Player of the Week
Eli Cain, G, Junior, DePaul Blue Demons
Finally, DePaul gets on the positive side of the blog this week and Eli Cain earned it. Cain had one of the biggest shots in all Big East play this season on Wednesday against Georgetown. In a thriller and heated competitive battle, Georgetown had a 73-72 lead in the final seconds. DePaul got the ball back and Cain, with a little bump and run, hit a fadeaway jumper on the baseline with 7.3 seconds left in regulation. Georgetown couldn’t convert on the other end and DePaul left Washington D.C. with a victory.
The shot was huge for the Blue Demons. It helped snap DePaul’s three game losing streak coming in. Cain had his best game of the season, setting a season high with 27 points and had his best shooting game of the year, going 10-15 from the floor and 5-8 from three.
DePaul has a sizable amount of good, talented players on its roster this season but a combination of elements, one being a lack of winning basketball experience, has kept them at the bottom of the Big East standings. A win like this not only can lift the team’s confidence, but hopefully get Cain going for the remainder of the season with this killer instinct passion he had against the Hoyas.
Cain put it all together in their huge road win Wednesday, doing everything right and showing he can be the leader when called upon. This win shows the rest of the conference that just because they are at the bottom of the standings doesn’t mean they won’t show up and play hard.
Marcus Derrickson, F, Junior, Georgetown Hoyas
This season for first year coach Patrick Ewing has been a pleasant surprise. Last season, the Hoyas were at the bottom of the Big East and had one of the worst seasons in program history. Ewing, in his first head coaching stint at any profession, has done a terrific job to turn the program around and find ample talent on a roster many thought was devoid of it.
One of the players he has worked with and developed into a solid big is Marcus Derrickson. Derrickson, a 6-7 forward, compliments center Jessie Govan quite nicely. Derrickson is averaging 15.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and is shooting a solid 51.1 percent from the field.
This last week has been arguably his best stretch of the season. He scored 20+ points in both games over the past week, including his best game of the season against St. John’s last Saturday. In that game, he scored 27 points, secured 11 rebounds and shot 55.6 percent from the field in a season high 47 minutes in the Hoyas 93-89 double overtime victory. Derrickson was at his best in the overtime periods, scoring 16 of his points in the 10 minutes of extra time. On the season, Derrickson has given the Hoyas one of the biggest and most athletic frontcourts in the Big East and his play under Ewing should only get better.
Trevon Bluiett, G, Senior, Xavier Musketeers
Bluiett has had an incredible and efficient season thus far, playing up to the preseason expectations put on him and has put himself firmly in the conversation for Big East Player of the Year. He doesn’t go off for a ton of points or shoot the lights out every game, but he is efficient and gets the job done.
He certainly got the job done against Marquette in Xavier’s win. He scored just 13 points, but in doing so he eclipsed the 2,000-point mark in his career all at Xavier. He became just the fifth Musketeer to team history to hit the 2K mark. Another milestone in the already incredible career of Bluiett, who certainly has bigger plans this season.
Phil Booth, G, Junior, Villanova Wildcats
With Villanova having a season like this, it’s hard to imagine something associated with the team would make the “Who’s Not” list, but for unforeseen reasons they have.
On Tuesday night in their win over Providence, starting guard and critical leader Phil Booth broke his right hand and is out indefinitely. His timetable for the injury is yet to be determined, but it seems likely he will be out until at least the end of the regular season. The injury should take some weeks to heal, possible over a month or so.
It’s unfortunate for Booth and Nova. Booth was averaging only 11.6 points per game but was a critical piece of the Jay Wright talented guard combinations along with Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo. These next couple weeks will show the rest of the country how deep at guard the Wildcats are without Booth and if role players can step up. Or, we could see Wright make positional changes to sure up the guard spots. Different avenues to take with this injury, but it’s certainly a sizable loss for the Big East favorites.
Top Big East Teams at Midpoint
We are halfway through Big East play, five weeks in with five weeks to go. There are some surprises for sure that have transpired in those five weeks, there are a lot of things that came as no shock. In the end, the standings are important at this stage, but with the eye test and judging based on matchups, here are the best Big East teams right now at the midpoint of conference play.
1. Villanova Wildcats (19-1, 6-1)
To no surprise, Jay Wright has built yet another guard dominant, all-around solid team that is competing for a national championship. Not only ranked first in the Big East, they rank first in the nation overall. Thanks to national player of the year candidate, Nova is cruising along.
2. Xavier Musketeers (19-3, 7-2)
Another non-surprise is Xavier. Many predicted them to be in the top three of the conference and they have been all season. Led by other national player of the year candidate Trevon Bluiett and a talented supporting cast, Xavier will be tough to take on in the Big East and certainly tough to get a head ahead of.
3. Creighton Bluejays (16-5, 6-3)
One of the bigger surprises of this season has been Creighton. They lost a lot of talent from the offseason and getting back into the fold of the leaders in the Big East didn’t seem likely. Head coach Greg McDermott has built a lot of good a lot of good seasons with some good teams, but this may be his best one thus far based on projections and actual results. Led by a very good guard combo in Khyri Thomas and Marcus Foster, the Bluejays are fast and can beat anyone at their own game.
4. Seton Hall Pirates (15-5, 4-3)
The Pirates had a dominant out of conference schedule and came into conference play as one of the hottest teams in the Big East. Now, they have cooled off somewhat and are not playing their best, most consistent basketball at the midway point. Still, they were projected to be one of the best team’s in the conference for a reason and if perennial big man Angel Delgado is going strong, they will be right there at the top.
5. Toss Up
The final spot is just too tough to put my finger on. There is such a logjam right now in the middle of the standings between Marquette, Providence and Butler. All three of those teams have shown flashes all season but haven’t been as consistent when it mattered most. At the moment, it seems Providence is playing the best basketball of these three schools, but anything can change at any time and any team can get hot.