Golden Eye

Player of the Week

Markus Howard, G, Sophomore, Marquette Golden Eagles

Markus HowardMarkus HowardFor the second straight week, a Golden Eagle shows up on the blog for all the right reasons. Marquette had the conference’s top offense last season and led the nation in three-point shooting. Their leader in threes last season, who hit an amazing 55% on the season (82-of-150) was Howard and he is picking up right where he left off.

On Wednesday, Marquette defeated Chicago State 95-69 and Howard had the best shooting game of his young career. He knocked down a school record 11 of 15 three pointers and finished with a game high 33 points. He shot with poise, confidence and skill and looked to get his season back on track and dominant like last season. It would be very hard to see another Big East player splash home 11 threes this season, Howard figures to be the only guy to come close to it again.

Howard had gotten off to a slow start before Wednesdays game. He had only made a max of four threes in a game previously. This tremendous effort should get him back on track. As long as he shoots well, Marquette is in the game with any opponent.

Who’s Hot

[Player: J.P. Macura], G, Senior, Xavier Musketeers

Macura was one of the key contributors to Xavier’s success last year and going into this season, he was pegged to be one of their stars. His season has been up and down and a bit inconsistent so far, with some games scoring two and six points, respectively. His three-point shooting was one of his strong points, but he failed to make any of his first five attempts through the team’s first three games.

That all changed this past week. When the competition was stepped up and it mattered most, Macura elevated his games. Against two ranked opponents in Baylor and Arizona State, he scored 19 and 23 points, respectively, knocked down three of six threes in both matchups and shot better than 50% in both. He has never been one to take a lot of shots each game, especially this year where he is only attempting eight field goal attempts per contest, but in those limited attempts he is very efficient and takes good shots. Macura seems to have woken up and his shot is coming back, which isn’t good news to the rest of the Big East as conference play is right around the corner.

Marcus Foster, G, Senior, Creighton Bluejays and the Creighton Bluejays

To the surprise of many, including myself, Greg McDermott has Creighton this season looking like a legitimate competitor in the Big East when many pegged them to have a down season. The Bluejays are sitting at 5-1, their only loss coming to a ranked Baylor squad, but they have already taken down two ranked teams in Northwestern and UCLA. They rank ninth nationally in points scored at 92.5 points per game.

Their efficient offense delves from their senior guard and leader Marcus Foster. When Creighton lost guard Maurice Watson and big man Justin Patton from last season, production had to be made up somewhere and Foster has done a great job. He is averaging 18.0 points per game and shooting just under 50% from the field. He is a bit low on assists and rebounds, just averaging two and three per game, respectively, but the rest of the team has enough offense to create.

That 92.5 points per game will go down once conference play starts and the competition becomes consistently better, but Foster and the rest of the team is rolling right now. McDermott has done a fantastic job so far on the season and Big East Coach of the Year could be his for the taking.

Who’s Not

DePaul Blue Demons

The Blue Demons were never supposed to great this season, maybe take a couple steps forward if Georgetown was worse than them. That hasn’t gone according to play. Instead, Georgetown is 5-0 and it looks like first-year coach Patrick Ewing has found enough talent on his roster to not finish as the laughing stock of the Big East and many, including myself, predicted.

DePaul sits at 2-4. They may win three of their next four at home against weak, out of conference opponents or even win all four. Then they get a ranked Northwestern team and a Miami (Ohio) MAC team. Then conference play begins and at best they may be 7-5. That means to really become NCAA Tournament eligible or considerable, they would need to win close to 16 games by the seasons end. It’s really tough sledding to find 9 games, in-conference they can win when the Big East, including now Georgetown and Creighton, look very competitive. It may be more of the same for DePaul as in seasons past.

Big East Underrated Prospect

Kaiser Gates, F, Junior, Xavier Musketeers

The better your team is, the more recognition players will get from scouts. Xavier’s junior forward Kaiser Gates has been getting looks from NBA personnel. His numbers are decent this year in a career high 26.3 minutes per game. 11.3 points per game and he has a good touch from the outside, already knocking down 21 threes on a very good 44.7% from the field.

Kaiser has good untangibles too. He is a lengthy 6’8”, versatile forward who can step out and shoot. He is built at 228 pounds and could be a surprise NBA potential player from the Big East by season’s end.

Top Big East Out of Conference Matchups Going Forward

1. Villanova vs Gonzaga (12/5, Madison Square Garden, New York City)

Two of the top run and coached programs meet next Tuesday at the Mecca of basketball in New York. Two of the top college basketball coaches also meet. Between Jay Wright of Nova and Mark Few of Gonzaga, the two have combined for a national championship, three final fours and 1,024 collegiate wins. Gonzaga is coming off a national championship game appearance and Few’s best year coached. They lost a lot of talent, just like Nova did, but are still built well for the postseason and should remain ranked throughout the year.

2. Cincinnati vs Xavier (12/2, Cintas Center, Cincinnati)

Xavier returns home to take on their biggest rival, the cross-town Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats won the matchup last year, but the Musketeers have won three of the last five. Both teams are very hot coming in. Xavier is ranked No. 21 and 6-1; Cincinnati is undefeated at 7-0 in AAC play. Bearcat head coach Mick Cronin has consistently produced one of the top defensive teams in the nation year in and year out and it should be on full display against the dynamic offense of Xavier that sports Macura and Trevon Bluiett. One of the most exciting and passionate rivalries in college basketball returns!

3. Creighton vs Gonzaga (12/1, Spokane, Washington

The hot Bluejays travel to The Kennel in Spokane, Washington to take on those talented Bulldogs. Another dose of Big East basketball for Mark Few. Creighton has been good this season, but this is their biggest test thus far. This would put them firmly on the map.

4. Seton Hall vs Louisville (12/3, Louisville, Kentucky)

Even with all the off-season drama that surrounded the Cardinals program, they are still talented and ranked accordingly at No. 17. Seton Hall has been pegged as one of the top contenders to Villanova this year in the Big East, but them and Angel Delgado have struggled somewhat recently. This would be a huge win on the road to get back on top of their game.

5. St. John’s vs Arizona State (12/8, Los Angeles, California)

St. John’s has gotten off to a good start this season and their talented backcourt of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett are as dynamic as it gets. Arizona State is even hotter, sitting undefeated at 6-0 and gave Xavier their only loss of the young season. All the lights shine in L.A. at the Staples Center.

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