Big East Weekend Wrap: Vol. V

Posted by Justin Kundrat on December 22nd, 2014

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

What is basketball, or any sport for that matter, except for a continuous stream of results and changing expectations? We only know as much about a team as their body of work, and with that, we attempt to make judgments about their future performances and outcomes. With more data comes more information and hopefully, more informed opinions. The Big East got off to an incredibly hot start in its first six weeks, but the last few days of action have brought most of its teams back down to earth. Whether they recover remains to be seen.

The Good

  • Villanova posted an impressive rally. The Wildcats struggled to penetrate the Syracuse zone for the first 25 minutes of action and trailed for nearly the entire game before rallying to send it to overtime in the final 17 seconds. The offensive balance that propelled the team in past victories was gone, as three players scored over 20 and nobody else on the team scored more than six points. However ugly, Villanova found a way to win. It exemplified the team’s resiliency and also demonstrated a sense of senior leadership that was missing earlier this season. Darrun Hilliard posted 23 points, five rebounds and four steals while JayVaughn Pinkston scored 25 and added 10 rebounds of his own. With the Wildcats’ perimeter shooting nowhere to be found, both seniors found ways to score down the stretch by attacking the rim and creating for themselves. The gap between Villanova and the rest of the pack appears to be widening; the target on their back has never been bigger.
Despite some early struggles, Jay Wright's crew eventually cracked the Orange's zone and found a way to eek out an impressive victory. (Getty)

Despite some early struggles, Jay Wright’s crew eventually cracked the Orange’s zone and found a way to eek out an impressive victory. (Getty)

Other Big East teams were not so fortunate…

  • Butler went 0-for-2 in resume-building games. The Bulldogs have fallen in the past week about as quickly as they rose in November. Chris Holtmann’s squad had two good chances to build on their 8-1 start: the first was at Tennessee, a game in which they broke down in the final 10 minutes as discussed here. The second was Saturday on a neutral floor against a similarly athletic team in Indiana. Here, Butler again played well in the first half before crumbling, scoring just 12 points in the final 8:38. The game was close the entire way, but the Hoosiers’ second half adjustments worked to slow Kellen Dunham and no other Bulldog was able to put together an efficient shooting performance. The defense was effective (held leading scorer James Blackmon – 19.2 PPG prior – to 5 points), yet to the surprise of many, the rebounding was not. The Hoosiers grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and only gave up 11 turnovers, preventing the run outs that kick start Butler’s offense. The offensive struggles remain: Roosevelt Jones and Alex Barlow are defensive-minded players that have not proven to be consistent scorers, and the Bulldogs are in desperate need of one to complement Dunham. The hope is that freshman Kelan Martin will eventually emerge.

  • Creighton fell off the map with a loss at North Texas. It’s a pretty inexcusable loss for a team that couldn’t afford to lose. As I’ve said in the past, the Bluejays have again chosen to center their offense around the three-point shot. When it works, they look unbeatable; but when it doesn’t, they look out of sorts. On Sunday, the team shot a combined 10-of-39 from beyond the arc and attempted only 25 2’s. That alone tells the story.

Speaking of poor shooting…

  • Seton Hall laid another egg against good competition. The Pirates were actually on the cusp of a Top 25 appearance, but didn’t even appear to be trying Sunday at Georgia. Now, many are questioning whether the team received too much credit for its record. With Isaiah Whitehead glued to the bench in foul trouble and Sterling Gibbs shooting 1-of-11, it became apparent just how reliant the Pirates are on their pair of scoring guards. Similar to Creighton, they draw much of their energy by converting on three-pointers and Georgia did a fantastic job of taking it away. Georgia is a quality opponent, so perhaps this is the game that pops Seton Hall’s bubble. As it stands, their best win is at home against George Washington. More tests will emerge next week as they face both St. John’s and Villanova in the span of three days.

    Freshman Trevon Bluiett has been a bright spot for Xavier, but it hasn't all been smooth sailing. (AP)

    Freshman Trevon Bluiett has been a bright spot for Xavier, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. (AP)

  • Xavier’s defense was exposed. Again, another ugly loss (at Auburn this time) for a team trying to build a tournament resume. The Musketeers held a 13-point lead in the second half but allowed Auburn to shoot 49.3% from the floor before handing it over in double overtime. The balanced scoring attack, led by freshman Trevon Bluiett (16 points, seven rebounds, five assists) is a plus, but the defense simply has too many holes and Matt Stainbrook’s foul troubles allowed for easy baskets around the rim. It’s been an ongoing problem for the Chris Mack’s team this season and has completely negated the fact that Xavier is 14th in the country in points per game this season.
  • Luke Fischer made an instant impact. The Indiana transfer showed up against Arizona State with an array of post moves and passing ability, giving Marquette a whole new dimension to its offense. At 6’11”, Fischer has been incredibly efficient on the offensive end, shooting 17-of-19 in his first two games for 41 points. His play alongside the continued breakout season of redshirt freshman Duane Wilson provide the Golden Eagles with a bright future and the chance to make an outside run in the Big East this season.
Justin Kundrat (175 Posts)

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

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