Today is like a second Christmas for Big East fans. After proving to the rest of the country that the "New" Big East might be the best conference, the battle for the top is finally ready to begin. And as if the league schedule maker had a crystal ball, Villanova will start their battle on New Year's Eve against this year's top contender in Xavier. But before we get into the actual games, let's remember that time honored of make New Year's Resolutions. You know, promises to ourselves about something we're going to do better or a goal we want to accomplish in the New Year. So today we ask, what if each Big East Team made a new year's resolution?
Resolution: Win The Big East Regular Season Crown
Now Butler won't be the only team that has this as their goal, but they might want it more than anyone else. This team has been looking to prove that it wasn't just Brad Stevens that could bring success to Indianapolis, and a Big East Title would do just that. There's a lot standing in their way, and some great defensive teams as well. But having the most explosive and efficient offense in the league is a great place to start.
Resolution: Make The NCAA Tournament
The Blue Jays haven't been a real threat to anyone since Dougie McBuckets left his dad's team to head to the NBA. But now with some transfers and solid recruiting, Coach McDermott is ready to prove that his team can get back to the dance without his prolific scoring son. The opportunities for big wins will be there with four teams ranked to start conference play. The question remains, is Creighton ready to step back up to the top half of the conference?
Resolution: Beat A Ranked Big East Team
DePaul has actually gotten better every year of the new Big East. After last year's 7th place finish, they beat a ranked George Washington this year and have an offense and defense each ranked in the Top 100 this season. But that hasn't seemed to matter to Big East Coaches as DePaul was ranked 8th or lower in the Pre-Season Big East Poll for the fourth straight year. Despite improving numbers, DePaul is going to have to make a statement this season if they want to shake the basement dweller persona. The best way to do that is with an upset win over one or more ranked teams.
Resolution: Forget The Non-Conference
To say that the early months of the season were rough for Georgetown is a gross understatement. After two narrow losses to Top 10 teams and 3 losses to mid-majors on their home court, Georgetown is as low as I've ever seen them. So the best thing to do now is just forget it. Georgetown was projected to be the 2nd best team in the Big East, and that talent didn't just disappear. Look for the Hoyas to bounce back in conference play and be much more competitive than their record would suggest.
Resolution: Finish In The Big East Top 3
The Golden Eagles made every NCAA Tournament from 2006-2013, but haven't been back since. With star freshman Henry Ellenson leading the way, the team looks to finally be ready for a return. But you don't improve by setting goals that you're likely to achieve, you do it by reaching for excellence. For this team, that would be beating out 2 of the 4 teams currently ranked in the Top 25 for the 3 seed (or better) in the Big East Tournament. It's not impossible, seeing as Marquette is already receiving Top 25 votes. The question is can a young coach and a young team reach their potential that quickly?
Resolution: Prove That This Team Isn't Just Kris Dunn
Providence has rose to prominence on the back of star PG and last season's Co-Big East Player of the Year, Kris Dunn. But to stay in contention for a loaded Big East title, Providence is going to need the guys around Dunn to step up. The good news is they've already gotten a head start on this resolution when sophomore Ben Bentil scored 32 points and his second consecutive double-double in the Friar's last game. Look for the rest of the team to step up their game as we enter Big East play.
Resolution: Finish In The Big East Top 3
Seton Hall looks a lot like Marquette this season. They've got a great non-conference record, a young star in Isaiah Whitehead, and a talented core to go around him. The reason you haven't heard as much about them is that they're also young (starting 5 sophomores), and with the EPIC collapse of last season people have taken a "wait and see" approach. Well I think we've seen what this team is capable of, and it's time to start paying attention. This team is going to beat more than one ranked team in the Big East by the time conference play is over.
Resolution: Don't Become DePaul
It's clear to just about everyone that St. Johns is the worst team in the Big East. The most glaring stat is their 310th ranked offensive efficiency. That puts them just behind 3-9 SIU Edwardsville. Now we knew this would be an uphill battle from the beginning, but the key is to use this season to build and improve. They've proven they can win big games against better opponents (see Syracuse), and they'll need to do just that to keep their team and fan base optimistic. Whatever happens, don't let things spiral out of control like we saw happen in the Chicago suburbs, it's hard to recover.
Resolution: Win A Third Consecutive Big East Title
Villanova came into the season as the favorites, and despite losses to elite teams like Virginia and Oklahoma, they still are. But that could all change in a flash with tomorrow's game against Xavier. The target has never been bigger on the Champs back as two losses and a low 3FG% have opponents seeing them as not the team they were supposed to be. KenPom would say otherwise, as Villanova is still the best ranked team in the Big East. The road to this year's Big East Title goes through Philadelphia, and the rest of the league knows it.
Resolution: Beat Villanova to win the Big East Title.
Sure, the number one goal for the undefeated Musketeers is to win the Big East regardless of how they do it. But don't think for a second they've forgotten about being swept by the Wildcats last season, including the Big East Tournament Championship game in MSG. It's tough to argue that Xavier isn't the best team in the Big East with one of the deepest squads and no losses through 12 games. But tomorrow's match-up with Villanova is not only their biggest test to date, but also the one that means the most to them.