Last Week in the Big East
Tuesday, February 9
Butler 76, St. John’s 73
Creighton 63, Georgetown 48
Wednesday, February 10
Providence 70, UConn 59
Villanova 96, Marquette 64
Saturday, February 13
UConn 80, Xavier 72
Georgetown 78, Butler 63
Creighton 86, Villanova 70
Providence 57, DePaul 47
Sunday, February 14
Seton Hall 57, Marquette 51
Player of the Week
David Duke, Providence, G, Jr.
Freshman of the Week
Adama Sanogo, Connecticut, F, Fr.
R.J. Cole, Connecticut, G, Jr.
Christian Bishop, Creighton, F, Jr.
Jared Rhoden, Seton Hall, F, Jr.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova, F, So.
Zach Freemantle, Xavier, F, So.
All times Eastern
Tuesday, February 16
Providence at UConn, 6:30, FS1
Xavier at St. John’s, 8:30, FS1
Wednesday, February 17
Marquette at Butler, 6:30, FS1
DePaul at Seton Hall, 8:30, FS1
Saturday, February 20
UConn at Villanova, 1:00, FOX
Seton Hall at Georgetown, 5:30, CBS Sports
DePaul at St John’s, 7:30, FS1
Sunday, February 21
Butler at Xavier, 7:00, FS1
It’s movin’ time in the Big East! With three weeks left in the regular season, the games are more important than ever.
The week opens with two bubbly matchups on Tuesday night. First, Providence takes on UConn for the second time in six days. The Friars took the first matchup, but a lot can change in less than a week. Jared Bynum and Akok Akok, significant pieces for PC and Connecticut respectively, both played on Saturday after long absences due to injury. James Bouknight also looks closer to a return than ever. If he plays, Tuesday night’s game could feature three impact players that were not available when these teams first met last Wednesday. Both teams are in desperate need of a win to help their tournament hopes. Later that night, St. John’s hosts Xavier in my game of the week. More on this one later, but this game might have the most significant tournament implications of any game this week.
Things slow down a bit Wednesday night. Marquette travels to Butler in this Big East basement battle. The Golden Eagles have played their way off the bubble and into 10th place in the conference, so the rest of this season may be about keeping Wojo off the hot seat. A win over Butler would help get things going in the right direction. Seton Hall hosts DePaul in the late game, and the Pirates are finding their stride at the right time. Kevin Willard’s team has won three straight, and a loss at home to DePaul would be an unlikely setback.
Saturday afternoon starts off with a bang, as UConn meets Villanova for the first time since the Huskies rejoined the conference. Jay Wright and the Wildcats will be looking to bounce back from a 16-point loss at Creighton, and Villanova does not lose two in a row very often. Meanwhile, a road win at the top team in the conference would be a massive boost for the Huskies’ resume. These are two Big East heavyweights that should combine for an entertaining matchup. In the evening, the Hoyas host Seton Hall, and DePaul travels to St. John’s following them up. Georgetown has started playing good basketball as of late, winning three of their last five after opening the season 3-8. The Hoyas could cause trouble for Seton Hall. St. John’s, meanwhile, needs two wins this week to keep their bubble momentum going. A loss at home to DePaul would sink their tournament chances.
Butler and Xavier square off in the lone game on Sunday. Xavier took the first meeting between these two back in January thanks to 24 points from Paul Scruggs.
Game of the Week
Tuesday, February 16
Xavier at St. John’s
Coming off of a two-week pause on Saturday, the Musketeers dropped their first game back. Nearly two months into Big East play, Xavier has only played seven conference games. A number that low makes them a tough evaluation for the committee, and it increases the importance of every win. With a loss to St. John’s, Xavier would drop to .500 in the Big East.
Meanwhile, St. John’s had a six-game winning streak snapped at Butler earlier last week. Sitting at .500 themselves, the Red Storm need to get back to winning ways in a hurry to get on the right side of the bubble.
St. John’s has the fastest team in the Big East. The Red Storm like to force turnovers and get their opponents back on their heels in transition. Xavier brings an offense that likes to move the ball to get open looks. Travis Steele’s attack is sixth in the nation in assist rate, and that starts at the top with Paul Scruggs and his 6.4 assists per game. If the Musketeers are still shaking off the rust, Posh Alexander and Julian Champagnie will get in passing lanes and push the pace early. If Xavier is sharp, then those passes will find the open men for easy shooting looks.
My prediction: Xavier 75, St. John’s 71
In the Rankings
Creighton’s shellacking of Villanova on Saturday moves the Bluejays from 19 to 14 and drops the Wildcats from 5 to 10. Xavier lost but remaining in the polls, while the Red Storm fell out entirely.
Stat of the Week
Ed Cooley’s Providence teams have been known for their defense, but that hasn’t been the case this season. Through last week, the Friars gave up 71.7 points per game, a drop-off of more than 5 points from last season. That all changed this past week, though, with Providence holding UConn to 59 and DePaul to 47. We’ll see if the turnaround holds, but a dramatic turnaround at the defensive end of the floor could give the Friars a boost down the home stretch.