Villanova is no longer unblemished on the conference season after St. John’s continues to pile up gritty, impressive wins. The Red Storm held the ‘Cats’ normally potent offense to just 59 points en route to an 11-point home win, further strengthening their convincing NCAA-tournament resume in the process. Don’t look now, but St. John’s has won six straight with a likely seventh in short order as they travel to Indianapolis for their lone contest of the week on Tuesday night.
The only other Big East team to notch two wins on the week was Seton Hall as they picked up victories in dominating fashion on the road at Providence before traveling to Storrs to take care of business against UConn. Georgetown handed Creighton its third home loss of the conference season, a head-scratching result until they gave Villanova a scare on Sunday afternoon. The Hoyas look like a completely new team after returning from pause and have vaulted up our rankings to their season-high as a result.
Xavier again dealt with COVID-troubles this past week but looks to resume play with two games in the latter half of the week.
Best Week: St. John’s (unanimous)
Worst Week: Providence (unanimous)
Player(s) of the Week: Myles Cale (B-Frank), Posh Alexander (Sam)
Here we go now.
1. Villanova Wildcats: 12-2 (7-1)
It was a bloody Wednesday for ranked teams in College Basketball and Villanova did not get out unscathed. The Wildcats saw their perfect Big East record lost at the hands of St. John’s 70-59. Villanova never looked comfortable offensively and shot the ball poorly (32.3% from the field and 26.7% from 3). Pair the poor shooting night with St. John’s tempo and big games from Post Alexader and Julian Champagnie and it was over for Nova. Collin Gillespie played by and far his worst game of the season with just 4 points 6 assists and 6 turnovers. Really outside of JRE no one in a Villanova uniform played well.
As great teams do, Villanova bounced back nicely on Sunday in a win over Georgetown. In a performance we are much more accustomed to, Villanova assisted on 21 of their 27 made field goals in the game and shot 50% (13-26) from 3-point range. Jermaine Samuels had a monster game with 32 points 6 rebounds and 5 assists as the Cats righted the ship. The Wildcats will play host on Wednesday to Marquette before hitting the road for a huge game at Creighton on Saturday on FOX.
2. Creighton Bluejays: 14-5 (10-4)
Four Bluejays scored in double-figures on Wednesday night as the Jays shot 47.4% from the floor and sunk ten three-pointers. Those numbers will much more often than not result in a win, especially against a team with twice as many losses as wins at the time of tip-off. However, CU also committed 15 turnovers and Georgetown came out hot in a game that they controlled from the onset. Creighton simply got out-played by a hungrier Hoya squad. No matter how the season turns out for Coach Mac’s guys, this game and the road loss to Butler will stand out as confusing shortcomings.
The Jays recovered to pick up a crucial road win on Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee. They didn’t set the world on fire by any means, but this team has shown a penchant for being able to finish close games, which was again the case as they hung on amidst a late DJ Carton-led push to right the ship. Ryan Kalkbrenner provided a much-needed spark off the bench and was one of four Jays to score in between 11 and 14 points. Creighton didn’t have their long-range shooting stroke and unnerved the Bluejays faithful yet again from the charity stripe, but they took better care of the ball and assisted on 17 of 28 made baskets. Encouragingly, though partly by Marquette’s defensive design, the Jays dominated the battle of the boards, pulling down 38 along with 11 offensive rebounds. Creighton would not have won this game without scoring second-chance points, and the boost on the offensive glass gave the Jays just enough to escape Fiserv Forum with a W.
Creighton looks to avenge last week’s loss to Georgetown on Tuesday in D.C. before hosting Villanova on Saturday on FOX.
3. Seton Hall Pirates: 11-8 (8-5)
It was a put up or shut up week for Kevin Willard’s club and they put up. The Pirates put together their best defensive performance of the season at Providence on Wednesday holding the Friars to just 43 points, a second-half Tony, and star David Duke to just 6 on 2-of-8 shooting. This was a full team effort and the seniors took charge for The Hall with Mamu going for 20 and 7 and Myles Clae going for 19 and 6. Just two Friars were in double-figures and no one scored more than 10 points for Providence.
Then came arguably the most important game on the remaining schedule for Seton Hall, a road trip to Storrs. The Hall went to work early and despite a strong close to the first half and solid second half from the Huskies, were able to hold on for the massive win. The win was the Pirates’ first at Gampel Pavilion since 1992 and was their 5th Big East road win of the season. Again, the senior duo of Mamu and Cale got it done with the former going for 22 points and 7 rebounds while the latter added 20 points. The Pirates will get the week off as they prepare for a home game with Marquette.
4. St. John’s Red Storm: 13-7 (7-6)
St. John’s isn’t just the hottest team in the Big East any more. After knocking off third-ranked Villanova Wednesday night in Queens and dropping 92 on Providence over the weekend they’ve got as much momentum as virtually any team in the nation not named Gonzaga or Baylor. They outlasted the Wildcats Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena by turning the game into a classic Big East slugfest, holding Villanova to under 33% shooting and forcing an absurd (for Nova standards) 17 turnovers! The Johnnies also held the Wildcats to 8-of-30 from deep and blocked an astounding seven shots. Arguably most impressive, however, was how St. John’s kept senior leader Collin Gillespie at bay on the offensive side of the floor. Gillespie managed to dish out six assists to lead Nova in that category, but after he scored the first two points of the game he tallied just one layup, including no points in the decisive second half. After a Posh Alexander steal & flush the St. John’s lead ballooned to 17 points. It would rarely be less than ten for the remainder of the impressive victory.
The Red Storm followed up that impressive win by shooting a ho-hum 58.6% from the floor and 10-of-19 from distance en route to their second consecutive 11-point win, this time at Providence. St. John’s is a tough defensive team, but games in which they shoot lights out are rarer. When a team is hot, though, they’re scary. The Johnnies poured in 49 points in the first half and frustrated David Duke all afternoon. Julian Champagnie led the way scoring for St. John’s with a 24-point, 10-board double-double and got help from Posh Alexander. Alexander followed up a 16-point, six assist performance against Nova by scoring 21 of his own and dishing four helpers. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the freshman continues to play wise beyond his years while frustrating opposing teams’ ball-handlers.
After a winnable contest Tuesday night at Butler the Johnnies have the rest of the week off.
T5. Connecticut Huskies: 8-4 (5-4)
All things considered, the Huskies have done a great job without their best player. If UConn can continue to defend at this level when James Bouknight returns from injury they will be a tough team to beat. This week they fell at home to Seton Hall after a sluggish start. Jalen Gaffney had a team-high 20 points in that game off the bench as the starting five struggled for Danny Hurley against his Alma Mater. Adama Sanogo at times was effective but also showed his age when going up against the bigger Obiagu. Isaiah Whaley continued to do what he did best and blocked four shots but was limited due to foul trouble.
UConn will hit the road this week for a Wednesday game at Providence, who has really been struggling lately. Followed up by a game Saturday at Xavier which will air on FOX. So far the Huskies don’t own a win over a team in the top half of the Big East, that can change this week.
T5. Xavier Musketeers: 11-2 (4-2)
Xavier again played no games last week, though their full roster is expected to be cleared by the middle of the week following the program’s third virus-related pause. Thursday’s home game against DePaul has already been postponed, the Musketeers’ third consecutive contest to fall to the same fate, so X will search for an out-of-conference opponent to fill that slot. Overall, Xavier has lost seven of their last eight games on the schedule. They’ll have to make up as many games as they can if they’d like to have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament.
X hosts UConn on Saturday as well.
7. Georgetown Hoyas: 5-9 (3-6)
Georgetown went 1-1 on the week, which on the surface looks like another instance of the Big East’s teams beating each other up. When you consider the fact that Georgetown played both Creighton and Villanova on the road, led the Jays more or less wire-to-wire, and had a chance to bury Villanova late as well the first sentence becomes considerably more impressive. Maybe the Hoyas have been eager to play after a three-week layoff in January. Maybe they think they’ve got nothing to lose. Maybe they want to save Patrick Ewing’s job. Whatever it is, it seems to be working. Georgetown appears an entirely different team from the mess Ewing had on his hands before the program went on pause.
One game could be considered an aberration, which is what many Big East fans chalked up the late January Providence win as. Then the Hoyas out-played Creighton on their home court, and nearly did the same to Villanova. Jahvon Blair has fashioned himself a great leader, Qudus Wahab is a force inside, transfer Chudier Bile has fallen into line without any trouble, Jamorko Pickett continues to impress with his length and athleticism, and the baby-faced Dante Harris has proven himself to be a worthy floor general to a bunch that have played their last three games like they’ve got tons of people to prove wrong.
Georgetown looks to complete the season sweep of Creighton at home on Tuesday before hosting Butler Saturday afternoon.
8. Providence Friars: 9-10 (5-8)
The Friars’ bubble may have burst this past week as they failed to defend their home court against both Seton Hall and St. John’s. The Hall held Providence to a second-half Tony in a pitiful showing for Ed Cooley’s normally-resilient bunch. The Friars managed just 43 points in a losing effort and had nearly as many turnovers (16) as made baskets (17). If Seton Hall hadn’t shot under 20% from long-range the result would’ve been much uglier than the 17-point final margin.
Providence followed up that embarrassing showing with one of their more impressive scoring outputs – 81 points was the most they’d scored since thrashing DePaul two days after Christmas – but the defensive tenacity Ed Cooley has built a program on was nowhere to be found and the Friars lost a shootout at home to a St. John’s team that is firing on all cylinders. Nate Watson exploded for 30 points and 8 rebounds, and normally-quiet Noah Horchler added 19-and-8 of his own, but outside of a baker’s dozen from A.J. Reeves, David Duke and Alyn Breed couldn’t muster up enough magic to match the Johnnies offensive barrage.
The Friars look to right the ship when they host UConn for a Wednesday matinee before traveling to the aforementioned DePaul for a Saturday night tip.
9. Marquette Golden Eagles: 9-10 (5-8)
Even for fans of rival Big East schools that don’t mind a Duke-grad coached program struggling, Marquette remains incredibly frustrating to watch. They nearly choked a convincing lead away to Butler Tuesday evening and then came a shot or two too short of knocking off Creighton on Saturday. DJ Carton has made a habit of taking putting his stamp on games just a few minutes too late. Simply put, this team continuously finds themselves in spots that experienced teams should not be in. It was a 1-1 week, but a three-point win over struggling Butler and a loss by the same margin to a solid Creighton team left the Marquette faithful confused and ultimately disappointed.
It won’t get any easier for the Golden Eagles as they head on the road this week, first to Villanova for a late tip Wednesday and then to Seton Hall for a Sunday afternoon showdown.
10. Butler Bulldogs: 6-10 (5-8)
Somehow, Butler was able to hold Marquette to just 39 total shots on Tuesday night, but the Bulldogs still found a way to lose. Last week, we talked about how the offense just couldn’t put the ball in the basket, this week they improved that, but not enough for a pair of wins. The Golden Eagles shot 61.5% from the field against Butler on their way to a 3-point win in Milwaukee. Butler had a balanced offensive attacked and was led by a near triple-double from Bo Hodges.
Fast forward to DePaul’s trip to Hinkle on Saturday and anyone not named Javon Freeman-Liberty had a rough game in a Blue Demons’ uniform. The Bulldogs clamped down defensively and allowed just 58 points on their way to a double-digit win. Bryce Nze was superb with 22 points and Bo Hodges again had a nice game with 7 points and 10 rebounds. But the real story was Chuck Harris going for 22 points off the bench.
Butler will host the hottest team in the Big East, St. John’s on Tuesday night before heading to DC to play Georgetown on Saturday.
11. DePaul Blue Demons: 3-8 (1-8)
DePaul saw their mid-week game against Xavier get postponed and their only game of the week was a 10-point loss at Butler. The offensive really has not been good for DePaul of late and it showed as Javon Freeman-Liberty was the only Blue Demon in double-figures against Butler scoring 26 of the team’s 58 points. The struggles continue for Dave Leitao’s team and until they can play some consistent basketball, I don’t think we will see any turnaround. That is not what you want to hear if you are a DePaul fan in the second week of February. Thursday’s game against Xavier has already been postponed so another one-game week for DePaul as they host Providence on Saturday night.