Big East Stock Report: Risers and Fallers

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 8th, 2019

It’s so far been just one week of conference action, but the Big East’s cannibalization is already underway. With the exceptions of Villanova (2-0) and Providence (0-2), every league team has already notched at least one win and a loss (or two) to go with it. That includes both Georgetown and DePaul, each of which have already toppled potential NCAA Tournament teams. So which Big East teams are trending up or down and what’s the outlook for each?

Butler: Sell

Butler has some decent wins on the season (Ole Miss, Florida, Creighton, UC Irvine), but the Bulldogs haven’t quite looked the part with an offense that has sputtered in recent weeks. A 0.99 point per possession showing against Georgetown and 0.72 PPP against Florida revealed the floor for this team and it’s a steep drop.

LaVall Jordan‘s group might be on the bubble at this point, but buying this team is betting on it finding a reliable contributor outside of Kamar Baldwin, and that’s a risky gamble.

DePaul: Buy

The Blue Demons aren’t coming close to an NCAA Tournament bid this season, but they will almost certainly serve as the conference spoiler. DePaul’s offense has been rebuilt around a potent shooting backcourt of Eli Cain and Max Strus, along with what might be the best rebounding core in the conference.

Quite simply, sophomores Paul Reed and Jaylen Butz have been sensational on the glass, causing myriad problems for undersized opponents.

Creighton: Sell

Creighton has vastly outperformed its ninth place preseason poll ranking to date, but it’s hard to see where further improvement comes from now. The Bluejays are already shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc (fifth nationally) but simultaneously having its worst defensive season in years as a result of a weak post presence. As such, Creighton’s results are going to remain volatile, particularly against teams with athletic backcourts that can contest the perimeter (see: Butler, Nebraska). The other key factor for this team is whether its sizable increases in shooting percentages is a sign of improvement or a sign of a forthcoming reversion to the mean: Ty-Shon Alexander has gone from 34.0 percent three-point shooting last season to 40.6 percent; Mitch Ballock from 33.9 percent to 47.3 percent.

Georgetown: Hold

The Hoya’s newcomers (Greg Malinowski, James Akinjo, Mac McClung) have performed admirably in sparking the backcourt while senior center Jessie Govan does his thing. But it’s hard to buy stock in a team that is coming off two phenomenal performances, beating Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse, and nearly taking down St. John’s. There are still some question marks at the wing positions here that might not be answered this season.

Marquette: Buy

The 20-point drubbing that the Golden Eagles suffered at St. John’s appears to be an anomaly on the face of an eight-point showing from Markus Howard. Moreover, St. John’s has proven that yes, it is this good. Marquette simply doesn’t have many holes in its rotation: its offense is filled with shooters and slashers and the defense has come a long way to respectable. These guys shoot the three well but do not rely on it nearly as much as they have in previous years. The ceiling seems higher than where Marquette currently stands.

Providence: Buy

The Friars are off to an 0-2 start while posting some dismal offensive numbers, but the caveat is that they are still playing without star freshman AJ Reeves (14.2 PPG) — likely out a few more weeks with a foot injury. This group has plenty of perimeter length and the makings of a good defensive team, so expect them to round into form over the next month or so. Ed Cooley‘s teams are always at their best in March, so this is a good buy-low opportunity as his freshmen round into form.

Seton Hall: Hold

The loss at DePaul was an inevitable cooling off for a scorching hot Seton Hall team. The month of December produced wins over Kentucky, Maryland and St. John’s along with a growing confidence that has manifested in the team’s play. Junior Myles Powell (22.2 PPG) is performing at an All-American level while some of his teammates have made significant strides to support him. So why the hold? There are weaknesses on the interior defensively here, and that was exacerbated by the recent injury to 7’2″ Romaro Gill. DePaul exploited this and it’s reasonable to expect other teams to do the same.

St. John’s: Hold

The Johnnies have finally reached the Top 25 on the heels of a 14-1 start that likely should have been 15-0 because of a questionable call. Guard Shamorie Ponds, probably the most talented player in the Big East, has been virtually unstoppable thus far, but the real story is sophomore LJ Figueroa. The 6’6″ JuCo transfer is averaging 14.3 PPG and a team-leading 6.9 RPG while contributing blocks, steals and just about everything else. Maybe this group deserves a buy, but caution will prevail until an upcoming game at Villanova.

Villanova: Hold

It’s nice to see freshman Jahvon Quinerly contributing some meaningful minutes to Villanova’s offense. Along with freshman Saddiq Bey, these two additions have unquestionably been positive ones, but it’s hard to say that this team is playing up to its lofty preseason expectations. Ideally, some of its newcomers continue to develop roles and Villanova reverts to its trademark cohesive, balanced offense. Until then, this team belongs in the hold column: plenty of upside, but not enough consistency to get there yet.

Xavier: Sell

The Travis Steele coaching era at Xavier has gotten off to a rocky start. The Musketeers have backcourt experience, scoring talent on the wings, and size in the post, but just cannot put it all together. They often end up in foul trouble, shoot poorly, and are on pace for their worst defensive season since 2005. On paper, its roster seems good, but the team’s on-court performance has been maddening. Maybe this suggests a buying opportunity, but only for the die-hard believers.

Justin Kundrat (164 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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