Player of the Week:
Eric Dixon, Villanova
Previously being on our top five most improved Big East players list, Dixon dropped a career high 31 points in the team’s recent win over Creighton. His 31 points was the highest scored by a Villanova player all season and the first 30-point game by a Wildcat since Collin Gillespie did it last year. 18 of his 31 came from the three-point line, a shot that he is normally not known for. He’s proven to be a consistent scorer throughout the duration of this season, but after a game like this his confidence will continue to grow.
The Wildcats got here from the contributions of the player of the week, but also have been playing together as a unit. It’s clear the impact Justin Moore is making returning to the court in late January. Villanova had to get accustomed to throwing a new player in the starting lineup, but they are playing their best basketball at the right time of the year. With March starting this week, Villanova looks like they might run the table in the Big East tourney winning five of their last six games.
A 14-0 start from the Huskies had them looking like one of the best teams in the nation, but then they hit a midseason slump losing five out of six games from the end of December to the middle of January. Since then, they have gone 7-2 with the two losses being to Xavier and Creighton. They are now ranked No. 14 in the nation climbing back into the rankings looking poised for a March Madness run. Their most impressive win this week came against Providence where they won 87-69. Four different Huskies had double figures and as a team they made 10 total three pointers.
Two tough losses for Creighton this week expunged them from the top 25 rankings. First, they had a devasting loss at home to No. 10 Marquette dropping the game by just two points. After that they went on the road to play a Villanova team who finally is playing like a normal Villanova team. Thankfully for head coach McDermott, his team will play against Georgetown and DePaul to end the season. This is a prime opportunity to end the season with two wins against the worst team in the conference and would give the Blue Jays some easy confidence before the Big East tournament starts next week.
Seton Hall Pirates
The offense has been a problem all season for the Pirates. They have the second worst points per game in the league with a 68-point average just ahead of Butler. Defense has been winning them games, but they aren’t going to win basketball games scoring just 55 and 60 points respectively this week. The season won’t get any easier as they end with senior night against Villanova and then on the road at Providence.
Top Five Power Rankings:
Shaka Smart deserves both the Big East and national coach of the year in college basketball. Coming into this season, Marquette was picked to finish 9th overall. Now they sit alone in first and have clinched at least a share of the Big East title. Being ranked No. 6 in the nation, the golden eagles look to finish the season strong with the Big East tournament while also making a run in March Madness. Their current 15 Big East wins is the most in school history. It’s been a historic season for Marquette and there’s still a lot of basketball yet to be played.
An argument could be made for UConn being the best team in the Big East. On Kenpom they are ranked No. 5 overall and at one point this season was ranked No. 2 in the country. For all college basketball teams, it is important to lose at some point of the season to learn from it. Better for the Huskies to face adversity and lose earlier in the year then to lose in the first round of March madness. Their roster all around is talented and has the pieces to be a final four team.
Considering they have been without star forward Zach Freemantle, the Musketeers have been playing some competitive basketball. They’ve lost three of their last five games, but those three losses all came by a combined four points. There have been questions alluding towards their bench depth, but there’s a clear indication that this isn’t the case. Jerome Hunter has stepped up in the absence of Freemantle averaging 10.8 points a game as a starter.
Welcome back Villanova basketball. It’s good to see the Wildcats earn some big wins after struggling early on this season and it seems that they have finally found their identity. The talented freshman are starting to mesh well together with the veterans on this squad. It is unlike typical Villanova basketball to have freshman come in and be asked to accomplish big things at a young age. Don’t be surprised if Villanova makes a run in the Big East tournament because right now the only way this team is making March Madness is if they punch the ticket by winning their conference tournament.
Give credit to Ed Cooley and what he has done for this team all season. They have some great roles players and a few talented pieces, but the friars got the five seed since they lack the talent of the teams above. Bryce Hopkins is going to be an all-Big East first team selection there’s no doubt. One thing that sets this team apart is their ability to win close games. They will bring their maximum efforts no matter who the opponents is and that’s why they could make a run in March Madness.