Big East men’s basketball is back, so it’s time to check in on how Georgetown and each of its conference rivals have performed thus far. It may be way too early to understand much about any one team, but nothing is going to stop college basketball fans from analyzing and overanalyzing the limited sample size.
Big East basketball teams have played a total of 30 games so far. There have been some big upsets, a few impressive individual performances, lots of nail-biters and many inevitable COVID-19 cancellations. Let’s go through the conference finishing order that Big East coaches predicted back in October.
1. Villanova University: The Wildcats, led by Coach Jay Wright, are perennial national title contenders, and this year’s team is led by Collin Gillespie and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, both named to the preseason All-Big East First Team. The Wildcats played their first game Nov. 25 against Boston College and after being tied at the half, they cruised to a 76-67 win. They beat Arizona State University comfortably 83-74, suffered a shocking 81-73 upset at the hands of Virginia Tech University and bounced back with an 87-53 drubbing of mid-major the University of Hartford. Now, they sit at 3-1. The Virginia Tech loss was an early setback, but Villanova still looks like the best that the Big East has to offer.
2. Creighton University: The Blue Jays have big hopes for the 2020-21 season, especially after conference head coaches picked point guard Marcus Zegaroswki as the preseason Big East Player of the Year. They have yet to face much high-level competition and have rolled to two big wins against mid-majors North Dakota State University and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. They are 2-0 and will face a big test Dec. 8, when they take on the powerhouse Kansas Jayhawks.
3. Providence College: Coach Ed Cooley’s Friars have been inconsistent over the first week of their season. They looked dominant Nov. 25 in their 97-56 dismantling of Fairfield University and then stumbled, losing a blowout to Indiana University 79-58. They played Davidson College close Dec. 1, sneaking out with a 63-62 win, and then took a tough loss against the University of Alabama, 88-71. They are now a somewhat disappointing 2-2.
4. University of Connecticut: Connecticut, playing in its first season after returning to the Big East, has come out on top against two in-state rivals, Central Connecticut State University and the University of Hartford. Sophomore guard James Bouknight has led the way, averaging 19.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Bouknight is a preseason All-Big East Second Team selection and was recently added to the John R. Wooden Award watchlist.
5. Seton Hall University: This year’s Seton Hall team is trying to find its way in the post-Myles Powell era, as he has now departed for the NBA. Powell, a shooting guard, averaged 21.0 points for the Pirates a year ago and was named the Big East Player of the Year and an Associated Press First Team All-American. The team opened its season with a heartbreaker, falling just short of the University of Louisville 71-70. In keeping with the Rick Pitino theme, the Pirates took on Iona College next and won 86-64. Then, on Dec. 1, it lost a tough game to the University of Rhode Island, 76-63. Fans will note that Seton Hall has gone from a title contender to a team with a losing record.
6. Marquette University: Like Seton Hall, this year’s Marquette team is reeling from the loss of a prolific scorer. Markus Howard, a diminutive 5’11” guard, led the nation with 27.8 points per game last season. Howard was the Big East Player of the Year in 2018-19, and, like Powell, he was named an Associated Press All-American in 2019-20. Even without its leading scorer, Marquette basketball has started off strong, beating the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff 99-57 and Eastern Illinois University 75-50. In its next game against 2020 consensus No. 1 prospect Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State University, the Golden Eagles took their first loss, 70-62. They are 2-1 and will take on the University of Wisconsin on Dec. 4.
7. Xavier University: The Musketeers have already played five games, the most in the Big East. They blew out Oakland University 101-49 in their season opener, then squeaked by Bradley University 51-50, Toledo University 76-73 and Eastern Kentucky University 99-96. On Dec. 2 they crushed Tennessee Tech University 79-48. Last spring, Xavier graduated three seniors including double-double machine Tyrique Jones, so a 5-0 opening showing is especially impressive.
8. Butler University: The Bulldogs have been hit hard by COVID-19. The team eked out a win over Western Michigan University on Nov. 25, 66-62 but a positive test within the program has halted basketball operations for almost a week now. Games against Northern Kentucky University and Kansas State University were postponed and the Bulldogs are looking ahead to a Dec. 14 conference tilt against St. John’s University.
9. St. John’s University: The Red Storm have won nail-biters against Saint Peter’s University 76-75 and Boston College 97-93, blew out La Salle University 82-65 and lost by 6 points to a strong Brigham Young University squad. As is often the case, the Red Storm are expected to be bottom feeders, but freshman guard Posh Alexander has been a bright spot, averaging 11.5 points and 4.5 assists per game so far. The team is 3-1.
10. DePaul University: Forget Butler, DePaul has been the COVID-19 hotspot of the Big East. The Demons have yet to play a single game.
11. Georgetown University: I don’t want to talk about it.
Caden Koontz is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. Hoya Headlines appears online every other week.