1. St. John's
Alex: The Red Storm proved this weekend that they're deserving of the top slot in the Big East this past weekend. Though they allowed an average of 5 runs per game against Butler, the offense proved to be tops in the conference. Tommy Hackimer is as good as they come when the game is on the line in the 9th, as the junior righty collected two saves over the weekend. Robbie Knightes and Alex Caruso have proven themselves time and time again to be two of the most dependable bats in the league and I'd be hard pressed to believe that their performances were just an anomaly.
1. St. John's
Phil: One of two teams, along with Seton Hall, to sweep its first conference series, the Red Storm have been one of the more consistent forces in the conference as they sit at 16-10 overall, with wins in six of their last seven contests. Powered by the sweet stroke of third baseman Robbie Knightes, St. John's overpowered Butler in three games over the weekend, scoring seven, six and seven runs, respectively, in the three duels. Offense is the key for St. John's, which is averaging 5.2 runs per game and hitting .272 as a team. However, its ability to flash the leather doesn't hurt, with the squad at the top of the Big East in fielding percentage (.980).
Alex: The Bluejay's game one loss to the Hoyas was something of a rarity, as Creighton was unable to get the bats going early against Georgetown ace Matt Hollenbeck. The Bluejays proved that their starting staff is tops in the Big East, as they only allowed 2.5 runs per game after allowing 4 Hoyas to cross the plate Thursday night. Keith Rogalla is a player to watch for the rest of the year, and even without their star shortstop, Creighton's brilliant defense shines far brighter than any team in the Big East.
Phil: Creighton has only itself to blame for sinking to No. 2 in these very important (read: not important at all) power rankings. An inexplicable loss against Georgetown in the opener of a three-game set on Friday put the Bluejays in a hole to start conference play. They have already made strides to pull themselves from the momentary abyss, topping the Hoyas in the next two games, thanks to some stellar pitching. What else is new? Creighton leads the Big East in ERA (3.40). The Bluejays are the toast of the conference in a few other spots, including overall record (17-9) and RPI, ranking 59th. Expect them to fall no further and leapfrog the Red Storm in next week's rankings.
3. Seton Hall
Alex: Seton Hall's sweep was indicative of how good the Pirates can be. Winning 8 straight games isn't a fluke, but to truly be tested the South Orange boys will need to face a stiffer competition than Xavier. Joe DiBenedetto is one of the better closers you'll see all year and Pirate ace Zach Prendergast has some nasty stuff that will almost assure a Pirate win in each series.
3. Seton Hall
Phil: It is perhaps unfair, but winning eight in a row doesn't mean much when your opponents are Princeton, Fairleigh Dickinson and Big East pushover Xavier. That's not exactly a murderer's row. However, the Pirates still deserve credit for getting the job done, as they breezed past the Musketeers over the weekend, taking a 7-4 victory on Friday and a double-header sweep on Sunday. Seton Hall is now 15-10 overall and with a devastating duo at the top of the weekend rotation in Shane McCarthy (4-1, 0.99 ERA) and Zach Prendergast (4-2, 2.49 ERA), it can win an arms race with most teams in the league.
Alex: Butler is the obvious choice for the 4 slot here, as they took St. John's to the wire in each affair this past weekend. If the Bulldogs are able to figure out how to close out games they could be a pesky foe each weekend. Tyler Houston showed how good he can be, coming just a home run shy of hitting for the cycle on Thursday night. However, if the bullpen issues continue to plague the Bulldogs they may sink very quickly.
Phil: It appears Alex and I have finally reached our first disagreement. The Hoyas did themselves proud against Xavier, hanging right with the powerful Bluejays all weekend. The issue for Georgetown is its lack of consistency. It is 14-14 overall, but the win over Creighton was just the third in the last seven games. First baseman A.C. Carter's weekend really sums up what the Hoyas have been like. He went 3-for-5 and brought in the winning run on Friday, but then went hitless in nine at bats, while leaving five runners on base, the rest of the weekend. Still, the Hoyas were competitive with Creighton and they are the only team in the conference among the top three in team batting average (.274, third) and team ERA (3.79, second).
Alex: The Musketeers are the most difficult team to gauge at this point. From an overall win-loss perspective, they're bottom of the barrel. The talented arms of Kirschner and Hall can carry this team pretty far into the Big East but their tumultuous bullpen and inability to score runs when it absolutely matters will leave the Musketeers on the outside looking in when tournament play starts.
Phil: A real lack of stopping power from the mound led the Bulldogs to a series sweep at the hands of St. John's. A total of eight pitchers toed the rubber for the cause, but the squad had a 6.00 ERA for the weekend. The pitching struggles meant a waste of some solid hitting by Butler, which has scored at least four runs in 12 straight games and leads the Big East in batting average (.290). So the offense is there, the pitching staff just has to do better than its league-worst ERA (5.47) to push Butler from a 12-18 lightweight to a contender.
Alex: Bushor and AC Carter seem to be the offensive spark that Georgetown has been dying to show off, but the defensive ineptitude severely hampers any resemblance to a tournament-ready team. I expect Georgetown to compete on Friday nights, but anything past that it spells doom for the Hoya bulllpen. Matt Smith seems to be a strident competitor when he's dealing on the hill, unfortunately he's got a poor defense behind him.
Phil: The Wildcats get the benefit of a pass this week, as it was the only squad not to face a conference foe last weekend. However, they still found a way to embarrass themselves, getting blanked by Bryant on Friday before just scraping by in the second part of a two-game series. They are 12-15 overall and there are some solid contact hitters in Todd Czinege (.336/.395/.398) and Adam Goss (.323/.410/.424) and a source of power in Max Beermann (four home runs, 23 RBI) in the mix. The Wildcats will get a chance to test themselves against a league rival this weekend, with a three-game home series against Georgetown.
Alex: Hard telling what the Wildcats are made of considering their opponents this weekend. Getting shut out by Bryant on Friday was embarrassing, but DH Jeff Courter advanced the Wildcats to the Liberty Bell Classic semifinal this week. I just don't see Villanova competing for a top-four slot in the conference tourney, they just have too many inconsistent offensive approaches to justify ranking them any higher. When they're done playing ball with their little cousins in their Philly-ball tournament and can step on the field with the likes of Creighton and Seton Hall, perhaps we'll know more. Right now, though, they look like the weakest link.
Phil: Let's hear it for your defending Big East champions! The Musketeers have been painful to watch this season, picking up only eight wins in 31 chances. They have lost seven straight after being swept by Seton Hall over the weekend. Xavier's record has been no fluke, as it has had trouble putting together good at bats, ranking last in batting average (.240) and on-base percentage (.323), while making far too many mistakes in the field (league-high 46 errors). The glass half-full response to such miserable baseball is the X is just digging an even bigger hole than last season so another surprise run to the league title will be that much more thrilling. Unlikely.