Picking up where I left off:
First off, I don’t think I overrated anyone’s impact in this conference more than Trent Lockett’s. It’s not only that he hasn’t been an impact guy, if anything he’s impacted Marquette negatively while on the floor. Maybe you need to be wired a little differently to play for Buzz, I don’t know. But Lockett is struggling and without Todd Mayo this year that makes Marquette a far less formidable team than I had pegged this season. Lockett was 13, 6 and 2 at Arizona State on 49% shooting. This year he’s 8, 4 and 2 on 40%.
To help offset that, Vander Blue has made real progress on the offensive end. Blue along with Davante Gardner (the oddest player in CBB) have become the go to scorers for Marquette along with small doses from Junior Cadougan and Jamil Wilson. Blue has gone for 21, 18 and 17 against Butler, Florida and Wisconsin while shooting 50% or above in each of those games.
The offense probably is what it will be without many shooting threats. The concern for now has to be that Marquette is not defending to the level they did last year, now allowing 46% on 2PT shots. With capable defenders there is room for growth on that end.
Over the next 3 weeks: A trip to Wisconsin-Green Bay and a home date with LSU could make for a competitive game or two. Marquette opens the BE slate with Uconn at home. Due to how hard they play, there’s a high floor here but the ceiling is not quite what I thought it could be sans Mayo and Lockett’s struggles. I’m not sure what on the current roster can change that and push this team into the top end of the conference.
How to beat them: Match their energy, at least for 75% of the game. Marquette will have a stretch or two each game where they look phenomenal. But they have their lulls and you just have to stick with it – they’ll let you back in. I also would show them a lot of zone this season. The only Coach/Team they faced so far that utilizes zone well was Florida – and that ended up 82-49.
What has to be encouraging for Uconn is that they’re performing well without getting much from Omar Calhoun (my pre-season pick for ROY). His early struggles have been mitigated due to the fact that Shabazz Napier is playing at an All-American level without feeling the need to be Kemba Walker 2.0. Napier can still get a little trigger happy but has been much more selective this season. Helping matters is Ryan Boatright allowing Napier to play off the ball much more this season.
DeAndre Daniels improvement while embracing being an undersized 4 man certainly has helped and Uconn has to be encouraged by Enosch Wolf showing signs of life in his SO season.
But the upside of this team is still limited and the reliance on the guards may take its toll. RJ Evans is providing flashbacks to Khalid El-Amin for the wrong reasons and Tyler Olander is in a little over his head. Nothing statistically stands out. It’s a very poor rebounding team (expected), above average defensively (nice surprise) and struggling to make shots (somewhat disappointing). One thing Kevin Ollie is making sure of: These kids play hard. Jim Calhoun would have a team every once in a while that just packed it in, I don’t get that sense with Ollie and this group.
Over the next 3 weeks: Only three games, one of which is a ‘name game’ vs Washington. From there, not the easiest 5 game BE start: @ Marquette, vs DePaul, @ ND, vs Louisville and @ Pitt.
How to beat them: Pound the boards and get the ball inside. NC State eventually wore them down by doing so. Defensively, I’d throw a good amount of zone at them – turn Daniels or Olander into a decision maker.
9. Seton Hall
You could make a case for St. John’s here or even Providence playing with 0 bench players or have the belief USF will get things going (I don’t). I’ll go with Seton Hall, since they have the best player of the bunch: Fuquan Edwin.
Edwin is currently posting a line of: 18.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.8 steals per game while shooting 54% from the field and 18-33 (54%) from 3. Yet nobody ever talks about him. I’m at fault myself for only squeezing him into an All Big East 3rd team pre-season. I haven’t seen a player with his hands on defense in a while, he is a ball hawk in every sense.
Patrik Auda was lost for the season and is a tough loss for SHU but the supporting cast of Gene Teague, Brandon Mobley, Tom Maayan, Aaron Cosby, Kyle Smyth and Brian Oliver isn’t terrible.
Seton Hall is proving to have nice balance. Ranking 7th in the league in points per poss and 6th in points allowed per.
Over the next 3 weeks: Nothing of importance until the opener at DePaul. From an individual stand point, I’d like to see Brandon Mobley get it going a little bit and Brian Oliver certainly has to be better.
How to beat them: Pressure the guards. Maayan is a freshman and doing an admirable job but Seton Hall is 13th in the league in TO rate. Additionally, with Auda out – Teague is the only Pirate player with real size on the interior. Getting him in foul trouble would pose a problem.
10. St. John’s
Interesting team the Johnnies are and for the good of the true Big East, it’d be nice to see the core parts stick together for a few years. The St. John’s staff may evaluate talent about as well as any team in the league right now. Completely under the radar kids such as Christian Jones, Phil Greene and Felix Balamou look to be capable BE rotation guys. To go along with that the kids they put two feet in with (Mo Harkless, Jakarr Sampson, Chris Obekpa) trend towards NBA caliber players.
Sampson has zero perimeter skill but his length and athleticism might be unmatched in the league and is impacting games with his natural gifts. Obekpa might already be the nations best shot blocker as a freshman. D’Angelo Harrison is likely the bellwether for this group. If he’s on, SJU will be a tough out. If not, SJU will not score many points.
SJU currently ranks 9th in the league in points per poss. A number they could live with this season. Defensively, they’ve struggled and have so the past 2 seasons, even with Mike Dunlap before he departed to the NBA. I’m not sure what the fix on defense is, they’re playing more man to man this year and extending pressure but still poor results. Even with such a shot blocker like Obekpa on the back line.
Over the next 3 weeks: 2 cucpcakes until the opener at Villanova. I’m not sure why so many teams are taking a Christmas/New Years two week break from games – but they are. May make for a rough watch of the first batch of conference games.
How to beat them: Zone or man, you can slow SJU down so long as you stay within distance of Harrison. He’s attempted 59 threes compared to the 48 the rest of the team has taken (13-48).
There’s reason for optimism now for Providence, so – I’ll give them the nod here. Vincent Council, Kris Dunn and Sidiki Johnson are all expected back for the Big East season.
In the mean time, Providence has somehow willed their way to 7-2 with 6 scholarship players (and Bryce Cotton has been banged up to boot). Ed Cooley has PC defending at a high level (23rd nationally in points allowed per poss.) There are seemingly only 4 kids allowed to shoot the basketball between Cotton, Henton, Fortune and Batts so offensive struggles are to be expected. Even if Dunn and Council have some rust to knock off in their first few games back, they’re at least a threat on the floor.
Over the next 3 weeks: Johnson and Dunn are scheduled to return vs Colgate which is followed up by a trip to Boston College and a home date with Brown. From there, they’re the lucky winners that get to start @ Louisville.
How to beat them: It will be interesting to see how the new parts work their way in. My guess is a 3 guard lineup to pair with Henton/Batts and Fortune moves to the bench. Council and Dunn will be able to break people down off the dribble so zone isn’t a bad move this BE season. Defensively, the interior defense is weak – so don’t settle.
USF is still playing dreadfully slow and letting Anthony Collins try to make something happen. The problem is, the team lost a lot of size from last season and the defense has slipped along with the rebounding. The defense is still solid, but not the good to great defense that they employed last year.
The best improvement on offense is they are protecting the ball better. Their turnover rate is 16.6%, down from 21% last year.
This has always been a team with limited upside this year to me, unless Victor Rudd made a big jump. So far, that has not been the case as he still can’t shoot (8-26 from 3).
Over the next 3 weeks: Youngstown St, Bowling Green, George Mason and @ UCF isn’t exactly a group of pushovers. Not great, but not awful by any stretch. That group of games should give us a better feel of what USF can be before they take on Syracuse to open.
How to beat them: You can’t let Collins feel comfortable. I personally like the idea of pressuring him or putting a longer, athletic defender on him. You also don’t want to get in a game in the 50’s with USF – so I’d try to control tempo and create more possessions.
Really splitting hairs at this point. But at least Villanova is starting to move in a positive direction after knocking off St. Joseph’s this week. Ryan Arcidiacono has started to scale back his shot attempts, and Villanova mucks it up just enough to stay in games. Also, if you haven’t caught ‘Nova this year – you’ll notice an even more insufferable Jay Wright. He’s working the referees like no other this year.
I still think there’s an All Big East caliber offensive player inside of Jayvaughn Pinkston, but I’m not sure we’ll ever see it. Some okay parts make up the rest of the rotation but with the minutes and responsibility on his plate this year – Arcidiacono will determine their fate by and large.
Statistically, they’re 15th (15th is now last without West Virginia) in the league in points per poss and 14th in points allowed per poss. Mucking it up is their best bet at this point. They extend games – draw fouls, commit fouls – it won’t get them very far, but right now there’s not many other options.
Over the next 3 weeks: 3 games left, headlined by Delaware. They just need to get better, in all facets. Tuesday night was a good step in the right direction.
How to beat them: Run your stuff, don’t settle. Put Arcidiacono and Yarou/Sutton in pick and roll situations. Defensively, just try not to lose James Bell as a spot up shooter and keep Pinkston contained.
Myles Mack is making a pretty strong FR to SO year leap, which is much needed for Rutgers. Mack is currently averaging 14.8 points on 57% and 46% from 3 (12-26). Eli Carter is leading Rutgers in scoring but has not been nearly as efficient.
Dane Miller once held a lot of potential as a FR in the Big East. Now, he’s finishing out his career as an average BE role player. To go along with that, there just isn’t much help for the back court. Wally Judge hasn’t made a big impact yet and the loss of Biruta last spring to Rhode Island appears significant inside.
Rutgers is currently last in the Big East in points allowed per poss. but a respectable offensive output so far, 7th in points per.
Over the next 3 weeks: UAB and Rider could/should be competitive games. Rutgers opens with a trip to the Carrier Dome. Somebody has to step up to help Mack/Carter and the defense needs to improve.
How to beat them: Just be patient. Ole Miss is far from disciplined but they continued to stick with things eventually wore down Rutgers inside and Rutgers could not get stops in their most high profile game to date. You have to guard the perimeter well and cut off driving lanes, they are not going to score points through a low-post scorer.
I’m really not sure that DePaul is the worst team in this league. Actually, I’m almost sure they won’t be – but until they prove otherwise, I have to stick them here. They were competitive with Wichita St, won @ Auburn, beat Fairfield, won @ Arizona State and overall have played decently. Statistically, they currently are 13th among BE teams in points per poss but a nice improvement to 8th (and 49th nationally) in points allowed per poss.
The roster has more experience this year as Cleveland Melvin, Brandon Young, Moses Morgan and Donovan Kirk are all JR’s. Melvin and Young have both improved their play – evidenced by a PER of 16.4 for Melvin and 16.0 for Young. An improvement from 13.4 and 12.7 last season.
DePaul still can’t shoot (30%) from 3, but there are signs of an improving program.
Over the next 3 weeks: Three more games they should win until they open BE play vs Seton Hall. This is another team that needs another scoring option. Jamee Crockett had 13 the other night in a win – his second game back from injury – and is likely the guy who is needed to step up.
How to beat them: It’s not as simple as just showing up anymore. Handle the pressure and look to attack to score. Play zone and keep Melvin off of the glass.
Since I’m re-shuffling the standings – here’s a redo at some awards:
POY: Otto Porter. No need to change this. Otto’s been pretty darn good despite being sidelined for a game (and 30 or so minutes) with a concussion. Michael Carter-Williams and Sean Kilpatrick figure to be in the thick of this race. Darkhorse: Fuquan Edewin.
COY: Rick Pitino. Keeping the same choice here. I still expect Louisville to be firing on all cylinders come February/March.
Freshman of The Year: It’s a weak FR group in the Big East this season. I picked Omar Calhoun and still feel okay about that, but the smart money might now be on Jakarr Sampson.
1st Team All Big East:
G: Russ Smith
G: Sean Kilpatrick
G : Michael Carter-Williams
F: Otto Porter
C: Jack Cooley
Honorable mention: Bryce Cotton, Shabazz Napier, Jack Cooley, Fuquan Edwin.