Big East Power Rankings, Week 7: Early Big East Play Shapes Rankings

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After a 2 week break for the holidays, the ButlerHoops.com power rankings are back. With only 2 weeks of Big East play in the books the contenders are already starting to gain separation heading into several important head to head matchups this week. Villanova stays number 1, but their reign at the top spot has been threatened. Could this week be the week they take a tumble from their throne?
The Wildcats finally fell from the ranks of the unbeaten at the hand of the Butler Bulldogs. It will take more than that to knock them out of their #1 position on these power rankings though. No team in the country would be expected to win back to back games at Creighton and Butler. Winning at Creighton gives them a top road win and secures the Wildcats as the favorite to win the Big East.
For the 2nd time this season the Bulldogs added a "bad loss" to their resume. For the 2nd time this season Butler quickly made everyone forget about it. The Dawgs responded to losing to St. John's by handing #1 Villanova their only loss of the season. They forced the Wildcats into their worst offensive performance since January 31st of last season. The road doesn't get any easier for Butler though. They travel to Creighton and get Xavier at home this week.
There is absolutely no shame in losing to Villanova regardless of the location, but that loss at home puts Creighton in a hole if they want to dethrone the Wildcats and take the #1 seed in the Big East tournament. It will put a lot of pressure on them to win the return game in Villanova, and that is a tough task. Their offense is electrifying, led by player of the year candidate Maurice Watson, but can they get stops with their defense down the stretch against elite competition?
Xavier sits at 1st place in the standings as the only team undefeated team in the Big East. They've also played one of the easiest schedules in the Big East. That ends tomorrow, with Villanova, Creighton, and Butler coming back to back to back. This is without a doubt the most important 7 day stretch in the schedule for the Musketeers, and they get Myles Davis back for it.
Seton Hall is off to a 2-1 start and has the best defense in the Big East early on. The Pirates are a team currently straddling the fence between contender and pretender. We should find out soon enough. Seton Hall will be underdogs in 6 of their next 7 games, including 5 on the road plus home against Butler. I still think the Pirates have the pieces to not only make the NCAA tournament but pick up a win or two once they get there.
Marquette is a little bit of an enigma. The computers absolutely love them, but they have really struggled to beat decent competition. They have 5 losses and their best wins are at Georgia and home against Georgetown. That's not exactly an NCAA tournament worthy resume. The good thing about the Big East is the schedule is loaded with chances to pick up quality wins. If Marquette is as good as the computers think they will likely still rack up enough wins to make the dance.
The Hoyas were probably glad to see the schedule move into conference play and get a fresh start. They may need a redo already. Georgetown started 0-4 in conference play before taking out their frustration with a beatdown against St. John's. It's the little things that are killing the Hoyas. They are last in the league at sending opponents to the FT line and are shooting 2nd worst in the league themselves. Georgetown has a quality team, but it's almost too late to salvage the season.
St. John's has a ton of talent, and they finally started to show it with huge wins on the road against Syracuse and at home against Butler. But they are simply too undisciplined to sustain that type of play for a significant period of time. They aren't going to be a serious threat over the course of 18 Big East games, but they could certainly play a big spoiler role. I wouldn't be surprised if they have another upset or two in them.
Providence got themselves off to a strong start this season behind the strength of their defense. That has abandoned them during a brutal stretch where they have lost 4 of 5. They ranked last in the league in defensive efficiency, which doesn't pair well with their 9th ranked offense. Providence doesn't have enough firepower this year on offense to compete in the Big East if they can't rediscover that defense.
Guess who is the only team winless at the bottom of the conference? DePaul showed signs of life when they nearly took down Villanova on the road, but then they blew their best chance at a conference win by losing at home against St. John's. The road ahead looks bleak. There are no games left on the schedule where DePaul will be favored. Tuesday's home game against Providence is the only game they are even given a greater than 30% chance to win.