Three Up, Three Down in the Big East

Posted by George Hershey on November 21st, 2014

The Big East has gotten off to a strong start this season, having lost only one game among all 10 teams and heading into next week with tests which will help determine how it stacks up against some of the nation’s best. Here are three positives and three negatives from the opening week in Big East basketball.

Three Up

Blueitt has produced from the get go for the Musketeers (Frank Victores/USA Today Sports)

Trevon Blueitt has produced from the get go for the Musketeers
(Frank Victores/USA Today Sports)

  1. Xavier Freshmen – Chris Mack brought in a highly-ranked group of freshmen to restock the Musketeers, and they have produced from the get-go. In Tuesday night’s win over Long Beach State, Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura led the team in scoring, with 20 and 17 points, respectively. Both shot the ball well from three, combining to connect five times, and Bluiett especially had a phenomenal game, stuffing the stat sheet with eight rebounds and five assists to boot. With a strong group of experienced players led by Matt Stainbrook and Myles Davis, Mack does not need his freshmen to lead every night, but their demonstrated ability to score in bunches is helpful for any team over the course of a season.
  2. DePaul Transfers – This DePaul team is not your typical DePaul team. That might be said nearly every preseason, but after a couple of games, it appears that this could be the team that finally breaks through. Oliver Purnell returns two sophomore studs in Billy Garrett Jr. and Tommy Hamilton IV, but he also brought in four transfers to turn the program around. Myke HenryAaron Simpson, and the injured Rashaun Stimage have returned home to Chicago, and Darrick Wood arrives by way of junior college in Kansas. In Tuesday’s win over Drake, Henry contributed 13 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Simpson and Wood both contributed five points each. Stimage and Henry are athletic bigs which will pair nicely with big-bodied Hamilton, while Simpson and Wood can handle the ball and provide a spark off the bench when Garrett needs a break. Purnell needs smart players who buy into the system, and all signs point to his group of newbies doing just that.
  3. Joshua Smith – After transferring from UCLA, Joshua Smith could not have had a rougher last season. Amid questioning over his eligibility and weight, he was typically inconsistent before he was ruled academically ineligible halfway through the season. In his first game back last Saturday, he scored a solid 10 points but only pulled down two rebounds, leading to more criticism. All that changed on Tuesday night, however, as Smith recorded his second double-double as a collegian, dropping 20 points to go along with 12 rebounds against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Smith’s return is much needed, as last year’s team had serious spacing issues without an interior threat to keep defenses honest. The Hoya guards can dump it in to Smith and let him go to work, or get a nice seal off when driving the lane. Consistent rebounding will only further strengthen a Hoyas team looking to bounce back from a disappointing NIT season.

Three Down

  1. Villanova’s 3-Point Shooting – The class of the Big East for the past year struggled in a close win over Bucknell last night, thanks in large part to Darrun Hilliard‘s last-minute defensive heroics. The Wildcats have come out of the gate struggling from beyond the arc, going 5-of-22 versus the Bison, and shooting 27.8 percent from distance in their first three games. After shooting a healthier 35 percent from three last year, it is a bit surprising to see Jay Wright’s players — mostly the same group as last year — struggling so much to accurately shoot the ball. The head coach told CBS Sports that one explanation could be that his team might be a little bit too confident in their looks, forcing some quick and contested lower-percentage shots. This team is full of experienced and talented players but it will face a tough test in Brooklyn on Monday night against a VCU team that is hungry and playing very well.
  2. Deonte Burton – Every analysts’ preseason sleeper for Big East First Team was Marquette’s Deonte Burton. As a freshman under Buzz Williams, there was some frustration with his relative lack of playing time, but when in the lineup, it was easy to see his talent and other physical tools. Those hefty expectations need to be tempered at this point, though, as Burton has struggled on both ends of the court through two games. In the Golden Eagles’ Tuesday loss to Ohio State, Burton scored only two points in 13 minutes of action. While on the floor, he was slow to rotate and therefore out of position defensively multiple times, and forced the action too much on offense. It is a small sample size and Burton has also had to cope with the recent loss of his mother, but Marquette needs him to play his role in order to have a successful season. Patience is needed in light of Burton’s unfortunate family situation, but the folks in Milwaukee are hoping they can get their talented sophomore guard back to normal.
  3. Toby Hegner’s beer soaked head – Hustle is usually rewarded in basketball, but in Creighton’s big win over Oklahoma on Wedneday night, Toby Hegner got a face full of beer after diving into the front row chasing a loose basketball. In a good first week for the Big East, Hegner’s bad luck brought him some unanticipated national publicity, which the team could laugh off after pulling out another great home win.
George Hershey (47 Posts)

Fordham University 2017 Aspiring Accountant

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