As the Big East’s teams all get into action (after some COVID pauses), we introduce a weekly series of posts reviewing the Big East — looking at the last week of action in the league, and going over some of the most notable individual performances from around the conference.
Villanova’s reign as Big East top dogs seemed in danger... until it wasn’t
Putting on one of the worst offensive performances in the Jay Wright era against Baylor on December 12th was a surprise. Proceeding to take a shocking 20-point defeat at the hands of an inexperienced Creighton team on December 18th was a three-alarm surprise. At that moment, it felt like this year that the Wildcats were most vulnerable of losing their top position in the conference.
That was until Villanova poured cold water on these aspirations for the time-being, reminding why the Wildcats are perennially the Big East’s top team. They cruised to victories over then-18th ranked Xavier and 15th ranked Seton Hall, crushed the aforementioned Creighton Bluejays by a score of 75-41 in their rematch this past Wednesday night, and then shut the door on the DePaul Blue Demons after experiencing a first-half scare on Saturday afternoon.
Guard Justin Moore’s scoring efforts against Creighton and DePaul earned himself the honor of being named Big East Player of the Week. He put up 22 and 21 points in his games against the Bluejays and Blue Demons, respectively.
Moore isn’t the only Wildcat to have the hot hand. Collin Gillespie is playing at a hyper-efficient level in the Wildcats’ four-game winning streak and is looking like the Big East Player of the Year favorite many expected him to be. In Villanova’s last four wins, he is averaging 18.8 points per game on 55.3 percent shooting from the field, 42.3 percent shooting from three, and 92.3 percent from the free throw line.
Bryce Aiken is finally realizing his potential
The record on Seton Hall’s Bryce Aiken has always been that he can be a special player when he’s healthy. Entering this season, the former 4-star recruit has only played 79 out of 147 possible games in his collegiate career and his extra COVID year is perhaps his last chance of playing basketball on a big stage.
After serving as a spark-plug off the bench for the start of this season, Aiken has caught fire when he was promoted to the starting lineup this week. In two starts versus Butler and UConn, Aiken averaged 17.0 points per game on 52.6 percent shooting and 37.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc, and he also chipped in seven assists in each of his two games to become named to this week’s Big East Honor Roll.
Marquette blew the doors off their competition
After falling into a 0-3 hole to begin conference play, punctuated by a double-overtime loss to Creighton which saw the Golden Eagles come oh-so-close to capping off a comeback from a 17-point deficit in regulation, Marquette responded in a major way this week by boat-racing both teams they faced this week.
In their largest victory over an AP ranked opponent in school history, Marquette shredded No. 16 Providence, 88-56, this past Wednesday. The Golden Eagles held Providence to 32.8 percent from the field and kept the Friars’ two top scorers entering Wednesday’s game, Nate Watson and Aljami Durham, to a combined 7-for-23 shooting from the field. Justin Lewis had his way against the Friars, logging a career-high 23 points and 11 rebounds in a performance that listed him on this week’s Big East Honor Roll.
They kept the momentum going on Thursday night, as they toyed with a cold Georgetown team that was playing just its first game in three weeks, beating the Hoyas by a score of 92-64. The Hoyas shot a frigid 29.9 percent from the field while the Golden Eagles looked unstoppable as they shot 59.1 percent from the field.
Marquette vaulted 34 spots in KenPom’s rankings, from 85th to 51st, after their contests against Providence and Georgetown.
Beyond an upcoming home outing versus DePaul, Marquette will have to go through a gauntlet over the following seven games: both home-and-away games versus No. 19 Villanova and No. 24 Seton Hall, a home game versus No. 22 Xavier, a road game versus a Providence team that will certainly remember Wednesday night’s game, and a road game versus UConn.
With only a marquee win over Illinois to their credit in non-conference play, this upcoming slate will decide whether or not they will be an NCAA tournament team.
Georgetown is inventing new ways to disappoint
The Hoyas have experienced dozens of jarring defeats over the past six years, but none may be as sobering as the previously-mentioned 28-point loss to Marquette. I’ve already discussed how Marquette crushed Georgetown on both sides of the ball, but the fallout from the game may warrant a write-up of its own.
Head coach Patrick Ewing was so disgusted by Georgetown’s performance that he said the late John Thompson, Jr. is rolling over in his grave for the performance they showed.
Patrick Ewing is PISSED off. Said the team flat out didn’t compete enough.— Kareem Copeland (@kareemcopeland) January 8, 2022
“Big John is rolling over in his grave”
Said everyone is on notice.
Then Stood up and walked out of his media session.
So far this season, the Hoyas are showing that last year’s miraculous Big East championship run was nothing more than a blip on the radar.
Georgetown went 5-6 in non-conference play, which included bad losses to Dartmouth and Saint Joseph’s, and considering how competitive the rest of the conference is, this has the makings of becoming a long year in the Capitol.