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State of Big East Basketball Roundtable

We got together on our off day yesterday to talk about the climate of the Big East. Here were our thoughts.

NCAA Basketball: Pennsylvania at Villanova Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Has any team done anything to deter you from thinking Villanova will win the conference?

Chris: Not particularly. I think every team has kinda shown their weakness, although Xavier’s lone loss came against a hot-shooting ASU team that wasn’t losing in Vegas that night. Seton Hall has been terrific themselves, but they’ve struggled with shooting at times. Providence is undermanned, and Creighton has had trouble finishing games. I think the Musketeers are surfacing as the primary challenger, but Villanova is the favorite until otherwise noted.

Sam: Both Seton Hall and Xavier CAN beat Villanova and are the only two I could see unseating Villanova. Will that happen? Not that likely. But it’s fun to think it will.

Chris Grenham: I have to agree with Sam here. Both Seton Hall and Xavier can beat Villanova, and I’m sure they’ll combine for 1 or 2 wins vs the Wildcats this season. Will either of them finish above Villanova in the conference standings? Doubtful. I’ll stick with the Wildcats to take the crown.

Matthew Gelenites: I think Seton Hall, when playing as well as they should, can beat Villanova. The issue is that they don’t abuse the talent that Angel Delgado has and instead rely on steamy shooting. Don’t get me wrong, when the Hall is hot, look out because that is a dangerous team that has depth and size. But when they struggle shooting the ball they become frustrated all too easily

Matt Ambrose: Seton Hall and Xavier have the capability, but it’s still too early to tell. Both teams have a vast array of weapons, and when they are all playing well both of these teams are practically unbeatable. The problem is, the same can be said about Villanova. They have the best freshman in the conference in Omari Spellman, and they have Jalen Brunson, who I think is going to be Player of the Year in the Big East. Seton Hall and Xavier have the potential to take down Villanova, but it’s too early to predict a dethroning.

Luke Feliciano: Xavier and Seton Hall are the two most probable teams to unseat Villanova. Xavier captured two signature top 25 victories last week alone and have seem to hit its stride early. Seton hall also beat a top 25 Texas Tech. Both of these teams can challenge Villanova become they have the experience and veteran leadership: Bluiett and Macura for Xavier, Carrington, Desi and Delgado for the Hall.

Alex Sindelar: Georgetown is still undefeated so hell yeah baby. Hoya Saxa.

Tyler Pearre: Xavier and Seton Hall are both capable of dethroning the Wildcats. But I don’t think Seton Hall will be able to rely on their shooting throughout an 18-game conference schedule. I’m inclined to say Xavier can provide a serious threat, but they’ll probably need to sweep ‘Nova to do it, as I don’t see a team with Brunson/Bridges/Spellman and Co. losing more than four conference games, and that’s being generous. This is probably the most realistic chance a non-Nova team has had to win the conference since reformulation.

Anne Foray: No. But it's hard to judge where Villanova is itself because of the tankjobs by Purdue and Arizona at the Battle for Atlantis. We'll know more after Gonzaga.

Kevin Urquhart: No, but I think it COULD happen. Villanova is the best team, but they are beatable.

The biggest surprise of the Big East season is…

Chris: St. John’s. I think people expected improvement in Year 3 and that they would be a definitive bubble team. But I didn’t think people expected for them to be 7-1 at this point. And I think it’s also how they’ve gotten to 7-1 also. They have won impressively, staged some comeback efforts, and have made steadfast improvements defensively. Huge improvements on D, actually. Marvin Clark and Justin Simon, especially Simon, have been instant difference makers. The Johnnies are definitely causing a stir.

Sam: Creighton. Easy. I did not think they would be a top 25 team at any point in the season and thought that they would struggle. In fact, I thought that Creighton, Butler, and St. John’s would all be fighting to not be 8th. And I was wrong. And I admit that. The Jays have everything a tough team needs: a go-to scorer, a solid distributor at point guard, frontcourt skill and depth, and an elite defender in Khryi Thomas that can take on the best player on every other team and shut them down. They’ll be dangerous all year.

Chris Grenham: Georgetown, without question. 6-0? Wins against Coppin St, Maine, AND Richmond? Are you kidding me? And they received votes in this week’s AP Poll. Who saw that one coming? The Hoyas are BACK.

St. John’s. The biggest surprise is St. John’s. Their improvement is way ahead of schedule.

Matthew Gelenites: St. John’s. Normally I put this team as a in conference killer because of the physical play, but their non-conference performances have been amazing. The improvement over the past 3 years has been wonderful to see. They have been able to land solid transfers as well as good recruits in the New York area. I look forward to how they handle Arizona State this week in LA.

Matt Ambrose: St. John’s. I love Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett in the backcourt. I love their size with Tariq Owens, Bashir Ahmed and Marvin Clark. I love their athleticism. I think this is finally the year St. John’s gets out of the bottom four and gets to sit back and relax on Wednesday of the Big East Tournament.

Luke Feliciano: Creighton. Earlier in the year, they beat Northwestern and UCLA, who were at the time, both ranked opponents. They lost a tight one to a very good Baylor team and struggled against Gonzaga. I was expecting this team to wind up in the middle of the pack in the Big East with the departures of Maurice Watson and Justin Patton, but they have a pretty solid backcourt developing between Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas who are both averaging over 15 a game.

Alex Sindelar: DePaul. The fact that they've won multiple games is a surprise to me. I didn't know who Max Strus was at the beginning of the season and now I get him confused with Joe Hanel when the Blue Demons are playing on the big screen, so I guess I still don't really know who he is. Is he actually just Joe Hanel moving really fast back and forth?

Tyler Pearre: The mighty Hoyas of Georgetown have a very real chance to have double-digit wins by the start of conference play, which I wasn’t expecting to say when the season began, even with their weak schedule. In all seriousness, though, St. John’s has been both surprising and extremely fun to watch. Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds are as fun a duo as there is in the conference, and Justin Simon is playing like a man who deserves the second most minutes. 7-1 is an excellent start for New York’s favorite team.

Anne Foray: That Goodin and Carrington have been so effective at point guard for Xavier and Seton Hall.

Kevin Urquhart: Seton Hall. Yeah, I know, I know, everybody knew Seton Hall was gonna be good. But did we know they would be THIS good? I didn’t, anyway. A win at Louisville is no small thing.

The biggest disappointment…

Chris: It’s weird to say Marquette, because they’re 5-3 and had a 2-1 showing in Maui. But I suppose I’ll say Marquette. Their defense is lacking in ways that it probably shouldn’t. We’ll eventually see if Harry Froling provides a swift change to that. But for now, MU is a disappointment.

Sam: The Marquette alumni in me hates to say it, but Marquette. 100%. They seem to be struggling in areas that were their forte last year and, to be honest, even with Harry Froling coming in, their frontcourt lacks an elite defender down low AND a solid offensive presence down low. They can trot out 3 elite shooters, but they’ve been much more streaky this year than last. Hopefully they bounce back, but with all of the promise on this roster, they’ve started a bit flat.

Chris Grenham: I really don’t want to say Marquette because, like Chris said, they’re 5-3 and had a pretty good showing in Maui. Their defense really concerns me, and losing Haanif Cheatham hurts their depth. I definitely struggled with this one, but I’ll stick with Marquette for now.

Matt Ambrose: Providence. I’m still waiting to see that team that was picked 4th in the conference to start the season. They needed a buzzer beater to take down Belmont, and a late surge to take down Rider, both in a span of a week and both games were at home. I’m sure they’ll find their stride before late December, but so if Providence goes into Big East play like this, they’re going to have a hard time winning games.

Luke Feliciano: Basically what Matt said. Lol.

Alex Sindelar: Without a doubt it’s Villanova. Why aren't they ranked number one? Are they not sending enough muffin baskets to AP pollsters? There's something really frustrating about that. They should be number one. The whole ranking system is flawed. Burn it down.

Tyler Pearre: Providence. I was never high on the Marquette train, so their early season lapses, while surprising, don’t strike me as disappointing. As for the Friars, they barely squeaked out a win against Belmont in a game they probably should have lost, and nearly dropped another game to Rider seven days later. I trust that Ed Cooley, Kyron Cartwright and Rodney Bullock will get this team going in the right direction sooner rather than later, but until that happens, I think it’s safe to say Providence has been the biggest disappointment.

Anne Foray: That Marquette looks so weak, especially at home.

Kevin Urquhart: Georgetown. Let’s be honest, who wasn’t ready for Georgetown to suffer a hilarious loss to Maryland Eastern Shore? Not only did they win that one, but they even managed to squeak past Coppin State. The DePaul-Georgetown debate has lost a lot of luster with G’Town winning all these games.

Since it’s so hotly contested: DePaul? Or Georgetown?

Chris: I look at it two ways.

On one hand, yes, Georgetown’s noncon stinks. And DePaul should be credited for playing tougher teams. On the other hand, the Blue Demons have been a frustrating watch. They’ll lead at times against these top-tier teams, and then go on to show exactly why they are where they are. There were mistakes in the Notre Dame game. They led for a half against Michigan State and then came undone. They gave Oregon hell, but lost. They SHOULD be 3-4 at this point, but it’s been a little frustrating at times.

And while Georgetown hasn’t played anybody, they’ve knocked down the teams that they’ve set in front of them. Remember when they lost to Radford two years ago? Or Northeastern back in 2013? Even this year, there’ve been teams that have taken bad losses. I do think the Hoyas could’ve played tougher, but I will also say they’ve avoided bad losses like the plague this year, at least. Although they certainly looked a bit sluggish against Coppin State on Sunday.

Sam: All I want is DePaul to be better than Georgetown. DePaul is certainly more tested and has flashed moments of brilliance. While we’re accused as a blog of hating Max Strus, if he’s on, kid can BALL. Eli Cain and TreDarius McCallum both are players that would be important on most, if not all, Big East teams. DePaul has promise and right now there’s not a lot of great long-term Georgetown hype (until/if Patrick Ewing starts recruiting well). I’m taking DePaul as the better team, but in the power rankings I put Georgetown ahead of them because yes, Georgetown hasn’t lost yet. This will change and DePaul will be better.

Chris Grenham: DePaul. I’m a big fan of Max Strus and Eli Cain, plus Georgetown’s non-conference schedule is pathetic, which just rubs me the wrong way. Yes, they’ve done what they’ve needed to do, and are 6-0. DePaul’s experience against tougher opponents this year has me leaning towards them, despite their inconsistencies.

Matthew Gelenites: if you’re asking me which one is better, I would say flip a coin. While I am Anti-Georgetown, DePaul has been a struggle to watch this season. The talent that DePaul has makes them a very good team, and you can see that they really do fight against top tier teams. Notre Dame, Michigan State and Oregon at some point had an issue with DePaul. I would say DePaul has a better team overall just by the Eye-test. Georgetown on the other hand has played no one this season, but has knocked over everyone they’ve played. The one good point to make about their weak schedule is that i will build confidence and allows Ewing to experiment. I don’t know how well Georgetown would match up with the top tier teams yet and it’s all very hypothetical.

DePaul I think will eventually be the better team (I hope. I actually have a soft spot for them).

Matt Ambrose: Right now, Georgetown is the better team, simply because they have won. But that Big East schedule is going to hit them like a train. And then they’ll try and get back up, but they’ll get hit by another train. And it will just be this scenario over and over again for all 18 Big East games (except when they play DePaul).

Luke Feliciano: There is no way to tell yet of course until they play head-to-head, but from the onset, DePaul challenged themselves with a much stronger Noncon schedule than Georgetown. The Hoyas are undefeated, but have played against some real cupcake teams.

Alex Sindelar: Are you asking who I’d rather take on a date? I mean, Chicago is nice in some parts and the food is pretty good, but the prospects of sitting down at a restaurant and eating lunch next to a real life corrupted member of congress or the president’s lawyer, who actively reveals very private information in public, is the kind of excitement I need in my life. I’m D.C all the way, baby. Hoya Saxa.

Tyler Pearre: Hoya Saxa? I really don’t know. Jessie Govan is the best player on either team, so I guess I’ll roll with the Hoyas.

Anne Foray: DePaul’s the worst in a landslide. I was hoping they'd take a much bigger step forward towards mediocrity.

Kevin Urquhart: I really think DePaul is better than G’Town. Look, I know an ‘L’ is an ‘L’ but they have played some close games against some good teams. They have a two game winning streak. They have Max Strus. And I expect them to at least split the series with Georgetown.

The biggest win for any Big East team this season was…

Chris: I’ll cheat and say that Xavier’s two wins last week against Baylor and Cincinnati were the two best. By far.

Matthew Gelenites: I would have to say it’s between Seton Hall’s victory in Louisville or Xavier’s Win over Cincinnati.

Sam: Xavier over Cincinnati or Seton Hall over Louisville.

Chris Grenham: Seton Hall taking down Louisville at the Yum Center capped off a huge week for them. I’ll say that’s the biggest win of the year so far, with Xavier over Cincinnati coming in at a close second.

Matt Ambrose: Seton Hall over Louisville. It was the perfect way to cap off the perfect week for the Pirates. After a 1-1 week in Brooklyn that knocked them out of the Top 25, they rebounded with two wins against two ranked opponents to climb back up to No. 19 in the polls. They’ve put themselves in a position where they have a strong chance to finish non-conference play 12-1.

Luke Feliciano: Xavier over Cincinnati. This was both a huge win and week for the Musketeers as they knocked off two higher ranked top 25 opponents at home. That’s not to say there weren’t other big victories for other conference teams last week, most notably, Seton Hall over Texas Tech and Louisville. I think any team in the Big East can beat another Big East team on any given day in conference play because that’s just how deep the league is with the exceptions of maybe Georgetown and DePaul.

Alex Sindelar: Georgetown over Coppin State. Getting to watch Coach Ewing talk to Jonathan Mulmore about how stupid it is to receive a flagrant 1 after jumping on the opposing player in a 15 point game with less than three minutes left is everything I've ever wanted.

Tyler Pearre: Creighton punching Gonzaga in the mouth for 20 minutes was pretty cool, I guess.

Anne Foray: Tie between the 2 wins by Seton Hall this past week following the tough loss to Rhode Island.

Kevin Urquhart: Butler’s epic comeback against Ohio State. Butler was playing against the coach that betrayed them, trying to salvage a decent non-conference win after losing to Maryland and Texas. Call it an overreaction, but when Butler fell behind to the Buckeyes, I felt like their season was hanging in the balance. They came back and won and promptly ran Saint Louis out of the gym in their next game. The Bulldogs have some swagger now and could surprise in Big East play.

Your breakout performer so far is…

Chris: I will say Mikal Bridges.

Sam: God, I love Kaiser Gates. He’s averaging 11 and 5 a game and can play defense. He’s not as good as Mikal Bridges or Khyri Thomas, but considering he hasn’t really been talked up, he’s been playing well. He’s got game on offense from at the rim to beyond the three point line. He’s shooting 46% from three, too. He’s a great third/fourth option for Trevon Blueitt, J.P. Macura, and Quentin Goodin.

Chris Grenham: J.P. Macura. I don’t see any other players causing Mick Cronin-like temper tantrums.

Matthew Gelenites: I’d have to pick Mikal Bridges. The way he dominates the game amazes me, and his development at Villanova is incredible.

Matt Ambrose: Desi Rodriguez, no doubt about it. With his 29 point barrage on Sunday against Louisville, he is now averaging 20 PPG. So far at Seton Hall, the book on Rodriguez has been that he can be explosive, but his game was very inconsistent. This year, it’s been anything but. So far this season, he’s been the Pirates’ best player, and it’s not close.

Luke Feliciano: I want to say Bluiett, but we already know he’s a star player. Andrew Rowsey has significantly increased his offensive production. He has made a jump from averaging 11.5 a game to now scoring 22.6 points per game. I’m expecting him to cool off once the season progresses, but as it currently stands, he’s shown vast improvement.

Alex Sindelar: Joe Hanel pretending to be two players.

Tyler Pearre: I’m going to pretend this is a PAC-12 blog and say LiAngelo Ball… you know, because LaVar…. Nevermind. Anyways, I’m gonna say Kaleb Johnson (hot takes only). He went from the Hoyas’ most potent defender/scrapper to one of the team’s most versatile offensive weapons. His shooting percentages are off the charts, and he appears to be much more confident on the court. He obviously hasn’t played against tough competition, but if he stays hot, the Hoyas have a new all-around weapon.

Anne Foray: Desi Rodriguez has taken his game to a whole other level.

Kevin Urquhart: Mikal Bridges. The guy is a joy to watch.