Big East men’s notebook, Jan. 14

Player of the Week

Doug McDermott – Senior – Creighton

This will probably not be the last time we see McDermott as the player of the week. One of the premiere shooters in the nation, McDermott averaged 22 points per game last week in wins against DePaul and Xavier. The Bluejays are off to a 4-0 start in the Big East, and they can thank McDermott and his smooth shooting touch (43 percent from behind the arc, 49 percent overall). Creighton and McDermott are responding well to the added competition of the Big East, and it would not come as a surprise if the team reels off a string of wins in the NCAA Tournament.

Game of the Week

Georgetown at Xavier – Wednesday – 6 p.m. CT

The Hoyas and Musketeers will be in search of separation from one another in the league standings tomorrow, as both teams boast 3-1 Big East records. Xavier is recovering from a high-octane 95-89 loss to Creighton Sunday, that snapped the Musketeers’ eight-game win streak. Led by Semaj Christon (16.2 ppg, 47.7 FG pct), Xavier has yet to earn a truly impressive victory, but a win against Georgetown would help build its resume.

The Hoyas have been spot-on offensively this year, ranking 25th in the country in field goal percentage and averaging 74 points per game. Leading scorer D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (17.3 ppg) played an exhausting 44 minutes in the team’s overtime win at Butler Saturday while scoring 18 points.

Butler not converting down the stretch

On paper, Butler’s 0-4 Big East record appears less than marvelous, but a closer look reveals the Bulldogs have had three overtime games in those four defeats. What stings Butler most may be that each overtime loss was on its home court, a site renowned for its hectic and intense atmosphere in the Brad Stevens era. The Bulldogs may not see a win for quite some time unless it sparks an upset; their next three games include powerhouse Creighton, multi-faceted Marquette, and an improved Providence squad. For a program that qualified for the NCAA Tournament six of the last seven years, this season has been unexceptional.

Villanova continues to rise

One of the more delightful surprises in college basketball this season is Villanova. Picked to finish fourth in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, the Wildcats have plowed their way to 15-1, with the sole loss coming to No. 2 Syracuse. ‘Nova averages 80.9 points per game and crashes the offensive boards, snatching 12.4 per game. Marquette and Creighton were the favored preseason front-runners for the Big East crown, but the Golden Eagles’ struggles have made way for the Wildcats to step in and potentially land just their second conference title since 1980.

Former Big East members update

While the basketball schools fled the American Athletic Conference and recruited Xavier, Butler and Creighton, the others have scattered to various groups.

Cincinnati (4-0), Louisville (3-1), Connecticut (1-2), South Florida (1-2) and Rutgers (1-2) are all in the American Conference this year. Louisville will move to the Atlantic Coast Conference July 1, joining Syracuse (3-0), Pittsburgh (3-0) and Notre Dame (1-2). Rutgers will switch to the Big Ten after this season. West Virginia (2-1) darted for the demanding Big 12, which includes Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Iowa State.

The Big East seems satisfied with its 10-school format and will not likely pursue expansion in the immediate future. The current layout allows for the basketball teams to play each other twice per year, which was not feasible in years past with as many as 16 teams.

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