By Kyle Beery
While you were busy stuffing your face, visiting with family, and watching football, it may have been easy to forget about the glory that we know as “Feast Week.”
Over the last 10 days, there were a lot of good college basketball teams in action, and a whole lot of good games. While there is nearly the entire season left to go, we learned a lot about where teams are at in the early going.
This is your home for a snapshot of what college basketball looks like following Feast Week. I’ll be grading each team in the power conferences, plus a handful of mid-major teams. Here’s a look at the Big East.
Best win: vs. Ohio State, 67-66 (PK80 Invitational)
Worst loss: vs. Texas, 61-48 (PK80 Invitational)
The transition process from a Chris Holtmann-led Sweet 16 team to the LaVall Jordan era has been a bit bumpy thus far. The Bulldogs have definitely showed flashes of brilliance — not just in Sunday’s comeback win over their former coach and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin have both had some great moments, but both have also disappeared at times for Butler.
Aaron Thompson has a little Baldwin inside of him with his ability to score off the drive with both hands, but the freshman still needs to rein in his talents on a consistent basis. George Washington transfer Paul Jorgensen needs to figure things out as well. The post game is the Bulldogs’ biggest weakness. Tyler Wideman can hold his own, but a trio of Wideman, Nate Fowler and Joey Brunk is a less-than-ideal frontcourt. If we’re being honest, though, it’s a pretty typical Butler frontcourt. Not overly impressive, but they usually find a way to skate by.
These weaknesses were evident in the team’s two losses — at Maryland and against Texas in the PK80 opener — but the emotional win over the Buckeyes Sunday may be the spark this team needed. The Dawgs have a handful of solid teams on the schedule prior to opening Big East play, and Jordan will need to take that time to whip his squad into shape.
You tell me if beating Holtmann didn’t matter to Jordan and his team:
for the masses pic.twitter.com/jEQqni5FlC
— Thomas Petersen (@BU_NeonHat) November 27, 2017
Best win: @ Northwestern, 92-88
Worst loss: vs. Baylor, 65-33 (Hall of Fame Classic)
Creighton has a few candidates for its best win. Aside from a gritty victory at Northwestern in the Gavitt games, the Bluejays beat UCLA by 11 and put up 100 along the way in the Hall of Fame Classic. Neither Northwestern nor UCLA is off to as good a start as they were hyped up for prior to the season, but both wins are good enough for the Jays to climb into the AP Top 25 this week.
Guard Marcus Foster is back for his senior season and is averaging 18 points per game so far. Greg McDermott’s team isn’t quite as good as it was a year ago this time when it had Maurice Watson, Jr. to supplement Foster in the backcourt, but a 5-1 start to the season is a good way to set the tone. We’ll learn a little more about this team when it plays at No. 15 Gonzaga this weekend. That’s certainly another good shot at a quality non-conference win.
DePaul Blue Demons
Best win: vs. Portland, 82-69 (PK80 Invitational)
Worst loss: vs. Illinois, 82-73
Another year, another “rebuilding season” for the Blue Demons, if you can call it that. They’re still just in “building mode.” Things were looking up for DePaul when it signed highly touted recruit Tyger Campbell from LaLumiere Prep, but he has since recanted on his commitment.
The Blue Demons have had a brutal schedule thus far, facing Notre Dame and Michigan State, two teams ranked in this week’s AP top five. They did push Oregon to overtime in the PK80 Invitational, but their lone win over the holiday was against Portland. Max Strus has been a bright spot for the Demons, shooting 32.7 percent from three-point range on the season. He went 6-for-11 from deep in the win over Portland. DePaul just isn’t deep at all, and its first season at Wintrust Arena will be a rough one.
Best win: @ Richmond, 82-76
Worst loss: none
First-year coach Patrick Ewing hasn’t had a very challenging schedule through four games, but the good thing is that his team hasn’t had a letdown yet. The Hoyas’ toughest test in the non-conference will come against Syracuse on Dec. 16.
Lucky for Ewing, he still has veterans like Jeesie Govan (19.3 PPG, 12.3 RPG) and Marcus Derrickson (14.8 PPG, 8 RPG) to help his team get through his inaugural rebuild season. Turbulent times on the court are sure to come for Georgetown this season, so it’s all about how Ewing responds and moves forward with the program.
Marquette Golden Eagles
Best win: vs. VCU, 94-83 (Maui Invitational)
Worst loss: vs. Purdue, 86-71
Live by the three, die by the three. That’s how things go when you average 28 three-point attempts per game. At times, it has paid dividends, like when Sam Hauser made six of the team’s 11 long balls in Monday’s comeback win against Eastern Illinois. It was also the Golden Eagles’ downfall in the loss against Wichita State, a game that was tied with less than 15 minutes to play. Marquette missed 12 of its last 15 three-pointers in the second half of that game.
Guy like Hauser and Markus Howard are certainly capable of hitting from deep, and when they are on, this team is awfully dangerous. Defense needs to be a focus for Steve Wojciechowski’s team for the remainder of non-conference play that sees a handful of winnable games against teams that would yield impressive “quality wins” for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to look at in March.
Best win: vs. Washington, 77-70 (2K Classic)
Worst loss: vs. Minnesota, 86-74
Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright entered the season expected to carry the torch for the Friars this year. Cartwright did his part last week when he drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to help Providence sneak past a pesky Belmont team.
Winning the 2K Classic has to be a nice little confidence booster for the Friars and a loss to Minnesota is nothing to get too worked up about. This should be a top-four team in the Big East that finds its way into the NCAA Tournament. Saturday’s game at in-state rival Rhode Island should be a fun one. Both teams are in postseason contention and the Rams will be out for revenge after last season’s nail biter in Providence.
St. John’s Red Storm
Best win: vs. UCF, 46-43 (Advocare Invitational)
Worst loss: vs. Missouri, 90-83 (Advocare Invitational)
After a disappointing loss to Michael Porter-less Missouri in the semifinals, the Red Storm took third place in the Advocare Invitational with a gritty defensive effort against an NCAA Tournament-caliber Central Florida team.
Sophomores Shamorie Ponds (18.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 4.7 APG) and Marcus LoVett (14.9 PPG and 38.5 three-point percentage) are playing like veterans. They’ll need to do so all season in order for St. John’s to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament, which really isn’t out of the question. Chris Mullin is building a pretty good team that is on the cusp of returning to the prominence it once held. If Ponds and LoVett stick around until their senior seasons, this could be a pretty special team. They’ll hit some rough patches this season, but so far, the Red Storm have been pretty impressive.
Seton Hall Pirates
Best win: vs. Vanderbilt, 72-59 (NIT Season Tip-Off)
Worst loss: vs. Rhode Island, 75-74 (NIT Season Tip-Off)
Kevin Willard was disappointed when the Pirates lost to Rhode Island in the NIT Season Tip-Off, but he was okay with senior Khadeen Carrington trying to make something happen when he lost his dribble speeding up the court following Jared Terrell’s go-ahead layup with 5.2 seconds left.
Call it a teaching moment. And when an experienced player like Carrington gets one of those, look out. The senior floor general will recover from that one, and Seton Hall will carry on. Carrington, Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez, once a part of a highly touted recruiting class, have a solid surrounding cast that has played pretty well thus far. The Pirates have a couple more big challenges coming up in No. 22 Texas Tech and No. 17 Louisville that can really boost their resume.
Best win: vs. Tennessee, 85-76 (Battle 4 Atlantis)
Worst loss: none
The Wildcats have taken care of business through six games this season. No real impressive wins yet, but beating Tennessee, who knocked off Purdue the day before, and then Northern Iowa in the Battle 4 Atlantis, is a solid start.
Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Mikal Bridges are all back from the team that was last year’s No. 1 overall seed and are all putting up good numbers. Phil Booth returns from a knee injury and Omari Spellman is finally eligible after sitting out last year for academic reasons. Both are still getting up to speed, but both also make Villanova a team capable of receiving a fourth straight No. 1 seed come March.
Best win: @ Wisconsin, 80-70
Worst loss: vs. Arizona State, 102-86
Losing to an Arizona State team that now finds itself in the AP Top 25 isn’t horrible. But giving up 102 points raises a couple red flags. The Musketeers will need to play better defensively this week with games against No. 16 Baylor and crosstown rival No. 11 Cincinnati.
We’ll learn a lot more about the Musketeers in those two games, but so far we know this: Trevon Bluiett is really good. Bluiett is averaging 21.3 points per game and is a candidate for national player of the year. Throw in J.P. Macura and this team will be tough to beat all year. That doesn’t mean the Musketeers won’t lose a few games they should win, but Xavier will definitely be in the mix for second place in the Big East regular season.
Check back soon for more conference report cards: Big Ten report cards
All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.