Providence showing it can contend
The vibes from the Ocean State have been positive for Ed Cooley and his Providence Friars. With a talented recruiting class and senior Bryce Cotton continuing his torrid scoring pace (19.0 ppg), PC moved to a comfy 7-2 in non-conference play, with its two losses coming to Maryland and No. 3 Kentucky. With winnable games on the horizon against Rhode Island, Yale and Maine, the Friars should be able to improve to 10-2 before squaring off with a much-improved Massachusetts program (No. 21).
Georgetown trying to establish consistency
A season-opening loss to No. 19 Oregon in South Korea earlier last month was understandable for the Hoyas, but question marks were raised after they were upset by Northeastern just two games later, dropping their record to 1-2. Since the loss, Georgetown reeled off three straight wins, most notably an 84-80 victory over No. 19 Virginia Commonwealth Nov. 24. The Hoyas won their games by an average of 17.5 points, led by D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s 18.7 points per game and 53 percent 3-point shooting.
Top Player Thus Far: Doug McDermott – F – Sr – Creighton
The All-American, and the son of coach Greg McDermott, was already honored with National Player of the Week and Big East Player of the Week accolades so far this year. McDermott continues to be a strong contributor for the Bluejays, averaging 24.4 points per game and shooting 50 percent from the field. Although Doug McDermott was held to just seven points in a recent loss to George Washington in the Wooden Legacy, the senior certainly made up for the lackluster performance by putting forth scoring outputs of 30, 33 and 37. He paced the Bluejays to a conference championship and a tournament appearance last season, and the same mission will be in their minds this winter.
Top Team Thus Far: Villanova
While Marquette (5-3) and Creighton (6-2) were dealt early losses in their campaigns, the Wildcats stand atop the Big East at an impeccable 7-0. Villanova shocked No. 2 Kansas last week in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, and the team is coming off an exhilarating overtime win against No. 23 Iowa. Ranked No. 14 in the nation, the Wildcats have been a pleasant surprise after being selected to finish fourth in the Big East preseason poll. Perhaps we will get an even better handle of this team once they face No. 4 Syracuse Dec. 28.
Game of the Week: Marquette at Wisconsin – Saturday – 1:15 p.m. – Kohl Center
It’s not a Big East matchup, but it’s a rivalry matchup nonetheless. Marquette closes out a grueling five-game road swing in Madison, where Bo Ryan and his No. 8 Badgers await. Wisconsin enters Saturday at a perfect 9-0, and part of the reason for its success is the team’s sharp shooting; the Badgers are shooting 44.8 percent from the field this season. Marquette has struggled mightily trying to remedy its offensive game, and as a result the Golden Eagles have sunk to 265th in field goal percentage (42.1 percent). This game should be a useful barometer for what we expect out of Marquette the rest of the season.
DePaul slipping after fast start
The favorites to win the Big East have had difficulty proving their worth lately, as the Blue Demons dropped their last two games to fall to 3-2. After posting three consecutive wins by an average of 16 points to kick off the season, DePaul lost to No. 5 Notre Dame and unranked Northwestern to boot it from the national rankings. Preseason conference player of the year Brittany Hrynko has been less than impressive, putting forth 13 points per game and shooting 35 percent overall. The Blue Demons will need to shore up their defense in time for conference action; DePaul allowed an atrocious 47 percent shooting and has been called for 119 fouls, compared to their opponents’ 95.
Top Team Thus Far: Marquette
Marquette holds a 6-1 record, its best start since 2010-11 when it advanced to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. Seniors Katherine Plouffe and Katie Young have been orchestrating the offense, averaging double-doubles (Plouffe: 20 ppg, 10.6 reb; Young: 16.1 ppg, 10.3 reb). The Golden Eagles upset No. 25 Vanderbilt on the road last month, and their only loss was to No. 2 Duke. Sophomore point guard Brooklyn Pumroy vastly improved her control from last year, sporting a 2.67:1 assist-to-turnover ratio while also chipping in 10.3 points per game. Although Villanova has the better record at the moment, Marquette is the one showing the most promise.
Top Player Thus Far: Katherine Plouffe – F – Senior – Marquette
With Big East Preseason Player of the Year Brittany Hrynko having a somewhat slow beginning to the year (13 ppg, 3.8 reb), Plouffe established herself as a dominant force in Marquette’s non-conference contests. Plouffe showed improvement in each of her four seasons in Milwaukee, and the ceiling cannot be raised much higher for a player averaging 20 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. She controlled her foul limit (averaging 1.86 through seven games) and found an incredible shooting touch (55.8 percent overall). If she maintains her pace, we may see Marquette make some noise in the postseason.
Game of the Week: Saint Joseph’s at Villanova – Saturday – 1 p.m.
This game has Philadelphia bragging rights written all over it, and with St. Joseph’s at 6-1 and Villanova 7-0, fans should be in for a show when the schools meet Saturday. Don’t let the quick start fool anyone about the Wildcats, however. Although ‘Nova advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season, it nearly let a 16-2 start go to waste, finishing the year 21-11. For a team which was selected to finish fourth in this year’s preseason poll, the Wildcats have exceeded expectations, and an unblemished record heading into its Big East slate would be steps in the right direction.