Big East Weekend Wrap: Vol. I

Posted by Justin Kundrat on November 17th, 2014

The Big East Weekend Wrap will cover news and notes from the weekend’s games.

After an 11-game slate of games for the Big East’s 10 teams,  the league remains perfect. While none of those 11 games were against top competition, wins are wins at this point in the season and losses here can really damage a team’s NCAA Tournament resume. Despite the relative talent imbalance between most of the Big East teams and their opponents, some of these games were shockingly close and may have provided wake-up calls for teams and players who were still stuck in preseason mode. For others, it could be a sign of things to come. Below is a list of five key takeaways from the weekend’s Big East action.

Villanova Made Enough Twos to Make Up for a Cold Shooting Night From Three

Villanova Made Enough Twos to Make Up for a Cold Shooting Night From Three

  • Villanova came out flat, shooting 3-of-23 from deep in the first half before finishing 8-of-33 (24.2%) on the night. Those off nights were a major concern for this team last season when the offense sputtered and failed to create easy baskets when the three-point shot wasn’t falling. Starting guards Dylan Ennis and Ryan Arcidiacono combined for 10-of-28 shooting from the floor while senior wing Darrun Hilliard shot just 4-of-18 and 1-of-9 from deep. The Wildcats forced enough turnovers (28) and got enough points in transition to put Lehigh away, but the win was not a comfortable one by any means. The Wildcats’ shooting numbers are worth watching moving forward.
  • Creighton swept its weekend slate, finishing 2-0 against Central Arkansas and Chicago State by a combined 45 points. The biggest question for the Bluejays coming into this season was how the team would respond without its offensive centerpiece, Doug McDermott. While neither of the above teams was strong enough defensively to provide an answer to this question, the offense continued to fire on all cylinders. Creighton hoisted up a whopping 56 three-point shots in the two games, making just 19 of them, which is disappointing for a team that led the country in this category at 41.5%. Yet the offense was the same free-flowing, unselfish and pass-heavy one we saw last season. Senior center Will Artino was highly efficient with his touches in the paint in limited minutes, with sophomore Isaiah Zierden providing strong scoring output off the bench. Look for Toby Hegner to make a name for himself this season: the 6’9 freshman contributed 17 points and seven rebounds, including 3-of-6 shooting from deep.

  • Matt Stainbrook‘s much needed support looked to be there in Xavier’s first game, with freshman Trevon Bluiett putting up 18 points on just eight shots and forward Jalen Reynolds adding 16 points and five rebounds on 8-of-9 shooting. Again, this performance was against a poor Northern Arizona squad that was clearly mismatched, but the results were encouraging to see: Xavier shot a remarkable 82.9 percent on its two-point shots. Stainbrook, the highly talented big man who should provide a steady stream of 20/10 games for the Musketeers this season, will undoubtedly need other players to step up for his team to make an NCAA Tournament run. Xavier’s non-conference schedule is disappointingly weak, but upcoming match-ups with Alabama and Missouri in the next few weeks should be decent tests.
  • Providence and DePaul both received big scares and were reminded to take nothing for granted this season. Coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance, Albany is no slouch, but Providence’s game with the Great Danes should not have been decided by two possessions. The Friars had a major size advantage down low — as they will against most opponents — but they completely failed to take advantage of it. Despite 15 offensive rebounds, the team gave up nine of their own and finished with an unimpressive rebounding margin of zero. Even more disappointing was the fact that nobody stepped up outside of Tyler Harris and LaDontae Henton, who combined for 44 of the team’s 64 points. Kris Dunn finished 0-of-5 with two points, and 7’0 senior Carson Desrosiers managed just four points and three rebounds in 22 minutes despite facing a team whose tallest player was 6’8. DePaul, on the other hand, is somewhat less surprising, but early season wins are good confidence-builders. Tommy Hamilton totaled a solid 17/8 stat line (but shot just 3-of-10 from the line), and team leader Billy Garrett Jr. finished with 12 points and six assists. However, the Blue Demons put Illinois-Chicago on the line 29 times and were outrebounded by 12, which, as with Providence, is absolutely inexcusable considering the size differential. It remains to be seen how both of these teams will adjust to the season, but the emphasis for both HAS to be on rebounding. Providence and DePaul are ranked 15th and 33rd, respectively, in effective height and therefore should be dominating the glass.
  • Preseason Big East Freshman of the Year Isaiah Whitehead had a disappointing Seton Hall debut, shooting 1-of-10 (0-of-5 from three) for two points and committing four turnovers in just 23 minutes of playing time. This is certainly not the debut that Pirates fans were hoping for, but it’s way too early to decide which direction Whitehead’s career will go. It could have simply been a case of the freshman jitters, but it’s clear that the 6’4 guard was not afraid to pull the trigger early on. Regardless, the support of backcourt mates Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina will go a long way in relieving Whitehead of any pressure to score, and should provide him with time to get comfortable in Kevin Willard’s system. He will have a few days off before a trip to the Virgin Islands to face Nevada in the first round of the Paradise Jam Tournament.
Justin Kundrat (166 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at justin.kundrat@gmail.com


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