Otskey’s Big East Observations: 12.18.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 18th, 2015

While every season is definitely long and winding, Georgetown’s loss to Monmouth should be concerning for both the Hoyas and Big East fans. The primary reason is not that Monmouth is a bad team — rather, the Hawks have a quality squad this season — it is that the Hoyas were run off their home floor in a game that should have been a close, competitive loss or a win. This loss is the latest in a recent history full of uninspiring Georgetown losses under John Thompson III and the second of this season alone. When you look at the Hoyas’ overall KenPom profile, a few things stand out. First, this team is not defending at a high level. While Georgetown’s field goal percentage defense of 37.7 percent is very good, that statistic only shows so much.

John Thompson III's team was the latest to fall victim to upstart Monmouth. (Washington Post)

John Thompson III’s team was the latest to fall victim to upstart Monmouth. (Washington Post)

When you dig a little deeper, you find a team fouling at a high rate and failing to close out possessions on the boards effectively. A team that struggles to rebound and puts opponents on the foul line too often allows for plenty of extra points, which is the main reason why Georgetown ranks 87th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. When compared with their Big East companions, that rate puts the Hoyas ahead of only Butler, Creighton and hapless DePaul. Already with four losses on its resume, Georgetown has some work to do in league play in order to safely make another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Lackluster performances like those against Monmouth and Radford need to become a thing of the past, and Georgetown will have to become a more efficient squad in order to earn that invitation.

St. John’s win over Syracuse at Madison Square Garden on Sunday was one of the more shocking results of the young college basketball season. As has been well-documented, the Red Storm are in the early process of rebuilding their program under former star Chris Mullin. With an entirely new roster this season, it was surprising to see the Johnnies get hot at the right time and knock off an Orange team that already had wins over Connecticut and Texas A&M. It should be noted that Jim Boeheim did not coach this game as a result of his ongoing suspension, but that is not an excuse. St. John’s won this game with a scorching hot display from behind the three-point line. Syracuse is susceptible to upsets when opponents light it up from deep thanks to its 2-3 zone but it was incredible to see this St. John’s team pull it off. It was also a great sign for St. John’s that it was +15 on the boards and assisted on a remarkable 22-of-30 made field goals. This is still likely to be a long year for Mullin’s team but a game like this provides a glimpse into a brighter future for the program. That said, this team has shown it can be competitive if it focuses on defense and receives some good news from the NCAA Eligibility Center on star freshman guard Marcus LoVett, who was deemed a partial qualifier in November but may be cleared if the NCAA reconsiders his status.

Saturday is a massive day for the Big East, as four conference teams have difficult games against some of the nation’s best. The league has performed admirably in non-conference play this season but a successful weekend will add another level of credibility to its nice start. Villanova visits Virginia and it’s important that the Wildcats show up as competitive against a strong Cavaliers team. Jay Wright’s team was embarrassed by Oklahoma earlier this month and to date its best win was over Georgia Tech (KenPom No. 64). Virginia will bring the heat defensively so it will be interesting to see if Wright modifies his team’s offensive approach. The Wildcats shoot far too many three-pointers to be consistently good at a high level, especially given the poor rate at which they convert those attempts (30.4%).

Ryan Arcidiacono and No. 12 Villanova visit No. 8 Virginia on Saturday. (USA TODAY Sports)

Ryan Arcidiacono and #12 Villanova visit #8 Virginia on Saturday. (USA TODAY Sports)

At the same time Villanova trips to Charlottesville, Seton Hall will host a Wichita State team that has Fred VanVleet back and is playing at a much higher level than when its star point guard was injured. This is an important game for the Pirates’ NCAA Tournament hopes. While they have only two losses on the year and a couple of decent wins over middle-of-the-pack SEC teams, this would be one to brag about later. If the Hall can get a win here and finish at 9-9 in league play, it will be in the mix for a bid on Selection Sunday. That is still a long way off, of course, but a loss to Wichita State would mean that the burden will fall entirely on the Big East season for the Pirates.

Later in the afternoon, Creighton visits Oklahoma and Butler battles Purdue in Indianapolis’ Crossroads Classic. It is a longshot for the Bluejays to return home from Norman with a win but a competitive showing there would ease some concerns about a group that has yet to defeat a KenPom top 100 team. As for Butler, it has somewhat quietly gone about its business this season. Other than an exciting win at Cincinnati, you get the feeling the nation has been sleeping on a good Bulldogs team. Butler has not played the flashiest of schedules to date and was beaten by Miami in Puerto Rico, but it is a fun team to watch. This major focus of this game will be what gives between Butler’s offense (#5 in adjusted offensive efficiency) and Purdue’s defense (#1 in adjusted defensive efficiency). However, Butler needs to take it to another level defensively in order to get a win, a difficult task against a Boilermakers team that features one of the nation’s premier frontcourts.

If the conference can split those four games, it will be yet another step in keeping the Big East’s reputation among the best in college basketball.

Brian Otskey (269 Posts)

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