Bubble Banter: Does anyone understand what’s happening in the Big East?
The Big East is a weird league this year.
Villanova may have started the season off in disastrous fashion, but they’ve rebounded as Phil Booth and Eric Paschall have grown into their starring roles. As of today, the Wildcats sit all alone in first place in the conference, just one game ahead of Marquette in the loss column.
Beyond that, however, the league does not make all that much sense.
For starters, eight of the ten teams in the conference are sitting below .500, with the team in tenth place sitting just a half game back of the team in third place.
You read that right. The eight teams in the Big East not named Marquette or Villanova are all 3-4 or 3-5 in league play, which will make for some fun theater and, in all likelihood, super-complicated tie-breakers when it comes conference tournament time. But it also creates a scenario where no one can really feel all that great about their position in the bubble hierarchy.
Best I can tell, there are five Big East teams that are currently sitting on the bubble, in order of their current comfort level: St. John’s, Seton Hall, Butler, Creighton and Providence. All five of those teams are in action tonight, with four of them squaring off against one-another, and all five desperately need a win. St. John’s has been a mess since an extended undefeated run to start the season. Seton Hall hasn’t one a game in three weeks. Creighton and Butler are in danger of seeing their seasons careen off the tracks, and Providence has a hole to dig out of thanks to A.J. Reeves’ injury.
I don’t know if the Big East is going to get more than four teams into the tournament, and nights like Wednesday night will go a long way towards determining which four teams get in.
Here are tonight’s results:
FLORIDA (NET: 39, SOS: 50): What a massive, massive win for the Gators, who trailed by three when KeVaughn Allen forced overtime with a three with 2.5 seconds left. The Gators are 12-8 on the season, but since a season-opening loss at Florida State, the only game they had lost by more than seven points came against No. 1 Tennessee, when they trailed by two with two minutes left. Florida has good computer numbers, but they just don’t quite have the wins to back them up right now. Ole Miss is a solid Q2 win, and the first top 50 team that the Gators have beaten this season.
Their next six games are as follows: Kentucky, at Auburn, at Tennessee, Vanderbilt, at Alabama, at LSU. That’s a brutal schedule, one that will make or break their season.
ST. JOHN’S (NET: 48, SOS: 82): The Johnnies got things headed in the right direction, as they snapped a losing skid by going into Omaha and knocking off Creighton. It’s the second Q1 win on the season for Chris Mullin’s team, but it’s just their second win in the last six games -- both came against Creighton. On Saturday, St. John’s heads down to Durham for a massive game at Duke.
SETON HALL (NET: 62, SOS: 23): Seton Hall entered Wednesday’s home game against Providence having gone three full weeks without winning a basketball game, and they busted out of their slump by picking off the Friars. Seton Hall has two really impressive wins -- Kentucky on a neutral, at Maryland -- and a trio of bad losses -- they were swept by DePaul and lost to Saint Louis at home.
SYRACUSE (NET: 47, SOS: 38): The Orange bounced back from being humiliated by Virginia Tech to book a win at Boston College. With a 15-6 record, a win at Duke (which will likely be the best win anyone gets this season) and a 6-4 record in Q1 and Q2 games, the Orange are in a good spot even with home losses to Georgia Tech and Old Dominion.
AUBURN (NET: 24, SOS: 29): The Tigers smoked Missouri at home on Wednesday, but they still do not have a Q1 win. They are 5-1 in Q2 games, one of which -- Washington (31) -- is one spot in the NET away from becoming a Q1 win. But that should tell you everything you need to know about this team’s profile right now. There isn’t as much there as you might think.
INDIANA (NET: 44, SOS: 45): At this point, the issue for Indiana is not what their current resume is, because as of today they probably still have done enough to be considered, at the very least, one of the first four out. They are 12-9, but eight of those nine losses are in Q1 games while their worst loss -- Wednesday at Rutgers (125) -- is still just a Q2 loss. Throw in wins against Louisville and Marquette, and there are a lot of teams with much uglier profiles.
The issue for Indiana is that they still play a ridiculous tough schedule and there is nothing to lead us to believe this thing is going to get turned around. Rutgers was their seventh straight loss, a game they led by double digits late in the second half before they collapsed. This team lacks leadership, they lack confidence and, at this point, I think they might even lack a desire to finish out the season.
It’s getting ugly in Bloomington.
BUTLER (NET: 51, SOS: 22): The Bulldogs missed on what was their best chance to land a marquee win this season, getting smoked by Marquette at home. They are now 12-10 on the season with three Q2 losses and a Q3 loss to Georgetown at home. Their only Q1 win came against Florida on a neutral, a team that beat them by 34 points in the O-Dome. For the time being, Butler probably needs to be moved off the bubble.
CREIGHTON (NET: 57, SOS: 6): After snapping a four-game losing straight with a win at Georgetown, Creighton had a three-game home-stand to get themselves right before a critical game at Villanova on Feb. 6th. On Wednesday, the Bluejays missed on a chance to take down St. John’s at home, losing by 16 points. The biggest issue facing Greg McDermott’s club right now is that their two biggest games (Villanova and Marquette) are both on the road. If they don’t get this figured out quickly, they might need both of those.
PROVIDENCE (NET: 72, SOS: 60): Providence missed out on a chance to last their second Q1 win with a two-point loss at Seton Hall on Wednesday. The Friars are going to be an interesting team to track as we move closer to tournament time, mainly because four of their eight losses came without A.J. Reeves healthy. The problem with that? Their two best wins -- at Texas and Seton Hall at home -- came during that stretch as well. For my money, the Friars need to do three things to have a shot at dancing -- split their remaining two games against Villanova and Marquette; go 2-2 in road trips to St. John’s, DePaul, Butler and Creighton; handle their business if their other four home games.