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Big East Power Rankings: Week Six. 'Cats lead the pack heading into conference play

The Big East boasts three Top 25 teams, and they lead our latest power rankings heading into conference play.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
1. Villanova Wildcats (12-0, last week: same)

Shocker, but Villanova is still No. 1 on this list. The Wildcats will have senior Darrun Hilliard ready to go for Wednesday's Big East opener versus Butler. Hilliard leads the team with 12.6 points per game, and will be needed against one of the top defensive teams in the nation. Nova is currently 7th in the country in offensive efficiency, and if this defense can stifle the Bulldogs early and get some good looks at the basket, they can build a lead that might be too tough for Butler to overcome.

2. St. John's Red Storm (11-1, last week: same)

St. John's rolled over Tulane for its seventh consecutive victory, and find themselves ranked 15th in the AP polls as they head to The Rock to kick off Big East play against Seton Hall. St. John's is off to its best start since the 1985-86 season, earning their highest ranking since finishing the 1999-2000 campaign at No. 9. The Johnnies finished Big East play last year winning 10 of their final 13 conference games, so they carry lots of momentum going into a battle with The Hall, who'll be missing Isaiah Whitehead, the freshman that spurned the Red Storm last year.

3. Georgetown Hoyas (8-3, last week: same)

Georgetown cracks the Top 25 after needing overtime to drop Indiana at MSG. D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera was named Big East Player of the Week for his performance in Saturday's win, scoring a game-high 29 points to lead the Hoyas to victory after trailing by 10 at halftime. Georgetown has gotten into early foul trouble often in the last few games, a trend that can't continue if the Hoyas look to go into a hostile Cintas Center and score a W over Xavier.

4. Butler Bulldogs (10-3, last week: 5)

Butler comes into Wednesday's game with Villanova as a top-15 team in the country in defensive efficiency, holding opponents to 44.2 percent effective field goal percentage. The Bulldogs are far and away the most surprising Big East team of the season, with the switch to interim coach Chris Holtmann, a perceived lack of depth and no consistent second-option to pair with Kellen Dunham (Roosevelt Jones scored 20 on Belmont last week, but his play has been here and there this season). When Butler hosted Villanova last New Years Eve, their record was 10-2. They finished 14-17. Expect a strong outing in Philly Wednesday with a Bulldog team looking to avoid a similar slide in 2015.

5. Providence Friars (10-3, last week: 6)

Smile, Friars fans! You move up one spot in the polls. I mean, I know it's not the top three like you want, but here's the thing: IT'S SO EARLY IN THE SEASON! Everybody with the obvious exception of Villanova is on an even playing field at this point. You know how PC can jump into the top 3? Beat Creighton and Marquette, and beat them soundly. Providence is riding a wave of momentum, but those losses to Boston College at at home to Brown really hurt PC. Convincing wins to kick off conference play is a great way to silence the doubters and erase those bad losses. LaDontae Henton's 20 PPG still leads the conference. Expect the senior to turn on the jets the minute the ball is tipped against Creighton.

6. Seton Hall Pirates (10-2, last week: 4)

Such a shame Isaiah Whitehead won't be playing in this one, because Seton Hall's match-up with the Johnnies might steal the show. The two schools finished a combined 21-3 in non-conference play, and this game carries more weight than simply bragging rights in the NYC metro area. Freshmen Desi Rodriguez (Bronx) and Khadeen Carrington (Brooklyn, same as Whitehead) both hail from New York City, and will no doubt be playing for the pride of their school and their respective boroughs. But the play of Sterling Gibbs will determine the outcome of this contest. Will he put the team on his back with the absence of Whitehead, or will he be silent like the Georgia game a few weeks ago?

7. Xavier Musketeers (9-3, last week: same)

Take away one of Xavier's three losses, and they very well could be a top 25 team. The Muskies still lead the conference in most of the major scoring categories, including adjusted field goal percentage (57.1 percent). But aside from wins over Alabama and Murray State, their resume looks fairly bleek. Beating up on 25th-ranked Georgetown would be a great start towards building an at-large case for March.

More on Xavier: Banners on the Parkway
8. Marquette Golden Eagles (8-4, last week: same)

Ever since Luke Fischer entered the lineup for Marquette, they've hit a groove, winning their last four games in convincing fashion. A trip to DePaul on New Years Eve will likely extend that winning streak, but Marquette shouldn't get complacent. The Blue Demons have some players in Billy Garrett, Jamee Crockett and Myke Henry, and it won't be a walk in the park for the Golden Eagles. Marquette has an effective field goal percentage of 52.9%, their best since the Dwyane Wade era of 2003. If they keep pushing the Demons and limit the turnovers, MU should feel pretty good heading back home to face Providence this weekend.

9. Creighton Bluejays (9-4, last week: same)

James Milliken has been reinstated after a ten-day suspension. Coach Greg McDermott says he's lost faith in the young guard after a string of incidents, but he'll be needed off the bench for Creighton to defeat Providence Wednesday. Even if McDermott chooses to freeze Milliken out in order to send him a message, the Bluejays boast a slew on shooters that attract so much attention, it's impossible to leave any one player open. Whether Milliken will be taking shots or used as a decoy, Creighton will have to light up The Dunk in order to come away with a victory.

10. DePaul Blue Demons (6-7, last week: same)

There's the DePaul we know and love. After a 6-1 start, the Blue Demons have dropped their last six games, with only two losses coming by less than 10 points. Opponents are scoring 76 points a game on DePaul, and should this continue, Marc Trestman won't be the only Chicago coach walking the plant this winter. They'll renew a rivalry with Marquette Wednesday afternoon, a game which should be interesting now that Luke Fischer has entered the fray for the Eagles. It'll be pleasant to see Tommy Hamilton banging with Fischer inside, and it may remind us of the physical Big East match-ups from years past.