Next week: St. John’s (Feb. 22 – 9 p.m.), #20 Providence (Feb. 26 – 12:30 p.m.)
Best wins: @ Butler, Siena, DePaul
Worst losses: Loyola Marymount, American, @ Texas Tech, South Carolina, @ DePaul, @St. John’s
While Georgetown is far from a quality team, they at least got a Big East road win last week, something that seemed nearly impossible the way things have been trending.
In the win over Butler, the Hoyas won the rebounding edge, 45-29. They also made 17-of-22 free throws, carving a path for the win, as the Bulldogs only had six free throw attempts all game.
Looking ahead, the Hoyas have a legitimate shot to get a home win over a St. John’s team that seems susceptible to a loss with dreams of reaching the Big Dance long gone. The Hoyas only fell to the Red Storm by two points at their place, so no one should be shocked if they get it done this time around.
10) DePaul Blue Demons
Last week’s ranking: 11 (+1)
Record: 9-18 (3-13)
Last week: St. John’s (L) 83-92, @ #16 Xavier (L) 68-82
Next week: Butler (Feb. 22 – 8:30 p.m.), @ #10 Marquette (Feb. 25 – 7:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Xavier, Villanova, Minnesota
Worst losses: Duquesne, @ Butler, @ Georgetown, @ Villanova, St. John’s
DePaul better watch out, because, at this rate, they’re becoming the new Georgetown. The Blue Demons have lost their last eight games and five of them have been by double-digits.
Defense is really the thing to blame, as DePaul’s allowed at least 80 points in 11 of their 18 losses this season. That’s a lot of points to give up in college basketball.
On the bright side, a matchup against Butler this week will give one of these Big East basketball power rankings cellar teams a win!
11) Butler Bulldogs
Last week’s ranking: 9 (-2)
Record: 13-15 (5-12)
Last week: @ Villanova (L) 50-62, Georgetown (L) 62-68
Next week: @ DePaul (Feb. 22 – 8:30 p.m.),
Best wins: Kansas State, Xavier, BYU, Yale, St. John’s
Worst losses: @ St. John’s, @ Villanova, Georgetown
Last week, I had all sorts of good things to say about Butler, who won both games against St. John’s and #13 Xavier.
Then, they lost to Georgetown.
While DePaul’s struggle has been defending, Butler just can’t seem to score. In all 15 of the Bulldogs’ losses, they’ve failed to score at least 65 points. That’s a fairly low target score, but clearly, it’s difficult to come by in Indianapolis.