In the preseason, the consensus amongst the media was that the Big East conference was Villanova’s to lose, once again. That sentiment was hard to dispute: five major contributors are back from last season’s 33-win team.
However, Coach Jay Wright warned us that things would not be as simple as it seemed.
“I respect everybody putting us in that position, but I kinda question their voting a little bit,” Wright said during Big East Media Day. “I just don’t think we’re as experienced as we’ve been to be in that [top] spot… I think the way we’re all rated by the end could be a lot different than people think.”
Well, Wright couldn’t convince us, but Xavier may have.
1. Xavier – it’s hard not to really, really like what the Musketeers have done so far this season. They are #1 in the all-important R.P.I. (though it’s a bit early to care about such things), but more to the point, they are undefeated with convincing victories at Michigan, vs. Dayton, vs. Cincinnati and at Wake Forest. They look very for real.
2. Butler – people tend to look at Butler with a scrunched face. They acknowledge that they are a gritty, solid team, but are reluctant to take it further. These Bulldogs have a lot of weapons, enough to make a Final Four run, if the rest of the country isn’t very careful. Ask Purdue.
3. Villanova – the aforementioned preseason favorites have not been bad at all, just not as impressive as the two teams currently rated above them. They are still incredibly guard dependent, so the perimeter shots will need to fall.
4. Georgetown – The Hoyas have been highly disappointing over the first couple months of the season. The talent is there, perhaps too much so for JTIII’s comfort level. They have played the good teams tough, but come up embarrassingly short against some of the lesser competition. Thompson is a proven commodity, so expect GTown to right the ship.
5. Providence – former Friar star and ball-handling legend, God Shammgod, told me on media day that Providence would surprise people this year because you can never underestimate the advantage of having the best player on the floor. Kris Dunn has made that crystal clear in the non-conference, so much so, that I feel I am likely underrating the Friars, still.
6. Marquette – the Golden Eagles possess the best freshman in the conference and easily one of the best in the country, in 6’10 mobile big man Henry Ellenson. They have run off nine straight victories, including wins over decent competition such as LSU, Arizona State and Wisconsin.
7. Seton Hall – the Pirates have been surprisingly solid so far, led by sophomore Isaiah Whitehead. Their victory over Wichita State opened some eyes to the possibility of the Hall breaking into the top six of the league and getting an NCAA Tournament berth. Both are lofty goals.
8. Creighton – the Bluejays have shown they will be a pesky team that is capable of beating almost anyone in the conference. Their goal should be a postseason berth of any kind.
9. DePaul – the Blue Demons have been pretty much what most expected this season: bad. But, they then went and blew out a good George Washington team last week, so maybe this year will be different. Probably not.
10. St. John’s – Chris Mullin said before the season that he had won and lost at all levels, so he was prepared for whatever happened to the Johnnies this year. So far, it’s been more of the latter. Surprisingly, though, the Red Storm have played extremely well on occasion, despite their depleted roster (see their 84-72 win over Syracuse earlier this month). So, they should be able to scratch out a couple of Big East wins.