Another year with Fox Sports, another New Year's Eve marathon. It's so great.
Everyone gets started later today, so here's a brief primer on each squad to this point. We've got their record and ranking as of yesterday on KenPom.com. Following that is an AP Poll ranking where appropriate, as well as their leader in three notable statistical categories, and their best win and worst loss, at least according to the opponent's ranking on KenPom.
Butler (10-3, #36)
Points Leader: Kellen Dunham, 16.6 ppg (3rd)
Rebounds Leader: Kameron Woods, 9.0 rpg (1st)
Assists Leader: Roosevelt Jones, 4.3 apg (4th)
Best Win: #9 North Carolina on a neutral floor, 74-66
Worst Loss: at #95 Tennessee, 67-55
The Bulldogs were ranked for a brief moment earlier this season, after they scored wins over UNC and Georgetown as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Then they stumbled in consecutive games against Tennessee and Indiana, and that was that. Not bad losses - one on the road, one in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis - but enough to scoot them back out.
In any case, interim head coach Chris Holtmann has done an impressive job with this crew that was picked to finish seventh in the Big East. They've shown a tenacity to win games, and that's been boosted by the return of Roosevelt Jones. The 6'4" junior missed all of last season with a wrist injury, and he's been stellar thus far this season. Jones is second on the team in scoring and rebounding in addition to leading the team in assists.
Creighton (9-4, #76)
Points Leader: Austin Chatman, 13.9 ppg (8th)
Rebounds Leader: Devin Brooks, 5.2 rpg (T-20th)
Assists Leader: Austin Chatman, 4.6 apg (3rd)
Best Win: vs #12 Oklahoma, 65-63
Worst Loss: at #258 North Texas, 62-58
Creighton also had a brief moment in the sun of the AP Top 25 earlier this season. That came their way courtesy of their home win over Oklahoma, but just 9 days later, they fell to Mississippi as part of the Emerald Coast Classic, and that was that for them. The Jays had jumped out to a 5-0 start by then, but they've gone just 4-4 since, including dropping two of their last three.
The loss at home in OT to Saint Mary's isn't that bad, really, even though the Gaels are well past the Matthew Dellavadova Era by now. The road loss to North Texas, though, that's not good. Yes, it's a road game, and yes, it was close, but the Tony Benford-led Mean Green followed that up with a home loss to Prairie View A&M. So, y'know.
To the surprise of no one, Creighton's not nearly as efficient of a team on offense without Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge. Their profile still looks like a Greg McDermott coached team, though, just not the best shooting team in the country like they were the last three years. They shoot well, they don't turn it over, they don't get their own misses, and they don't force you into turnovers. Still a well coached team, just not like what we saw last year.
DePaul (6-7, #206)
Points Leader: Myke Henry, 14.5 ppg (6th)
Rebounds Leader: Tommy Hamilton, 7.4 rpg (T-5th)
Assists Leader: Billy Garrett, 3.4 apg (T-9th)
Best Win: vs #39 Stanford, 87-72
Worst Loss: #269 Loyola Marymount on a neutral floor, 72-69
20 days ago, this was going to have to be a nice section, praising Oliver Purnell for finally getting the truck out of the ditch. Minus an odd flub at home to Lehigh, DePaul was 6-1 with a win over a good Stanford team.
Now they've lost six straight, including all three at the Diamond Head Classic, capped off with a spectacular meltdown against Loyola Marymount in their last game out in Hawaii. DePaul's one of the fastest tempo teams in the country, but that's probably because they're one of the 35 worst defensive teams in the country. Yay, I guess. At the end of last season, Purnell praised Hamilton and Garrett as a strong base to build the future of this program, and they're fine. Myke Henry has provided them with a nice scoring punch, but this is just a flaming wreck now. We might honestly be able to start guessing if Purnell will survive all the way to the end of the season, as the Blue Demons have lost 13 of their last 15 games against Big East opponents.
Georgetown (8-3, #29)
AP Rank: #25
Points Leader: D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera, 14.7 ppg (5th)
Rebounds Leader: Joshua Smith, 6.5 rpg (T-10th)
Assists Leader: D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera, 3.8 apg (T-7th)
Best Win: #14 Florida on a neutral floor, 66-65 (OT)
Worst Loss: #36 Butler on a neutral floor, 64-58
I mentioned this the other day while watching Georgetown play Indiana, but I'm really mad at Joshua Smith for not staying academically eligible last season. This deprived us of two battles against Davante Gardner. The 6'10", 350 lb. Hoya center is a load to deal with on either end, and I don't just mean because of his size. He's one of the 35 best offensive rebounders in the country, top 300 at defensive rebounding, and somehow manages to block a shot on nearly 5% of the GU possessions while he's on the floor. Plus, he draws fouls like nuts, but also commits them, too. How much fun would Smith vs Gardner have been?? *sigh*
Smith-Rivera has been fantastic for Georgetown thus far this season, and definitely living up to his hype as preseason Player of the Year. L.J. Peak has been great as a freshman, and former Marquette commit Aaron Bowen might just be getting going this season after dropping 22 in the overtime win over Indiana.
Marquette (8-4, #99)
Points Leader: Luke Fischer, 15.5 ppg (5th*)
Rebounds Leader: Luke Fischer, 7.5 rpg (5th*)
Assists Leader: Matt Carlino, 4.1 apg (5th)
Best Win: vs #61 Arizona State, 78-71
Worst Loss: vs #225 Nebraska-Omaha, 97-89
Fischer's stats get an asterisk because he doesn't officially count towards the Big East's leaders yet. Marquette will have to play two games in the Big East tournament to get Fischer up to the mark of playing in 75% of MU's games in order to qualify. None of that would stop Fischer from being named all-Big East, though, and if he can maintain those averages, he probably will be.
We've talked enough about Marquette on this site, so we'll just point out that Matt Carlino is MU's "official" leading scorer at 12.3 points/game and Juan Anderson does the same in rebounding with 6.8 per contest.
Providence (10-3, #48)
Points Leader: LaDontae Henton, 20.0 ppg (1st)
Rebounds Leader: LaDontae Henton, 5.3 rpg (T-17th)
Assists Leader: Kris Dunn, 7.0 apg (1st)
Best Win: #23 Notre Dame on a neutral floor, 75-74
Worst Loss: vs #218 Brown, 77-67
I feel kind of bad that I didn't seriously consider LaDontae Henton for preseason Player of the Year. He's been amazing for the Friars thus far this season. But as great as he's been, Kris Dunn might be better. The sophomore point guard has the second best assist rate in the country, setting up just short of 50% of Providence's baskets while he's on the floor, and he's top 10 in steal rate, too.
After a brief freakout in the middle of the non-conference schedule where they lost at Kentucky, at Boston College, and at home to Brown, PC has rattled off four straight wins heading into Big East action. They aren't cupcake wins either: 3-0 against KenPom top 100 teams, moving them to 4-1 on the season in that category. Head coach Ed Cooley is sticking with his arrangement from last year where he plays his top guys as much as possible: Henton, Dunn, and Tyler Harris are all averaging over 30 minutes a night. All told, it's really just a seven man rotation, even though PC has guys on the bench that could contribute, unlike Marquette who only has eight guys and plays only seven of them on a regular basis.
St. John's (11-1, #17)
AP Rank: #15
Points Leader: D`Angelo Harrison, 19.0 ppg (2nd)
Rebounds Leader: Chris Obekpa, 8.8 rpg (T-2nd)
Assists Leader: Sir`Dominic Porter, 3.3 apg (T-11th)
Best Win: vs #27 Minnesota, 70-61
Only Loss: vs #5 Gonzaga, 73-66
Steve Lavin's got his team on that Ed Cooley plan: four guys are playing 74% of the team or more. It's a pretty scary four pack of dudes: Harrison, Obekpa, Porter, and Phil Greene. Rysheed Jordan, last year's Freshman of the Year plays just short of 30 minutes a night, too. Jamal Branch plays 24 minutes a night, but from there, almost no one else plays any significant time for the Red Storm. Luckily, those six dudes are pretty great, and that's how they've got just one loss to a great Gonzaga team marring their record this season.
St. John's has played just one road game thus far this season: A trip to visit our old friends Jim Boeheim and Syracuse up at the Carrier Dome. They came away with a fairly impressive 69-57 win, but other than that, the Red Storm hasn't left New York State yet this season. That'll change immediately when they kick off the Big East schedule at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, against Seton Hall. Even then, though, they won't have to spend a night outside of their own beds until the 4th game of conference play on January 14 when they travel to Providence. Pretty cushy gig if you can get it.
Seton Hall (10-2, #40)
Points Leader: Sterling Gibbs, 15.6 ppg (4th)
Rebounds Leader: Angel Delgado, 8.8 rpg (T-2nd)
Assists Leader: Sterling Gibbs, 3.3 apg (T-11th)
Best Win: vs #38 George Washington, 58-54
Worst Loss: at #35 Georgia, 65-47
Hey, what's going on, Seton Hall? I'm good, cool, cool, thanks for asking. So, you've only lost twice this season? Both on the road to top 50 KenPom teams in Wichita State and Georgia? That's, uh, pretty good, huh? Oh, it's kind of like your start from 2012-13, except that was with top 100 teams? What happened to you guys after that? 3-15 in league play? That's not good.
Well, you guys tore apart Maine pretty easily without super freshman Isaiah Whitehead, so that's gotta make you feel pretty good about your chances going forward while he recovers from a stress fracture. You figure he'll still be out when you come to Milwaukee on January 28th? No reason, just thinking ahead, that's all.
I gotta say, Kevin Willard's doing a heck of a job with four freshmen - Whitehead, Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, and Desi Rodriguez - doing a lot of the heavy lifting for the PIrates. Add in healthy doses of Gibbs and Brandon Mobley, and this is really a pretty good team. Can y'all continue this run into league play? We'll see...
Villanova (12-0, #7)
AP Rank: #6
Points Leader: Darrun Hilliard, 12.6 ppg (15th)
Rebounds Leader: Daniel Ochefu, 7.4 rpg (T-5th)
Assists Leader: Ryan Arcidiacono, 3.8 apg (T-7th)
Best Win: #15 VCU on a neutral floor, 77-53
The discussion of "Hey, the Big East is pretty good this year!" starts with the undefeated Wildcats. Here's how good they are: JayVaughn Pinkston was a preseason all-conference honoree, and he's not even leading the team in any statistical categories. Well, unless you want to use Fancy Math and give him credit for leading the team in % of possessions used. Even there, though, he's at 24.9%, and there's three more guys on the team - Hilliard, Ochefu, and Dylan Ennis - who are all above a 20% usage rate. At this point, it's probably not surprising to find out that five different Wildcats have led the team in scoring thus far this season, which means we should probably throw in a shout out to Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart here.
Out of their 12 wins, five have come away from either the Pavilion or the Wells Fargo Center. They're 6-0 against KenPom top 100 teams, and 3-0 against top 50 teams. Jay Wright's got a hell of a team here. It's deep as all get out, they share the ball like mad (seven guys with at least 11 assists this season), and at this point, I'm not against the idea of the rest of the Big East deciding to eat the greasiest cheeseburger and fries they can find right before the game to "help" give the Wildcats an undefeated record heading into the NCAA tournament.
Xavier (9-3, #28)
Points Leader: Trevon Bluiett, 13.3 ppg (T-9th)
Rebounds Leader: Matt Stainbrook, 7.3 rpg (7th)
Assists Leader: Dee Davis, 5.3 apg (2nd)
Best Win: vs #63 Stephen F. Austin, 81-63
Worst Loss: at #145 Auburn, 89-88 (2OT)
If there is one thing I want out of the 2014-15 basketball season, it's the end of hearing about "The Stain Train." That's a horrible nickname for Matt Stainbrook. Stop it, all of you. Luckily, he's a senior, so I'm going to get my way on this issue one way or another.
With the quality of dudes in the Musketeer lineup, I was slightly surprised to find Bluiett at the top of the XU stat sheet. I mean, I know he was a top 50 guy in the 247 Sports Composite rankings, but with Davis, Stainbrook, James "Don't Call Me Klinger" Farr, and Jalen Reynolds on this squad, I didn't expect him to lead the way for Xavier. In what passes for my defense, he only has a three-tenths of a point lead on Stainbrook.
Xavier's slipped up on three occasions this season: twice in the Wooden Legacy event that Marquette participated in last year, and then on a road trip against Auburn. All three are slightly understandable: UTEP is a top 100 KenPom team, it was the second time XU had played Long Beach State in 12 days, and it took Bruce Pearl's Tigers two overtimes to finally put away the Musketeers. I mean, Xavier fans aren't happy about losing those games, obviously, but from an outsider's perspective, they get a sold "whatever" stamp on them.