Big East Tiers: 12/30/19

Team

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

The non-conference part is in the books (for the most part) and a red-hot Big East conference is set to start tonight, so it makes sense to touch base once more and set the scene for what promises to be a wild conference season.

There wasn’t a ton of action since our last update 2 weeks ago, but there was enough to make a difference, particularly with the confernce going 20-1 as a whole in that span.

12.30.19 Tiers

Tier 1 – None

To be fair, there are still only 4 Tier 1 teams in the country, according to TRank.

Tier 2 (A) – Butler, Villanova

Butler’s early success was heralded as a sort of re-coming out party for Kamar Baldwin, who was not only making clutch bucket after clutch bucket, but also playing at a ridiculously efficient level, with an ORtg of 117.3 on almost 30% usage through Dec. 4. However, since the win over Ole Miss, his ORtg in the last 5 games has dropped to an abysmal 67.8 on even higher usage (32.2%). That’s bad news for a Butler team that has been the toast of the conference. The good news? The Bulldogs are still 4-1 in that span with wins over Florida and Purdue, and the only loss being to a Top-10 Baylor team by 1 point on the road. So unlike last season, Butler has proven it is more than just Kamar Baldwin. If they want to take the Big East crown, however, they will need more from their senior.

Villanova is actually closer to being a Tier 2 B team than of catching Butler, but I’m going to go ahead and say the team that recently a top-3 team deserves the benefit of he doubt here. The offense is already top-10 good, highlighted by breakout campaigns from Collin Gillespie and Saddiq Bey, but the think that should really scare the Big East is that the defense seems to be rounding into form. The Wildcats held Kansas, a top 10 offense, to .882 PPP in their win. If that type of D holds form throughout conference play, Nova will have a real shot an yet another NCAA title. Too early to say that’s more than a 1 game blip, though.

Tier 2 (B) –  Seton Hall, Creighton, Marquette, Xavier, Georgetown

I cheated once more and included Xacier in this group, as X is actually ranked ahead of Georgetown at the moment, it just doesn’t look that way looking at the graph.

Seton Hall shocked me with their win over Maryland without their two best players, and in doing so, locked in a tourney bid with a .500 Big East record. Quincy McKnight did the heavy lifting without Powell, and did so fairly efficiently. He’s already one of the best perimeter defenders in the conference, so if the Pirates could get close to that version of Quincy on offense, it will make Powell’s task much easier this season.

Creighton is still a bit of a mystery to the computers. It is only 49th in KenPom, 31st in TRank, but 25th in NET. But it comes into Big East play hotter than almost any other team. Since that embarrassing drubbing to San Diego St., the Jays are playing like the 12th best team in the country, and have a defense ranked 40th in that span, much better than their current rank of 86th on the season. Of course, cherry picking 30 point losses will help those numbers, but in that span, it does have wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Arizona State, so they weren’t just shutting down puff pastries.

For Marquette, I’ve written at length about Markus Howard’s brilliance, but it always bears repeating how damn good he is and has been.

Xavier is a tough one to figure out because that roster and that defense seem primed for a run at the title, but the results have been pretty meh. Their best win is either at TCU or a neutral over UConn, which again, are both not overwhelming (and currently not Q1). It is interesting to see Tyrique Jones lead the team in usage at 29.2%, though his nationally great offensive rebounding props that up. However, it does seem like this is a team that has been hurt by the longer 3 point line. They didn’t exactly light it up last season at 33.1%, but losing Welage, Xavier now boasts 0 players shooting 35% or more from distance. They shoot 30.2% from distance, in the bottom 280 of the country.

Tier 3 – St. John’s, DePaul, Providence

There has been no team to make up as much ground in TRank from their starting spot than the Johnnies, and with Butler in the fold and DePaul at 12-1, that’s saying something. They are 2-0 in Q1 games and the win over West Virginia in MSG keeps looking better and better.

DePaul stole the headlines early in the noncon, and road wins at Iowa and Minnesota, plus a home win over Texas Tech as still holding up, but I should mention that the Blue Demons have played rather poorly in their last 5 games, even if the record looks ok. They are playing like the 233rd best offense in that span, while the defense has been below their early season standard (72nd). It could be a bit of an inflated ego thing against lesser opponents, or it could be teams have figured out how to defend them. We will find out more shortly.

I have no idea what Providence is at the moment. The blowout of Texas hasn’t turned me into a believer just yet, but I can easily see them finishing in the top 4 of the Big East and killing resumes left and right.

And speaking of resumes, the Big East put in some real work this noncon and has put itself in position to cash in come March. Currently, TRank gives the conference over a 50%  chance to send 7 teams or more dancing. A lot can and will change the next 2 months, but if you’re commissioner Val, or just a fan at home, you can expect some great games and storylines this season.

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