Big East fans- how goes it? What was the greatest part of this past week? Villanova starting 11-0 for the first time in 52 years? Georgetown losing comfortably to the Kansas Jayhawks? Did you break out the above ground swimming pool when we got a random day of 60 degree weather? Whatever made your week, keep that adrenaline going until Saturday!
Saturday 2:00pm @ Syracuse Orange
I'm pretty sure everyone has been eyeing this date since schedules were released. Who knew it'd be a battle of the undefeated? Some keys to look at here include Syracuse's 3-point percentage (of course), free throw percentage, and rebounds/game. Syracuse shoots 36.6 behind the arc. This is worse than I thought they shot, however they do attempt quite a few, led by Trevor Cooney. C.J. Fair is next, and is also a player worth keeping an eye on. Syracuse historically is a poor free throw shooting team, and this year's 67.6% lines up with that. That could come in handy like it did last time. Also, the Orange are in the bottom 150 in the country in rebounds/game. The 'Cats will need Daniel Ochefu and Jayvaughn Pinkston to come up big. Maybe the Orange home crowd will push Syracuse over the top, but there are many paths in taking down this Orange Zone D. Answer my poll at the end of this article on how to best limit Syracuse.
You may enjoy this video.
Highlights: Syracuse (3) vs. Villanova (via NovaAthletics)
Saturday 6:00pm @ UMass Minutemen
UMass became one less undefeated school in the nation on Saturday with their loss to Florida St. Seminoles. They look to rebound with their neighbor Friars. They rank in the top 55 in the country in PPG, RPG, APG and FG%. Minutemen's Cady Lalanne posts 14.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG on an unheard of 59.6% FG%. The Friar's loss in Kris Dunn will be tested in this meeting. Bryce Cotton will need to pick up the offense, and while his FG% dips below 40% he makes up for it in his 91% free throw efficiency. With UMass' inside game, plus their home court advantage, I'm taking the Minutemen.
Saturday 1:00pm vs. NJIT Highlanders
Fox Sports 2
If Seton Hall can handle this team, Butler should edge by as well. NJIT's sophomore forward Terrence Smith averages 13.1 points on 57.8% shooting and 84.6% from the charity stripe. NJIT's team FT% of 73.1% should mean they will stay close to the Bulldogs throughout, but Butler's Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall will lead the offense and defense alike and extend their win streak to 5.
Sunday 5:00pm vs. Chicago St. Cougars
Fox Sports 1
This Cougar team forced OT against DePaul on December 15th. I'd be very scared if I were the Bluejays. Creighton averages 10.5 points more per game and is 5.5% more efficient from the floor. Plus, Creighton has that Doug McDermott guy, and apparently "the younger writers on this site [are getting weird] with the man-crush thing." Don't talk about Doug like that, Mike. When DePaul faced this team, I mentioned that Chicago St.'s Clark Rosenberg was impressive. He had 17 points on 50% shooting. Clark should have success similar to that, however Creighton is too much to handle for the Cougars.
Saturday 5:00pm vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Fox Sports 1
Take out Xavier's 0-3 Battle 4 Atlantis campaign and they'd be undefeated as well. Well, that's just nature's way of saying "This town ain't big enough for the two of us!" Xavier will also partake in an ACC-Big East matchup against another team who competed in B4A. Wake Forest is a strong rebounding team (10th in the country) led by sophomore Devin Thomas's 9.8 RPG. I think Matt Stainbrook of Xavier will out-muscle him for the boards and take control of the front-court. Xavier pulls off the minor upset and the Big East goes 2-0 against the ACC on Saturday.
Saturday 2:30pm vs. Columbia Lions
Columbia only lost to the Michigan State Spartans on the road by 9, however losses to the Elon Phoenix and Bucknell Bison shatter my confidence in some sort of upset. Plus, the Lions' fall in the bottom 100 of schools in points, rebounds and assists per game. Ivy Leaguer Grant Mullens leads the team in scoring with 12.3 PPG to go with an 88.4% FT%. I feel D`Angelo Harrison can cover him well enough to squeak out a win to close our OOC play.
Saturday 12:00pm vs. Fla. International Golden Panthers
Fox Sports 1
Get ready to have your mind blown. On December 3rd, FIU lost at home to a Division II school by 18. That DII school's name? The Nova Southeastern Sharks. Just goes to show you that Nova=power. I don't even need to describe how G'Town will win after that fact. Worth emphasizing for FIU is their senior forward Tymell Murphy because he's shooting 62% from the field!
Friday 8:00pm vs. Lafayette Leopards
Fox Sports 1
I was able to attend the SHU game on December 22nd against the Eastern Washington Eagles, with Fuquan Edwin returning to the starting lineup. Even with just him returning, the team is noticeably more dominant. The Leopard's own guard Seth Hinrich is going OFF averaging 20.4 PPG on 53.2% shooting (47.9% from 3) and a 92.3% free throw shooter. The team as a whole is over 80% from the line, which could hold this game close. Seton Hall is still a bit shaky, especially on the rebounds, but after about a week off some of their players should get back and defeat the Leopards before taking on Providence on RI.
Friday 9:00pm @ Northwestern Wildcats
Big Ten Network
I'm going to pick Northwestern for a few reasons. One, they are the home team, and I'm a big believer in home-court advantage even though that never ends up meaning anything. Also, they're the Wildcats; automatic boost. Both teams are over 70% from the charity stripe, so this could be a close game until the end. The matchup down low with Cleveland Melvin (DePaul) and Drew Crawford (NW) will be exciting as both players lead their teams in scoring and rebounding. Definitely a potential nail-biter here to close out the easy Friday!
Saturday 2:00pm vs. Samford Bulldogs
I should bring to your attention that, while in last place, Marquette has arguably had the toughest strength of schedule, playing two top 10 teams as well as Arizona State Sun Devils and New Mexico Lobos. So, their record may not truly display their talent compared to the rest of the conference (it doesn't). Marquette is a top 75 rebounding and assisting team, compared to Samford not being in the top 125 in each. Marquette's ball movement should be too quick for the Bulldogs, and Marquette will aim to get out of the basement.
Hope you all enjoy your holiday week! Hopefully Santa brings me a gallon pitcher so I can hold all the Orange Juice for Saturday!