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2016-17 Big East Men’s Basketball: Where Are We Now?

Let’s see what everyone’s been up to so far this season. You should probably go get some alcohol for the DePaul part.

NCAA Basketball: Temple at Villanova
If Villanova’s Josh Hart isn’t Player of the Year, good luck figuring out who is.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

HOOOOOOLY crap, Big East play starts on Wednesday!

With that being the case, let’s take a spin through the conference and see what everyone’s been up to so far this season. Here’s what we’ve got:

At the top, the team name, their record, and their KenPom ranking as of December 26th. Underneath that is their ranking in the most recent Associated Press top 25 poll, where appropriate, and then the leaders in points, rebounds, and assists so far this season. If the player is ranked in the top 10 in the Big East for that stat, you’ll see that ranking on that line as well. We wrap up the notes section for each team with their best win and worst loss of the season, which is determined by the opponent’s KenPom ranking at the time.

We’ll have a preview for the game up tomorrow, so we won’t get into the details of it quite yet, so here we go.......

Butler (11-1, #17)

AP Poll: #13
Points Leader: Kelan Martin, 18.8 ppg (#7)
Rebounds Leader: Tyler Wideman, 5.1 rpg
Assists Leader: Tyler Lewis, 5.4 apg (#3)
Best Win: vs #18 Arizona on a neutral floor, 69-65
Only Loss: at #169 Indiana State, 72-71

This seems like a good a time as any to remind everyone that the Bulldogs were picked to finish sixth in the Big East this season. They picked up 44 points in the preseason polling, just nine more than Marquette.

The Bulldogs have a perfect 6-0 record against KenPom top 100 teams, 4-0 against top 50 teams, and 3-0 against top 25 teams. Sure, they’ve got that shocker of a loss on a road trip to Terre Haute, but hey: that’s what happens when you schedule road games against in-state rivals that you have no business playing games against, right?

The thing that surprises me the most is that Andrew Chrabascz isn’t leading the team in rebounding. Mind you, he’s just 0.1 rebound per game behind Wideman, but both guys start and Chrabascz is playing nearly 10 minutes more per game.

SIDE NOTE: Kelan Martin is one of two Big East players who are currently ranked in KenPom’s Player of the Year top 10. If you can’t guess the other one, you’re probably not a fan of college basketball.

Creighton (12-0, #21)

AP Poll: #10
Points Leader: Marcus Foster, 19.1 ppg (#5)
Rebounds Leader: Justin Patton, 6.0 rpg (#8)
Assists Leader: Maurice Watson, Jr., 9.0 apg (#1, and it’s not close)
Best Win: vs #10 Wisconsin at home, 79-67

I got testy about how the Creighton women’s team has performed so far this season relative to expectations in our WBB rundown, so it’s time for me to eat crow while talking about Greg McDermott’s crew. I’ll completely admit I was wrong about Marcus Foster while maintaining that my point about “hey, let’s see what happens here, remember he got kicked off the team at K-State” as a valid viewpoint at the time. Foster has been RIDICULOUS (averaging 19/3/2, shooting 51/41/68) for the Jays, and it’s not like Creighton really needed another guy to be ridiculous alongside Watson.

As much fun as we’re having watching Marquette knock down three pointers left and right, the Bluejays are on a completely different level. They’re the best long range shooting team in the country, and they have five - FIVE! - guys attempting at least two treys per game while shooting 40% or better. This doesn’t even include redshirt freshman center Justin Patton, who is shooting 67% on six attempts. Want to talk about death lineups? I watched the Jays run Patton and 6’10” Toby Hegner out TOGETHER against Arizona State, and the Sun Devils had almost no chance of stopping them.

Villanova comes to Omaha on Saturday. Buckle your seat belts, kids.

DePaul (7-6, #198)

Points Leader: Eli Cain, 18.2 ppg (#8)
Rebounds Leader: Tre`Darius McCallum, 7.3 rpg (#2)
Assists Leader: Billy Garrett, 3.3 apg
Best Win: vs #127 Missouri State at home, 68-66
Worst Loss: vs #232 Illinois-Chicago at home, 80-75

Eighth best scorer in the league, second best rebounder in the league, maybe the worst DePaul team since Uncle Jerry Wainwright’s 0-18 squad in 2008-09. You try and get that to make sense.

It’s year two of the second Dave Leitao era, so maybe we need to give him a little bit of space to figure things out. They’ve got a number of seniors on the squad, but a lot of freshmen as well. There’s also not a lot that’s particularly interesting in between those guys, so this might get a bit worse before it gets better.

For the record: DePaul has lost their last two games, and KenPom does not favor them to win any of their Big East games. Their best chance? 41% at home against St. John’s. I don’t think this is going to turn into sub-300 Rutgers last year bad, but it might be really bad.

Georgetown (8-4, #50)

Points Leader: Rodney Pryor, 19.8 ppg (#2)
Rebounds Leader: Bradley Hayes, 5.8 rpg
Assists Leader: L.J. Peak, 3.6 apg (#9)
Best Win: vs #25 Oregon on a neutral floor, 65-61
Worst Loss: vs #130 Arkansas State at home, 78-72

Bradley Hayes would be tied for 10th in rebounding in the Big East if the NCAA hadn’t made him sit out a few games at the start of the season in their weird “sure, you can play another year IF) ruling.

Who wants to try and figure out the Hoyas? Fell apart late against Maryland, got down big and lost to Arkansas State, beat Oregon in their very next game, got smashed by Wisconsin and Oklahoma State, barely squeaked by Elon at home, and then went into the Carrier Dome and put the boots to Syracuse. Which team is the real Georgetown? If it’s the Oregon/Syracuse version, then yeah, they’re probably worthy of being the fourth best team in the Big East, which is where they landed in the preseason poll.

If it’s the Arkansas State/Elon version, then they’re probably going to struggle to even get to 8-10 like KenPom projects that they will. Hell, even that’s awfully favorable for them, as the game by game projections hand the Hoyas 11 losses in league play.

Marquette (9-3, #38)

Points Leader: Luke Fischer, 13.5 ppg
Rebounds Leader: Luke Fischer, 5.9 rpg (#9)
Assists Leader: Haanif Cheatham, 3.2 apg
Best Win: at #56 Georgia, 89-79
Worst Loss: vs #55 Pittsburgh on a neutral floor, 78-75

The Golden Eagles might have the tightest team scoring race in the league. Luke Fischer is the leader for now, but Jajuan Johnson is just 0.2 points behind Fischer, and Haanif Cheatham is 0.3 points back.

We’re not even really sure what we have in the Golden Eagles quite yet. They’re 3-1 since Traci Carter sat down with a knee injury, and the sophomore from Philly has since departed the team. Marquette has gone 2-0 since that happened, but it was against St. Francis (PA) and SIU-Edwardsville, so I’m not sure we have a quality measure yet. What we know is that MU must be much better on defense against KenPom top 100 teams than they have been to this point of the season if they want to cap off 2017 with a postseason appearance. Either that or insanely better on offense to just outscore everyone in sight, and this is already a very good offensive team.

Providence (10-3, #61)

Points Leader: Rodney Bullock, 19.4 ppg (#3)
Rebounds Leader: Rodney Bullock, 6.8 rpg (#5)
Assists Leader: Kyron Cartwright, 7.6 apg (#2)
Best Win: vs #44 Rhode Island at home, 63-60
Worst Loss: at #193 Boston College, 79-67

Well, I was going to spend all of this space talking about what a smart and talented coach Ed Cooley is, and how Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright deserve all the praise in the world for making us think that this team can make some noise after losing Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil from last season.

And then they went out and got punched in the nose by a very very very bad Boston College team.

I mean, we can still talk about the nice and fun things that PC did in the non-conference section of the schedule. Bullock’s clearly an all-Big East performer and might even be Player of the Year in the Non-Josh Hart Division. But the loss to BC makes us sit up and say “y’know, they’re only 2-2 against KenPom top 100 teams,” as well as “we can’t really give them that much credit for swatting Grambling/St. Francis (NY)/Maine.”

Their first four games in league play: At Xavier, at Butler, home vs Georgetown, home vs Creighton. Coming out of that better than 1-3 will be impressive, and I would have said that before they lost to Boston College.

St. John’s (6-7, #98)

Points Leader: Shamorie Ponds, 17.2 ppg (#9)
Rebounds Leader: Bashir Ahmed, 5.8 rpg
Assists Leader: Shamorie Ponds, 3.7 apg (#7)
Best Win: at #45 Syracuse, 93-60
Worst Loss: #339 Delaware State at home, 79-72

A week ago, we would have been spending most of this time talking about how SJU is heavily relying on freshmen and sophomores, and given how there’s essentially no roster holdovers from before Chris Mullin was hired, we probably have to give him a little time to figure this out, and sure, losing to Delaware State and LIU Brooklyn is bad, but whatcha gonna do.....

And then they went to the Carrier Dome and absolutely sandblasted Syracuse.

Sure, it was a wild combination of Syracuse being awful at the same time that St. John’s was absolutely great, so there’s a certain amount of luck involved, and that’s probably not going to happen again. Even after beating the Orange last year, the Red Storm still went 1-21 the rest of the season. It’s probably not going to be that bad for them this year, though, and if they can catch a break once, they can catch it three or four more times this year, too. If Ponds and Marcus LoVett have a light go on in league play, St. John’s could be a pretty nasty spoiler for someone (coughcoughMarquettecough) on the edge of making it into the NCAA tournament.

Seton Hall (10-2, #49)

Points Leader: Khadeen Carrington, 19.3 ppg (#4)
Rebounds Leader: Angel Delgado, 11.8 rpg (#1, and it’s even less close than Watson in assists)
Assists Leader: Madison Jones, 3.4 apg
Best Win: vs #32 South Carolina at MSG, 67-64
Worst Loss: #80 Stanford on a neutral floor, 66-52

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m patting myself on the back for being close enough to correct about the Pirates coming into this season. While losing Isaiah Whitehead to a pro career wasn’t a good thing, the reason SHU was good last year was defense, and their core guys on that side of the ball were all coming back.

The defense is a little bit down from last year, sure, but it’s still been good enough to get the Pirates a 2-1 record against KenPom top 50 teams and a 3-2 record against the top 100. Desi Rodriguez isn’t so much a rebounder as he is a walking bottle of Windex, which makes things go a lot easier on both ends of the court. They’ve got two guys nationally ranked in block rate and three guys ranked in steal rate, according to KenPom, and Ismael Sanogo isn’t that far away on the steals.

Marquette is going to have to tangle with this team twice between now and January 11th, so fingers crossed on the Pirates getting off to a rocky start in league play.

Villanova (12-0, #1)

AP Poll: #1
Points Leader: Josh Hart, 20.1 ppg (#1)
Rebounds Leader: Josh Hart, 6.6 rpg (#6)
Assists Leader: Josh Hart, 3.7 apg (#8)
Best Win: at #12 Purdue, 79-76

Best team in the country in the AP poll, best team in the country in KenPom, best offensive team in the country according to KenPom, and Josh Hart is the best player in the country, again according to KenPom’s POY calculator.

They’ve won 18 straight since losing to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament title game, which of course includes their national championship victory over North Carolina. They’re 3-0 against the KenPom top 50, and don’t seem to have missed a beat without Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. They have six - I’m not joking, SIX! - guys in the top 500 in the country in offensive rating. This team is ABSURD.

Let’s just get it on the board right now: They have a 2.6% chance of running the table in the Big East. Just to give you a picture of how nutso this is: Creighton doesn’t even register a possibility of this happening for them right now.

Xavier (10-2, #19)

Points Leader: Trevon Bluiett, 19.0 ppg (#6)
Rebounds Leader: RaShid Gaston, 6.8 rpg (#4)
Assists Leader: Edmond Sumner, 4.5 apg (#4)
Best Win: vs #23 Clemson on a neutral floor, 83-77
Worst Loss: at #60 Colorado, 68-66

Guys, I don’t think Myles Davis is returning to the Musketeers this season. He’s indefinitely suspended as a result of legal issues involving an ex-girlfriend and her phone, and unless those get magically cleared up, I don’t think he’s going to be playing for Xavier.

Even without last year’s team leader in assists and second leading scorer, this has still be a very good basketball team this year. Yes, they had two road slip ups against Baylor and Colorado. This isn’t that big of a deal. Baylor’s apparently very good, and the Colorado game was close. It happens. They’ve still got three top 100 wins and are riding a three game winning streak heading into league play.

The scoring triumvirate of Bluiett, Sumner, and J.P. Macura should be enough to propel the Musketeers back into the NCAA tournament this season. Head coach Chris Mack should probably get a little worried if his charges fall in love with shooting three pointers (they’re barely breaking even on efficiency on those), but even without that working in their favor, this is still a very good offense and defense. They might not have much in terms of size on this team unlike last year, but Gaston is dominating on the glass for them, especially on the offensive end.