Did you realize that St. John’s has already played 12 league games? Everyone else has played 11, or in the case of Xavier, Seton Hall, and DePaul, 10 games. Nope, the Red Storm have already gotten to 12. They’ll be off until Saturday which will go a long way towards balancing things out, but that’s a weird little variance in the schedule.
Aaaaaanyway, we only have four weeks left in the regular season, and the league standings are quite stacked up. First place Villanova is 9-2, while seventh place (aka the best team that still has to play in the Big East tournament’s opening night doubleheader) Seton Hall is 4-6. There’s five teams somehow crowded in between those two spots, and there’s going to be a lot of jostling and shifting over the next four weeks.
We’ve got three games that could do a lot of that jostling and shifting this week, so let’s get into the look at the week ahead....
Tuesday, February 7, 2017: #22 Butler at Marquette (8pm Central, CBS Sports Network) - Butler is coming off of two home losses to Georgetown and Creighton. I have to admit, it’s mildly fun to open up the Win Probability pages for these two games and see the line going through a massive crash away from the Butler side of the chart. Mildly fun, of course, because Marquette went through their only massive crash at Hinkle Fieldhouse earlier this season. The Golden Eagles snapped a two game skid following their upset of Villanova with a win over DePaul on Saturday, and nothing would do their NCAA tournament hopes better than catching Butler scuffling a little bit like they are currently doing.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017: Providence at Seton Hall (7:30pm Central, FS1) - I heard a goofball thing come out of MU head coach Steve Wojciechowski’s mouth after the DePaul game. “90% of our teams at this time of the year have a legitimate shot at being a tournament team.” Yeah, I dunno about that, coach. I don’t like to think about “MUST WIN EVERY SINGLE REMAINING GAME” as “a legitimate shot,” personally, but whatever. The point of all of this is that this is team #7 and team #9 in the league standings, and thus the back end of that aforementioned 90%. Seton Hall is much closer to the tournament than Providence is, and if they want to get in, the Pirates can not afford a loss here.
Saturday, February 11, 2017: #2 Villanova at #24 Xavier (1:30pm Central, Fox) - So, uh, Xavier lost Edmond Sumner for the season to an ACL tear late in their victory over St. John’s. They also have not lost since then, squeaking past Seton Hall at home and squeaking past Creighton on the road. Both wins were by just two points. They might be without a starting point guard, but they are not without victories. After a midweek home game against DePaul, the Musketeers host first place Villanova. If you think it’s out of the question that Chris Mack and his charges figure out a way to clip the Wildcats in the Cintas Center, well, I have some ocean front property in Wyoming to sell you. There’s also the issue of the Musketeers probably still being a little salty about their 24 point loss to VU in early January.
The Big East Women’s Basketball Game Of The Week
Friday, February 10, 2017: Villanova at St. John’s (7pm Central, FS1) - I mean, something has to be Game of the Week. DePaul is visiting Butler and Xavier this week, so that’s not helpful. Marquette is DePaul’s traveling partner, and while I’d love to make the point of how important it is to the Golden Eagles to get these road wins, we’re talking about the eighth and ninth place teams in the league. Second place Creighton hosts last place Providence, so we can’t even pretend about the Friars challenging them in Rhode Island. Thus, we’ll go with the Red Storm, currently tied for 3rd place with Marquette, hosting the fifth place Wildcats. There’s Big East tournament seeding implications involved as VU is only half a game back in the standings right now, so hey, that’s something.
The Worst American Athletic Conference Game Of The Week
Saturday, February 11, 2017: East Carolina at South Florida (7pm Central, ESPNU) - Hoooooooray, it’s two of the AAC’s three (no, really, THREE) sub-200 KenPom teams having a slapfight with each other on a widely distributed television network. These two teams have a combined three AAC wins between them, and by “between them,” I mean that ECU is 3-8. For the record, this might be USF’s last opportunity for a league win, as KenPom gives them a 47% chance, and no other game has a chance better than 32%. Side note: Cincinnati’s 10-0 league record contains FOUR sub-200 victories.