Every Monday during conference play, the Voice Sports Staff will provide its take on each team’s performance to date.
- Villanova (14-2, 4-0 Big East)
Last week’s ranking: 2, ↑ 1 spot
Last week: win at Butler (60-55), win vs. Seton Hall (72-63)
Upcoming: Jan. 13 vs. Marquette, Jan. 16 at Georgetown
We have a new No. 1 team in the rankings after another impressive week by Head Coach Jay Wright’s team and a loss by Providence. Villanova looks to be well on their way to a third consecutive Big East regular season title. While many look at the well-balanced nature of the offense, with nearly five players averaging double figures in scoring, as the reason for the team’s success, the Wildcats defense has been one of the best in the country. Opponents have only averaged 60.5 points per game, the ninth-lowest in all of college basketball. On the offensive end, junior guard Josh Hart averaged 17.5 points last week and looks to be finding his groove, something no Big East opponent wants to see. A potent offensive attack spearheaded by excellent three-point shooting allows Villanova to stay in striking distance no matter how much they trail by.
- Xavier (14-1, 2-1 Big East)
Last week’s ranking: 3, ↑ 1 spot
Last week: win at St. John’s (74-66)
Upcoming: Jan. 12 vs. DePaul, Jan. 16 at Marquette
Having won two consecutive games, the Musketeers have rebounded nicely after their 31-point league-opening loss at Villanova. Even without freshman guard Edmond Sumner, who is day-to-day after a near-fatal collision at Villanova, Head Coach Chris Mack’s squad has stayed strong, winning a closer-than-expected road game at St. John’s.
- Providence (14-2, 2-1 Big East)
Last week’s ranking: 1, ↓ 2 spots
Last week: loss vs. Marquette (65-64)
Upcoming: Jan. 12 at Creighton, Jan. 16 vs. Seton Hall
The Friars have come back to earth after achieving their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 poll since 1977. Despite a heartbreaking loss to Marquette last week, in which junior guard Kris Dunn’s game-winning layup attempt was blocked, there is still a lot for Friar fans to be excited about looking forward. Dunn leads the conference in assists per game (7.3), while sophomore forward Ben Bentil is number one in points per game (19.4). Providence will be tested when they travel to Omaha for a date with Creighton on Tuesday, but if the Friars can survive the journey, they will be in prime position to reclaim the top spot in the conference when they travel to Villanova on Jan. 23.
- Creighton (12-5, 3-1 Big East)
Last week’s ranking: 7, ↑ 3 spots
Last week: win at Seton Hall (82-67), win vs. Georgetown (79-66)
Upcoming: Jan. 12 vs. Providence, Jan. 17 at DePaul
Creighton has surprised the entire Big East with its fast start. The Bluejays have three conference wins already, after only winning four Big East games all of last season. Senior guard Maurice Watson could be a dark horse candidate for Big East Player of the Year if the Bluejays continue their current form. This week, the Boston University transfer scored 27 points, on 9-of-13 shooting, while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out seven assists against Georgetown. He followed that up with 13 points and 14 assists at Seton Hall.
- Marquette (12-4, 2-2 Big East)
Last week’s ranking: 7, ↑ 2 spots
Last week: win vs. St. John’s (81-75), win at Providence (65-64)
Upcoming: Jan. 13 at Villanova, Jan. 16 vs. Xavier
Following a rough 0-2 start, the Golden Eagles now have arguably the most impressive win in the conference this season with their win at Providence. Freshman forward Henry Ellenson has had double-doubles in both of Marquette’s wins this past week and has found his shooting touch. Ellenson went a combined 24 percent, 7-of-29, in the team’s first two games. Over the last two, he has shot a combined 50 percent, 12-of-24. Marquette will be tested this week when they take on two of the conference’s best in Villanova and Xavier. These games will likely decide if Marquette is a contender or a pretender in the battle for the Big East crown.
- Butler (12-4, 1-3 Big East)
Last week’s ranking: 4, ↓ 2 spots
Last week: loss vs. Villanova (60-55), win at DePaul (77-72)
Upcoming: Jan. 16 vs. St. John’s
You’d be hard pressed to find another team in the country that had a tougher four-game stretch to start league play than the Bulldogs, who lost to three top-20 opponents during the span (Villanova, Providence, Xavier). Senior guard Roosevelt Jones’ wrist injury may be a cause for concern for the reeling Bulldogs. Although the injury is minor and has not caused him to any games yet, it’s the same wrist that previously broke and made him miss all of the 2013-14 season, a year the Bulldogs did not make the NCAA Tournament. Make no mistake about it, Butler is clearly one of the top four teams in the conference, boasting the nation’s 17th highest scoring offense at 84.6 points per game. But things won’t be getting much easier for the Bulldogs, as they are scheduled to play Providence, Creighton, and Marquette before the end of the month.
- Georgetown (10-6, 3-1 Big East)
Last week’s ranking: 6, ↓ 1 spot
Last week: win vs. DePaul (74-63), loss at Creighton (79-66)
Upcoming: Jan. 13 at St. John’s, Jan. 16 vs. Villanova
Being 3-1 in league play and No. 7 in our power rankings don’t seem to mix. But when you’re Georgetown it makes perfect sense, especially since two of those three wins came against cellar dweller DePaul. Opponent guard play continues to burn the Hoyas, as they allowed Creighton senior guard Maurice Watson Jr. to post a career-high 27 points last Wednesday in a road loss. If there is a silver lining for the Blue and Gray, it is that senior guard D’vauntes Smith-Rivera seems to be returning to form, as he is averaging 16.0 points per game since the beginning of conference play. With a tough stretch of games in the coming two weeks (vs. No. 6 Villanova, at No. 7 Xavier, at Connecticut), the Hoyas will have to find a way to win to remain in NCAA Tournament consideration.
- Seton Hall (12-4, 2-2 Big East)
Last week’s ranking: 5, ↓ 3 spots
Last week: loss vs. Creighton (82-67), loss at Villanova (72-63)
Upcoming: Jan. 16 at Providence
It could be deja vu all over again in South Orange. Last season, the Pirates started 10-2 in non-league play. This season, the Pirates started 10-2. Last season, the Pirates opened Big East play 2-0. This season, the Pirates opened Big East play 2-0. Last season, chemistry issues derailed a talented team. This season, the locker room could be unraveling once again, as Head Coach Kevin Willard sat sophomore forwards Isaiah Whitehead, Desi Rodriguez, and Angel Delgado for the vast majority of the second half in their listless loss to Creighton. Go figure. Willard claims that he wanted to rest his players after a tough loss to Villanova earlier in the week, but we’re not buying it.
- DePaul (6-10, 0-4 Big East)
Last week’s ranking: 9, unchanged
Last week: loss at Georgetown (74-63), loss vs. Butler (77-72)
Upcoming: Jan. 12 at Xavier, Jan. 17 vs. Creighton
The Blue Demons were again unable to mark their first Big East win of the season after a home loss to Butler and away defeat at Georgetown. Senior forward Myke Henry was the lone bright spot of the week, tallying a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds against Butler, and chipping in another 13 points in Washington. Despite the play of Henry and junior guard Billy Garrett Jr., DePaul has now entered the debate with St. John’s for the worst team in the conference. At ninth in points per game, last in assists per game, and last in rebounds per game in the conference, the Blue Demons need work in every aspect of the game. Chicago basketball fans can safely devote their attention solely to the Bulls for the rest of the year.
- St. John’s (7-10, 0-4 Big East)
Last week’s ranking: 10, unchanged
Last week: loss at Marquette (81-75), loss vs. Xavier (74-66)
Upcoming: Jan. 13 vs. Georgetown, Jan. 16 at Butler
As if life wasn’t hard enough for Head Coach Chris Mullin’s inexperienced squad, freshman center Yankuba Sima will now be out the next four to six weeks after breaking his hand in the loss to Xavier. One of the few bright spots for the Red Storm, Sima had started 16 games, averaging 8.4 points and 6.8 rebounds, and was seventh in the NCAA with 3.1 blocks per game. In their first game without the Spanish native, St. John’s stayed competitive at Marquette, but Sima’s presence will be sorely missed.