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2017 Big East Men’s Soccer: Where Are We Now?

Would you believe that conference play starts on SATURDAY? It’s nuts!

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Georgetown Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know who is in charge of schedules over in the Big East league office, but they are crrrrrrrrazy. They’re firing up the league schedule THIS WEEKEND, but leaving lots of space in between conference games for teams to continue to play non-conference matches along the way. Butler is going to play Indiana after they’ve played FIVE of their nine Big East matches! Women’s soccer started the 2017 season a week before the men did, and yet they’re starting league play a week later.

That’s wild, man.

Anyway, with Marquette kicking off their league slate against Villanova on Saturday, we’re going to do what we do around these parts and check in with each of the squads in the Big East to see what they’ve been up to so far this season. We’ll give you their record and their national ranking where relevant, along with each team’s top scorer and the stats for their primary goalkeeper. We’ll also give you their current BennettRank, courtesy of HeroSports.com, and we’ll identify each team’s best win and worst loss relative to BennettRank. Every teams has played either five or six games so far this season, so the rankings are a teensy bit small sample size at this point, but those are the cards that we’re dealt.

By the way, this will serve as the official preview for the Villanova-Marquette game, so let’s get the particulars out of the way here:

Big East Match #1: at Villanova Wildcats (3-3-0)

Date: Saturday, September 16, 2017
Time: Noon Central
Location: Higgins Soccer Complex in Villanova, PA
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer

Marquette is 1-3-1 all time against Villanova. Would you believe that they only played one time before The Reformation? Big East divisional play was weird back in the day.

Onwards, then....

Butler Bulldogs (4-2-0, #75)

Points Leader: Brandon Guhl, 10 (T-3rd in the Big East)
Goals Leader: Brandon Guhl, 4 (T-3rd)
Assists Leader: Lewis Suddick, 3 (T-3rd)
Top Goalkeeper: Eric Dick - 0.99 GAA (5th); .800 SV% (4th)
Best Win: vs #58 Evansville, 1-0
Worst Loss: at #47 Louisville, 1-0

I kind of think that the Bulldogs have unfairly tumbled out of the top 25 after starting the season at #25 and rising as high as #17. Their two losses this season are on the road to then #9 Louisville (now at #17) and at home to a Western Michigan squad that is unbeaten and popped into the top 25 thanks to beating Butler.

Butler caught quite the nice break with Brandon Guhl electing to transfer away from SMU after the 2016 campaign. The sophomore showed a knack for putting the ball in the net in his club career, but only appeared in eight games for the Mustangs. He’s got four goal on just eight shots this season, and having him zipping around out there is just going to make things easier on offense for fellow soph Lewis Suddick and junior midfielder Jared Timmer. Eric Dick keeps doing what he does in the net: allowing just under a goal per game and stopping right around 80% of the shots fired at him. That was good enough to win the Bulldogs a Big East tournament trophy a year ago. We’ll see what it earns them this November.

Creighton Bluejays (3-2-0, #43)

Points Leader: Luke Haakenson, 4
Goals Leader: Luke Haakenson, 2
Assists Leader: Joel Rystrand, 3 (T-3rd)
Top Goalkeeper: Michael Kluver - 0.99 GAA (6th); .737 SV% (T-7th)
Best Win: vs #59 Grand Canyon, 1-0 (2OT)
Worst Loss: vs #48 Virginia Tech, 2-0

It feels like Creighton is in the same boat with Butler in unfair USC voting results, and they might actually be steering the boat. The Jays started the season ranked #14 in the country, but opened with a loss to #17 Virginia Tech. Ok, so I get slipping to #23 from there. But dropping out of the poll because they lost to then #1 Stanford? C’mon, man. What are we even doing out here when we can’t acknowledge that #1 is supposed to beat #23, especially when #1 is the home squad? Want to get even crazier? They LOST MORE VOTES after beating South Florida last weekend. I don’t get it.

The Bluejays’ offense is a teensy bit on the sparse side. They’ve scored just six goals on the season, which is the lowest total in the league not claimed by winless Marquette. The upside for them is that CU has shutout their opponents in their three wins on the season. As a result, Michael Kluver’s stats are just kind of middling after allowing five goals in their two losses. Considering that he’s made just two appearances for a total of 22 minutes in his previous three seasons in Omaha, that’s a pretty good result through five matches.

DePaul Blue Demons (3-3-0, #160)

Points Leader: Phillipp Konigstein, 12 (1st)
Goals Leader: Phillipp Konigstein, 5 (T-1st)
Assists Leader: Istvan Wilhelms, 3 (T-3rd)
Top Goalkeeper: Quentin Low - 1.64 GAA (10th); .615 SV%
Best Win: at #159 IUPUI, 2-1
Worst Loss: at #171 Northern Illinois, 3-2 (OT)

The Blue Demons have started out the 2017 campaign by splitting a six-pack of games against a bunch of low-end D1 squads. Ok, five games against low end teams and also Valparaiso, but they lost that one anyway. Remember, there’s only a shade over 200 Division 1 teams for men’s soccer, so when DePaul plays five of their six matches against teams between 150 and 180 in the BennettRank, it’s not exactly the kind of high quality scheduling that you’d think it would be if this were basketball.

WITH THAT SAID, DePaul does have the best scorer in the Big East right now, as Phillipp Konigstein’s 12 points are just one point ahead of Seton Hall’s Andres Arcila, and his five goals are tied with Georgetown’s Achara for the lead there. Istvan Wilhelms provides them with a quality 1-2 punch with three goals and three assists on the season.

What head coach Craig Blazer desperately needs is defense. Not shot defense per se, as DePaul is outshooting their foes 82-58 on the season. However, with that gap in total shots, DePaul’s opponents are just one goal behind the Blue Demons at 12 to 11. Quentin Low’s save percentage is so awful, he doesn’t even register for the top 10 in the conference. Taking a run at the league lead in goals as a team is nice, but it’s not going to matter a lick if they can’t start protecting Low a little a lot better.

Georgetown Hoyas (4-0-1, #15)

Coaches Poll Rank: #9
Points Leader: Achara, 10 (3rd)
Goals Leader: Achara, 5 (T-1st)
Assists Leader: Jacob Montes, 2 (T-9th)
Top Goalkeeper: JT Marcinkowski - 0.38 GAA (1st); .846 SV% (2nd)
Best Win: vs #52 UCLA, 1-0

The Hoyas have returned to form after a sub-.500 campaign last season that left them on the outside looking in on the Big East tournament. After starting out the season unranked, Georgetown has two shutout victories over ranked teams in their back pocket. They dominated then #19 Coastal Carolina, 3-0, before using a 12th minute goal from Achara and a 15-9 shot advantage to beat then #15 UCLA.

Georgetown is outscoring their opponents at a 5-to-1 clip and outshooting them at a nearly 2-to-1 pace. It’s an incredibly frightening style of soccer backstopped by junior netminder JT Marcinkowski. He earned the job as a freshman, winning a Big East regular season and tournament title and then pushing the Hoyas into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Perhaps the most impressive part of what Georgetown is doing is the youth involved. Head coach Brian Wiese has 19 freshmen and sophomores on his roster and just four seniors. Are the upperclassmen carrying things? Sure. But it’s a sophomore leading the team in points along with a freshman leading in assists and a freshman getting starts in all five matches in the back line in front of Marcinkowski. Given their early season tests, it’s unlikely that GU will be brought down by mistakes of youth down the road.

Marquette Golden Eagles (0-4-1, #179)

Points Leader: 3 players with 2
Goals Leader: 3 players with 1
Assists Leader: 3 players with 1
Top Goalkeeper: Luis Barraza - 1.88 GAA; .737 SV% (T-7th)
Worst Loss: vs #161 Saint Louis, 1-0

UGH. The less said about this the better.

The way Marquette is playing is generally fine. The phrase “defensive miscues” keeps popping up in descriptions of the goals they allow, which is probably a massive problem, but with two freshmen, a junior transfer, and a sophomore playing in the back line with a junior goalkeeper that couldn’t win the job in his first two seasons, it’s probably not something that’s going to stop any time soon.

Moving on before I get terribly despondent about MU being the worst team in the league....

Providence Friars (2-3-0, #120)

Points Leader: Mac Steeves, 9 (5th)
Goals Leader: Mac Steeves, 3 (T-7th)
Assists Leader: Mac Steeves, 3 (T-3rd)
Top Goalkeeper: Colin Miller - 0.93 GAA (3rd); .824 SV% (3rd)
Best Win: at #96 Rhode Island, 2-1 (OT)
Worst Loss: vs #169 Harvard, 2-1

Hey, remember when Providence was picked to win the league and started the season ranked #12 in the country? Here’s the thing about that: They started the season with back to back losses to #4 North Carolina and #2 Wake Forest and nearly everyone flipped their lids. PC went from #12 to UNRANKED because they lost one mostly-road game and one road game in the first three days of the season to two top five teams. WHAT THE HELL, VOTERS. Look, I get that they were outscored 8-3 in those matches, but come on.

They came back the next weekend and picked up two wins.... AND LOST MORE VOTES. I’m not blaming anyone for not voting for them after the loss to Harvard, but the fact that they were essentially completely out of the polling before that is bananas.

I suppose at this point, we have to talk about what in the hell head coach Craig Stewart is doing with his goalkeeping situation. Last year, Stewart ended up yanking Ben Seguljic for being not great and put in Colin Miller...... who promptly wrecked shop..... and then got yanked for Seguljic. What happened this year? Wellllllllll, Stewart started the season with Seguljic in net. I’m not kidding! The solution after that four goal performance? GOING WITH A REDSHIRT FRESHMAN AGAINST THE #2 TEAM IN THE COUNTRY.

You’re never going to believe this, but Colin Miller has played the last three matches for Providence. Look. Maybe Miller was hurt or something. That would be the good explanation, as one of the reasons why PC was the favorite to win the Big East is because of Miller’s netminding last season. If it was something else, I have legitimately no idea what Craig Stewart is doing with his keepers.

St. John’s Red Storm (3-2-1, #95)

Points Leader: Alistair Johnston, 8 (9th)
Goals Leader: Alistair Johnston, 4 (T-3rd)
Assists Leader: Two players with 2 (T-9th)
Top Goalkeeper: Andrew Withers - 0.48 GAA (2nd); .875 SV% (1st)
Best Win: vs #155 Temple, 2-0
Worst Loss: at #86 Loyola-Maryland, 1-0

I feel like St. John’s should be better than this, given the goalkeeping effort they’re getting from Andrew Withers. Of course, the same thing could be said about the Red Storm last season when they went 6-7-4 with Withers allowing 0.77 goals per 90 minutes. St. John’s ranks just seventh in the Big East in total shots, and they’re dead last in shots per game. I suspect this may point to an issue of tactics causing an unnecessary limit on them.

Part of the problem for the Johnnies this season has been an inability to keep the same lineup on the field. 16 different field players have started at least one match already this season, and only five have started all six. That does not include preseason all-Big East honoree Harry Cooksley, who has only appeared in four matches. Even with the limited action, the Londoner has still contributed a goal and two assists to the offense.

Seton Hall Pirates (3-3-1, #117)

Points Leader: Andres Arcila, 11 (2nd)
Goals Leader: Andres Arcila, 4 (T-3rd)
Assists Leader: Andres Arcila, 3 (T-2nd)
Top Goalkeeper: Elliot Munford - 1.20 GAA (7th); .722 SV% (9th)
Best Win: at #149 Princeton, 4-3 (OT)
Worst Loss: vs #112 Delaware, 2-0

The good news for the Pirates is that they appear to have one of the best offensive players in the league in Andres Arcila. The Colombian is chipping in with both shooting and passing, and it’s hard to beat that kind of a combo.

There’s two versions of bad news for SHU, though. The first one is that their schedule has been largely speaking a big bag of nothing. They’re getting wins that they probably should (all #149 and south in BennettRank), but then ending up with losses whenever they play a foe of reasonable competency. The draw against #174 Saint Peter’s isn’t a great sign, either.

The other thing is that they have what appears to be a full blown goalie controversy. Munford took over the net duties from Steven Catudal after the first three games of the season and was running the show for all three of Seton Hall’s wins. However, head coach Gerson Echeverry went back to Catudal against Delaware on Wednesday night, and as you can see, they ended up taking a 2-0 loss in the process. One guy has a better goals-against mark, the other has a better save percentage. I honestly don’t know which one would be better, other than I know that Echeverry lifted his guy on a three match winning streak.

Villanova Wildcats (3-3-0, #91)

Points Leader: Two players with 6
Goals Leader: Andreas Bartosinski, 3 (T-7th)
Assists Leader: Two players with 2 (T-9th)
Top Goalkeeper: Will Steiner - 1.26 GAA (8th); .758 SV% (5th)
Best Win: at #105 Rider, 2-0
Worst Loss: vs #155 Temple, 1-0

I’m not going to lie to you: At some point, these apparently middling teams just start blurring together a little bit. Writing an article like this would be a lot more fun if the Big East was clearly divided into “HOLY CRAP ARE THEY AWESOME” teams and “HOLY CRAP ARE THEY AWFUL” teams. This probably goes back to the issue of the league schedule is starting waaaaaaaaay too early to be making any significant remarks about any of the teams.

Take the Wildcats for example. It’s within reason that we’ll look up in two weeks and see Villanova sitting at 6-4-0 or 6-3-1 maybe, and that seems like a much more defined team that what we have right now. Right now, they lost to a great Virginia team, lost to local rival Temple, and lost to a pretty good Loyola-Maryland team. They beat everyone else they played, so maybe they just took what amounts to scheduled losses at this point, and that’s all there is to it.

Xavier Musketeers (4-1-1, #27)

Points Leader: Two players with 9 (T-5th)
Goals Leader: Cameron Taylor, 4 (T-3rd)
Assists Leader: Two players with 4 (T-1st)
Top Goalkeeper: Zachary Nelson - 0.93 GAA (4th); .700 SV% (10th)
Best Win: at #60 Boston College, 3-2 (2OT)
Only Loss: vs #84 Loyola-Chicago, 2-1 (OT)

Side note to the Musketeer athletic department: Would it kill you to mark exhibition games on your schedule so very nice people can easily see which games are regular season matches?

It’s possible that Xavier is sneaky good. Their lone loss of the season was in their opener, and you can’t fault them all that much for an overtime loss on a freak ricochet goal to a team that was in the NCAA tournament last season. XU is unbeaten since then, including downing a ranked Boston College team in overtime and surviving to a draw with crosstown rival Cincinnati.

On top of that, they’re leading the league in goals and assists, both total and per game. They’ve been doing that against some pretty decent competition, so there’s reason to believe that they can keep that up. Zachary Nelson is doing a hell of a job in net for head coach and probable Chris Mack clone Andy Fleming as a redshirt freshman, and if he gets a wee bit more comfortable and thus boosts up his save percentage, Xavier could do some real damage as league play gets going.