Player of the Week

Markus Howard, G, Junior, Marquette Golden Eagles

It’s like a broken record to put Howard here at this spot again. But it’s necessary. And rightfully so after what Howard did on Wednesday.

On the road at Creighton, the Golden Eagles were ranked 21st coming in. Howard got going early and often. Let’s start with the big stuff; He went for a career-high 53 points. Wow. He shattered his previous career-high of 52 that he set last year against Providence. Wednesday, he finished one 3-pointer shy of his career high of 11 when he put in 10 threes on 13 attempts. His 53 points set a new Big East basketball record.

On another note, Marquette won the game 106-104 in overtime and Howard had 39 at the end of regulation. He scored a whopping 14 points in overtime, in a game that Marquette fought uphill from the start to stay in the game. The Golden Eagles didn’t take a lead until the first bucket in overtime put them up for good.

Howard now has the most points against a Division I school in a game this season (Furman’s Jordan Lyons scored 54 against Division II North Greenville earlier this season). He broke his own Big East record of 52 previously mentioned. Howard now owns the top four best scoring games in Marquette history. Best of all: all his work helped Marquette escape a scare on the road. All 53 of those points were critical.

If Howard somehow didn’t have his name etched in the minds of college basketball fans before last night, he should now. He is fourth in the nation in scoring and the top power conference scorer in the country. He is second in the nation in 3-point makes. What also makes Howard great is his ability to get to the foul line over 10+ times per game, where he shoots over 90 percent for his career. He has Marquette rolling and on any given night, he can torch a defense.

Who’s Hot

Phil Booth, G, Senior, Villanova Wildcats

As the Wildcats continue to find their footing and comfort level this season, the Nova stars are also finding themselves. That goes for the senior guard Booth who had a dandy Tuesday night against St. John’s.

Booth scored 23 points for the second consecutive game in the Wildcats 76-71 win over the 24th ranked Red Storm. Booth knocked down two key 3-pointers 39 second apart from each other late in the game to pull away. The second three went down at the 2:37 mark and sparked a 10-0 run for the Wildcats and they never looked back. Booth scored 10 of his 23 in the final seven minutes, showing he can be clutch down the stretch.

Booth, Eric Paschall and other leaders on the team will need to continue this resurgence to stay at the top of the conference and be competitive by March.

Who’s Not

Creighton Bluejays

Ups and downs. Roller coaster. These basically describe the Bluejays season thus far. They are 10-6 on the season and tied near the bottom of the conference standings with a 1-2 record. They had a prime opportunity last night to earn a marquee, eye opening victory over a Marquette team they were dominating at points in the game. Thanks to Markus Howard, that didn’t happen.

Head coach Greg McDermott has his work cut out for him. Creighton has shown they can score with their conference, especially after the Marquette game. They have young talent who will grow and get better, but much of the talent is still putting up numbers and production. Now they have back-to-back losses in conference, one to a reeling Butler team and a Marquette squad you had pinned before they wriggled out from under. Tough times could follow.

Top 5 Burning Questions Entering Big East Conference Play

5. Will a title contender emerge?

Last year by the regular season’s end, both Villanova and Xavier were on top of their games and earned top seeds in the big dance. Right now, there doesn’t look to be an NCAA championship contender…yet…maybe? St. John’s and Marquette look very good, but inconsistent and not nearly ranked high enough to contend, if ranked at all. By season’s end, one or both, or even more teams could emerge at title contenders. Maybe not, however.

4. Will Nova find the rhythm?

Trust the Process is a big saying in Philadelphia and it should probably be expanded to Villanova basketball. Jay Wright knows his team and is too good a coach to let the Wildcats not compete for the conference crown, let alone a championship again. It’s taken awhile thus far, and it still might not be solved, but sooner or later Villanova should find their true game and momentum. Right?

3. Can Marquette bank on Markus Howard every night or must the defense rise to the occasion more often?

The Creighton game is a perfect example of what has plagued coach Woj over the years: tons of scoring, lackluster defense. To be fair, the defense for the Golden Eagles has improved tremendously this season but is far too inconsistent.

2. Can St. John’s hold on to the top spot?

St. John’s owns the conference’s top record right now at 14-2. At 2-2 in conference, it’s still early to tell how they will turn out. They seem to be the favorites right now with Marquette right there too, but anything can happen.

1. How many NCAA Tournament teams do we have this year from the Big East?

At the end of the day, every team just wants to get into the Big Dance. Last year, the Big East had six teams which is about normal. It looks likely that Marquette, St. John’s and Villanova should receive bids in. What about the rest? Seton Hall, Georgetown and Xavier seem like bubble teams. Butler and Creighton look out today. Who knows about DePaul and Providence needs to pick it up. So right now, there might not be a lot of Big East teams that go dancing. As of now.