Big East Check-In: How Each Team Is Performing Through 2 Weeks
The Big East has seen some great heights and steep lows to start the season. To catch you up on what you may have missed, we’ll talk about some of the most notable starts for programs within the conference as teams continue to put non-conference matchups under their belt.
Let’s look at what coaches and players had to say about their programs at Big East Media Day a month ago and how it holds up two weeks into the regular season.
Senior guard Justin Moore on being picked third in preseason poll: “We don’t really react to the rankings. Whether we’re one or we’re at the bottom of the pack, we’re just concerned about ourselves and getting better each and every day and being the best team we can be by the end of the year.”
After being deemed the top team in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll in seven of the previous eight seasons, Villanova took third place in this year’s poll. But after four regular season games, the jury still seems out on Kyle Neptune’s Wildcats. After losing in a tricky spot on the road against intracity rival Temple, Villanova put up an encouraging fight in a hostile road environment against Michigan State. Add in that star returning senior Justin Moore and five-star freshman Cam Whitmore are yet to see the floor due to injury, so it feels unfair to worry about the program’s 2-2 start. We should learn much more about this team at the PK Invitational, starting with a Thanksgiving Day quarterfinal bout with Iowa State.
Junior guard Andre Jackson on the team’s incoming transfers: “I think they’ve adjusted well. Most of the transfers are older and have some years under their belt at other programs.”
Transfers have been the name of the game for the Huskies to start the year. With Jackson starting the season injured, East Carolina transfer Tristen Newton and Virginia Tech transfer Nahiem Alleyne were thrust into the starting lineup, and it immediately paid dividends. Newton notched the school’s first triple-double since 2015 in UConn’s 84-64 victory of Buffalo on November 15, while Alleyne is yet to have a game below eight points, proving to be a consistent force within the starting five.
Head coach Greg McDermott on heightened preseason expectations: “Frankly, we don’t talk about them a lot. As long as they work, that’s all that matters to me. They aspire to be conference champions, and so do I. We were able to have some unexpected success last year, but these guys haven’t relaxed. They’ve continued to go to work and continued to improve and as long as we’re making daily progress, let the expectations be what they are.”
It’s safe to say Creighton is living up to its external preseason expectations. The Blue Jays have started the season 6-0 after notching a dramatic win over Arkansas in an instant classic at the Maui Invitational. A trip to Texas on December 1 awaits in what should be a litmus test of how high the ceiling is for this Blue Jays team. If they can at least look competitive against Texas on the road, they should be the conference’s lead dog heading into conference play in mid-December.
Head coach Mike Anderson: “It’s gonna be an exciting team. We’ve got a team that can score.”
Boy, oh boy, can the Johnnies score. They are averaging 82.5 points per game, 26th in the nation among 363 teams. It certainly helps when you see how fast they fly up and down the floor. KenPom ranks them fourth in the country in tempo, which can be attributed to their strong guard play.
Anderson: “I think the scoring is gonna be spread out. I used to have probably about eight guys averaging between nine points to 15 points. I don’t put a point total. I don’t think these guys worry about scoring. They worry about winning. Whatever it takes to win.”
Head coach Mike Anderson was spot-on with this assessment. All five of his starters are averaging at least nine points per game through their first six games, and the wins are following. St. John’s took wins over Temple and Syracuse at the Empire Classic on Tuesday and Wednesday, pushing them to 6-0 on the season. Moving forward, the Red Storm must be considered a legitimate contender within the Big East.
Head coach Patrick Ewing’s point of emphasis on this season: “Win. It’s all about getting them to buy in. There are a lot of new faces. Everyone did things differently at the other places they have been, but it’s all about getting them to buy into the things that we want to be doing, and at the end of the day, we have to win.”
It’s been the opposite for Georgetown to kick off the season. The Hoyas have already suffered losses to Northwestern, Loyola Marymount, and American in six games, with two coming at home. At this rate, it’d be surprising to see Patrick Ewing survive the remainder of the 2022-23 season as the head coach.