Big East Power Rankings: New Year’s Edition

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 4th, 2017

With conference play just getting under way, it feels like an appropriate time to re-establish a hierarchy within the Big East. Let’s take a look at the first Big East Power Rankings of 2017.

#1 Villanova. Forget all the Josh Hart talk for a minute — let’s instead pay tribute to Jalen Brunson, who tallied a career-high 27 points last weekend in Villanova’s biggest test to date at Creighton. With a short seven-man rotation and spotty scoring contributions from a number of those players, the Wildcats had seemed to be over-relying on Hart for their production. But Brunson’s tremendous feel for tempo and timing might be the most under-appreciated facet of the team’s elite offense. A major reason why Villanova won the game was because it successfully slowed the pace down the stretch and reduced the quick outlet passes that Creighton uses to generate high percentage shots.

Villanova and Josh Hart Just Keep Rolling (USA Today Images)

Villanova Just Keeps On Rolling (USA Today Images)

#2 Creighton. It was terrible timing for the Bluejays to log their worst three-point shooting performance of the season against Villanova. Creighton came into the game connecting on a blistering 45 percent of its perimeter shots on the year, but only managed a paltry 6-of-24 outing on Saturday. Off night aside, freshman center Justin Patton continues to build on his stellar play in the non-conference season. The seven-footer notched 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting and gives the Bluejays a consistent scoring threat in the post to complement their numerous outside shooters.

#3 Xavier. Without the steadying hands of point guard Myles Davis, the Musketeers have experienced a roller coaster of a season. Evaluating Xavier without his presence in the lineup doesn’t do Chris Mack’s team justice. Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura can score in bunches and Edmond Sumner has steadily grown into a sure-handed ball-handler, but the Musketeers need Davis. Per HoopLens, no player on Xavier’s roster last year had a bigger offensive impact.

His 38 percent shooting from deep undoubtedly spaced the floor, but his more important contributions were in ball movement and facilitation — Xavier’s assist rate is currently the lowest it has been in four seasons.

#4 Butler. Butler’s weekend loss to St. John’s highlights an ongoing defensive issue with the Bulldogs. Defending athletic guards was a problem for this team a season ago and Butler hasn’t yet appeared to have solved for it. Shamorie Ponds poured in a career-high 26 points while Bashir Ahmed and Marcus LoVett tacked on a combined 29 more. All told, St. John’s shot 68 percent from inside the three-point line and Butler simply couldn’t match that production on the other end. The biggest component of this is the offensive/defensive trade-off of point guard Tyler Lewis.

While not a significant scorer, Lewis is a key cog as a facilitator despite significantly hampering Butler’s defensive upside.

#5 Seton Hall. After topping Marquette on Sunday, the Pirates are now 11-3 and just outside of the Top 25. But much like last year, Kevin Willard’s group continues to be plagued by turnovers and free throw shooting. Without many consistent outside shooters, Seton Hall’s offense can turn stagnant when its transition opportunities are limited. On the plus side, junior Angel Delgado’s breakout season has been everything he could have hoped. He still struggles to pass out of double teams, but the 6’10 forward has otherwise proven very difficult to contain in the post. He’s shooting 65 percent at the rim and ranks 26th nationally in offensive rebounding rate.

#6 Marquette. This year’s Marquette team feels similar to Creighton last year — the Golden Eagles have a number of reliable pieces but they’re missing glue in the form of a go-to scorer. Steve Wojciechowski employs a four-out spread offense that connects on 40 percent of its three-pointers, but employing a lineup of undersized shooters presents a problem on the defensive end, particularly against teams that have the size to attack lone big man Luke Fischer in the post.

Marquette's Luke Fischer (USA Today Images)

Marquette’s Luke Fischer Could Stand to Become a Go-to Scorer (USA Today Images)

#7 Georgetown. The Hoyas played Xavier on Saturday about as well as anyone could expect behind strong scoring contributions from LJ Peak and Rodney Pryor. It appears as if Georgetown has finally turned the corner from a shooting standpoint, but they are still missing something. Maybe it’s the need for a true point guard to shore up its turnover problem (236th nationally) or maybe it’s a post player who can defend without committing so many head-scratching fouls. Regardless, the Hoyas are a middling club until John Thompson III figures it out.

#8 St. John’s. St. John’s doesn’t stand out in many statistical categories other than being one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country (40.2%, 16th nationally). Regardless, this team has taken a complete 180-degree turn over the last few weeks, growing alongside its freshman backcourt of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett. As these two young talents progress, particularly on the defensive end, the St. John’s offense will round into form without the constant pressure that arises from double-figure deficits.

#9 Providence. Not even Providence fans know what to make of this team. A 10-2 start with competitive games against Ohio State and Virginia was followed up with clunkers against Boston College, Xavier and Butler. The Friars’ defense has been awful lately, but the bigger cause for concern comes on the team’s heavy reliance on a player who has struggled under the spotlight. Rodney Bullock‘s performances against top-tier opponents are problematic, and there isn’t enough scoring talent around him at Providence this season to pick up the slack.

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-11-48-47-pm

In his six games against NCAA Tournament quality teams, Bullock has posted an effective field goal percentage of 44.9 percent. Against lower quality opponents, this figure rises to 53.6 percent. Considering his high usage rate, Bullock’s obvious weakness is a major red flag if Providence hopes to compete in a league filled with NCAA Tournament caliber teams.

#10 DePaul. Billy Garrett Jr. looked like a revived shell of his former self last week, getting to the basket practically at will against Villanova’s porous perimeter defense. A near-win in Philadelphia was enough to gently move the needle, but the Big East demands consistency and the Blue Demons were unable to rebound to beat St. John’s on their own home court.

Justin Kundrat (142 Posts)

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


Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *