Just when it appeared that there was starting to be solid ground for the teams atop the Big East to stand on, everything began to shake and fall apart. This past weekend was unquestionably the most dramatic slate of Big East games that we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing this season. The early titans of the conference—Syracuse and Louisville—were both upset within hours of one another. Mistakes were made and weaknesses were exposed.
So what are we to make of this late January shakeup?
Villanova got off to an absolutely atrocious start this season. How bad? They’ve twice suffered 3-game losing streaks, one in which they lost to Columbia by 18 points. The very same Ivy League Columbia that now has a 9-7 record. ‘Nova looked primed to be on bubble alert—for the NIT.
But that same Villanova team has now rattled off consecutive wins over two of the most powerful teams in not only the Big East, but the entire country, #5 Louisville and #3 Syracuse. The win against Louisville was impressive, but the Cardinals have been struggling against just about all of their opponents lately. Syracuse, however, has done nothing but look the part of a team that deserves to be number one in the Big East. So when 3-point specialist Ryan Arcidiacono (good luck spelling that name without a Google search) knocked down the game tying basket to send it to overtime, all of a sudden it seemed like this ‘Nova team might be the real deal. One thing we know for sure about Jay Wright’s squad—they aren’t afraid of anyone, regardless of rank.
Louisville Struggles Late
Point guard Peyton Siva isn’t necessarily innocent when it comes to Louisville’s recent late game struggles, but he certainly has not been aided by those around him. Chane Behanan, normally a reliable post player for Louisville, has watched passes bounce off his hands late in the game clock for two consecutive losses in a row. Siva has always been a favorite of mine, his quick decision-making and ball-on-a-string handles separate him as one of the best guards at the college level. However, his play of late has simply been repugnant. Over the past four games (in which the Cards have gone 1-3), Siva has shot 7/33 (22%), so Louisville’s struggles probably shouldn’t surprise anyone, but with Siva mired in a shooting slump, he’s going to need some help from those around him for the Cards turn their recent slide around.
Head coach Mike Rice is officially in danger of losing his job. Over their last five games, the Scarlet Knights are 1-4 and look to be getting even worse. As punishment for not capitalizing on an easy stretch of their schedule, they will now have to face #24 Cincinnati (who has already embarrassed them once this year), #12 Louisville, and Georgetown consecutively. Rutgers’ star player Eli Carter has fizzled out of late, leaving Rutgers with not one go-to scorer. It seems like the Knights are going nowhere but down lately. A win in one of the upcoming games would provide a much needed moral lift for the dilapidated program. However, it’s hard to imagine them beating any team worthy of a national ranking.
Marquette Won’t Let Up
Marquette is quietly establishing themselves as one of the top three teams in the Big East. The only blemish on their conference record is an overtime loss to Cincinnati in which Bearcat’s star Sean Kilpatrick had a career evening. While the Golden Eagles have certainly benefited from playing the lower end of the Big East totem pole to start their conference play, I expect them to continue their impressive tear. Especially after this weekend, when we saw that there isn’t one Big East team that doesn’t have some sort of critical flaw: Syracuse lacks bigs on the interior; Louisville struggles when Siva struggles; Georgetown beats themselves.
The player on Marquette who impresses me the most is guard Junior Cadougan, who aside from having a ridiculously fun name to say, can flat out ball. He’s a great player to watch out for, especially in the Golden Eagles next game, a February 3rd trip to Louisville. I’m eager to see which of these teams pulls out the victory.
Who do you think are the three best teams in the Big East? Leave a comment and let me know.