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Big East Power Rankings: Week Three

The top three hasn't changed but the hunt for the No. 4 spot is heating up, as the four teams at the bottom of the conference jockey for position.

1. Creighton

I considered dropping the Bluejays to the No. 2 slot this week, but despite a 2-2 mark over their last four games, they remain the top team in the conference. Creighton wasted a chance to take a stranglehold on the league when it split a shortened two-game set against St. John's in Omaha this past weekend. After blanking the Johnnies on Friday behind a complete-game shutout from Rollie Lacy, the Bluejays were stifled in a 4-1 loss on Saturday. Unfortunately, Sunday's rubber match was postponed due to rain. It was the 12th time this season the Bluejays have had a game either postponed, cancelled or changed because of inclement weather. Damn you, winter!

Along with Lacy's impressive outing (9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 8 SO), which earned him Big East Pitcher of the Week honors, Creighton's league-best pitching staff got a boost on Tuesday with a complete team effort. A total of 10 pitchers combined to allow just two runs on seven hits in an 8-2 win over Omaha. Forgive me for playing a broken record, but the Jays;' league-best ERA is continues to dazzle, currently sitting at 3.16.

2. St. John's

It's unfair that we were robbed of a chance to see the Red Storm gun for a road series win over Creighton on Sunday. Such a victory would have certainly made the Johnnies the conference favorite and put them alone at the top of the league standings. However, they will just have to settle with a first-place tie with the Bluejays, as they are 22-13 overall and 6-2 in conference action. They can thank Ryan McCormick for lifting them to the weekend split, as the right-hander twirled a gem to lift the Red Storm off the mat following Friday's 6-0 loss. McCormick let up just one hit and a single unearned run, while striking out eight batters, across a personal best 7 1/3 innings in the victory. He is now 6-1 with a 3.91 ERA. More outings like that would give the Red Storm a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, with Cody Stashak (5-4, 3.58 ERA) capable of hanging donuts on the scoreboards, although he allowed five runs in Friday's loss.

You know what else is unfair? How much better St. John's and Creighton are than the rest of the league. At this point, it is a foregone conclusion that one of these two squads will represent the Big East in the NCAA Tournament and their trips to Omaha for the Big East Tournament are probably already printed.

3. Seton Hall

The Pirates are here by default. Besides Creighton and St. John's, they are the only team with a record above .500 in league play (5-4). However, they are coming off a rather uninspired effort against Butler this past weekend. Despite playing on their home diamond, the Pirates dropped two of three to the Bulldogs, scoring a total of eight runs. They have lost three of their last five games and scored more than two runs only once in that span. Punchless offense will undoubtedly be the team's down fall eventually. Just ask Shane McCarthy, who dropped to 4-3 this season, despite zipping through eight innings, while allowing just one run against Butler on Saturday. Unfortunately, the Pirates were held scoreless, leaving eight runners on base, while failing to record an extra base hit in the loss. Entering this weekend, they are second in the Big East in team ERA (.344), but second to last in team batting average (.250).

4. Georgetown

If Georgetown's bats remain as power-packed as they were on Sunday and Tuesday, then the Hoyas may just annihilate every team in their path. On Sunday, Ryan Busch blasted two home runs and went 4-for-4, while A.C. Carter launched a long ball as well, during a 10-1 win over Stony Brook. Carter's power surge continued when he deposited his fourth home run of the season over the fence on Tuesday, while Nick Collins' bomb also helped the Hoyas in a 13-0 win over Coppin State.  Of course, such offensive explosions are unlikely to continue, especially against stingy pitching staffs like Creighton's. After all, the Hoyas dropped two of three to Stony Brook and are still a middling 20-17 overall. However, Georgetown was at the top of the Big East in team batting average (.283), home runs (15) and runs per game (5.6) prior to a double-header with UMES on Wednesday. Allow me to be the first to call Collins and Carter the bash brothers of the Big East's best offense.

5. Butler

Watch out, ya'll. Butler isn't messing around anymore, or at least it wasn't against Seton Hall over the weekend. All season, the Bulldogs have been able to hit, but they finally got some strong pitching efforts in taking two of three from the Pirates in South Orange. Nick Morton (6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 SO) got the win on Saturday and Peter Nyznyk (8 IP, 6 H, 0 ER) was even better in Sunday's triumph. It was a flash of brilliance from a staff that is at the bottom of the Big East in a number of pitching categories, including ERA (5.17). Strangely enough, they do lead the league in shutouts (five). Of course, an 8-2 loss to Northern Kentucky really dampened the good feelings, but if the Butler staff can build off of their work against the Pirates, they could factor in the Big East Tournament after all.

6. Villanova

It seems the Wildcats are regressing from a semi-promising beginning of the month. After winning four of five games, all against non-league foes, to start April, the Wildcats have gone just 3-5, although they have won as many conference games as they've lost (3-3), including a 2-1 series win against Xavier this past weekend. They hurt themselves on Tuesday, however, losing 9-8 to regional rival Saint Joseph's. Trevino Rodriguez was mostly to blame for that setback, as he was lit up for six runs in just one inning of work.

Things are going to get a whole lot harder coming up, as the Wildcats play 10 of their final 14 games on the road, including this weekend's series against powerful St. John's. We are either about to see a miracle run from the Wildcats or a devastating tailspin. My money is on the latter.

7. Xavier

Welcome to your weekly reminder that Xavier is not very good at baseball. The Musketeers are 10-31 overall, although they did earn their first Big East win of the season on Saturday, escaping with a 7-6 victory against Villanova. Another small bright spot for the X-men was the play of Patrick Jones this past week. He went 6-for-13 and drove in three runs and got himself onto the Big East's weekly honor roll. So, that's something.