Merry Christmas, 'Nova Nation! Big East play will finally begin this Wednesday, after all the holiday hoopla. We're going to start a new weekly series here at VU Hoops. It'll give readers a chance to look at conference standings each week, preview some of the big games of the week, browse the complete schedule for Big East teams, and maybe even win a little prize with our new (Pick'em) game.
The rules are simple, just pick who you think will win each of the games from this week using this link. (Edit: If you answered without putting in your VU Hoops name, please re-send a new form with your account name. Want to be able to keep score, otherwise there’s no way to track it and those votes won’t count. The form has been modified so that the account name is now a required field.) Be sure to include your VU Hoops user name, we'll be keeping a cumulative score of your predictions and releasing them each week, whoever gets the most number of correct picks at the end of the season wins a prize!
You will have until the first game tips off on Wednesday night to get your picks in, in order for all of them to count. Any late submissions will result in the picks made for finished games or the ones in progress being forfeited, but the remaining ones after them will count. For scoring and contest purposes, your most recent answer form will be used.
It’s one point for every correct answer and whoever has the most points at the end of the regular season, wins!
Here is a look at the standings:
#1 Villanova (12-0)
#6 Xavier (12-1)
#23 Seton Hall (11-2)
#25 Creighton (10-2)
St. John's (10-2)
The games to watch for:
Game of the Week: #25 Creighton at #23 Seton Hall--Thursday, Dec. 28, at 6:30 p.m. on FS1
The lone Big East game of the week between two top 25 teams! On one end, Creighton comes in with the top scoring offense in the Big East. The Bluejays average a whopping 92.3 points per game, good for fifth in the country. They’ve made it work with Marcus Foster and an improved Khyri Thomas. Foster was already a scoring machine as-is, but Thomas--mainly known for his defensive prowess--seems to have become a complete player, one that can also contribute buckets. They'll have their hands full though. There was plenty of deserved hype for the Pirates' senior trio of Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, and Khadeen Carrington. However, the way that Myles Powell has been playing, has college basketball fans thinking that it's actually more of a 'core four.' Powell has been phenomenal so far. When he gets hot, he's dangerous and has really become an all-around scorer. Not quite sure the Bluejays have the skill up front to deal with Delgado, who had a double-double in both meetings against the 'Jays last season--even with Patton present. Teams that try to double Delgado or focus on him in the post, get burned because he's improved as a passer from down low--kicking it out to the open man at the perimeter. With Powell improving with each game, there’s so many different weapons to account for, even with off-court disciplinary stuff happening right now. My Pick: Seton Hall 82, Creighton 73
And here’s two more...
Providence at St. John's--Thursday, Dec. 28, at 7 p.m. on FSN
Last year, both teams were young and inexperienced. For the Friars, they were replacing Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil with first-time full-time starters. As for the Red Storm, a promising backcourt of newcomers--Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett--paved the way in Chris Mullin's second year at his alma mater. Providence got hot towards the end of the season and squeezed into the NCAA Tournament, while St. John's had to watch from home. This season, both teams were expected to take a big step up. The Friars only lost one player, while an older and wiser backcourt tandem--combined with a couple of transfers--would help the Red Storm get better. The Friars and the Johnnies split the regular season series with a couple of pretty high-scoring affairs. This will be an interesting battle of point guards, with Ponds being the third-highest scorer in the Big East, while Cartwright is one of the better facilitators around. St. John's has one of the top defenses in college basketball at the moment, but it will be hurt by the absence of LoVett, who's missed a handful of games due to a knee injury. Cartwright and Alpha Diallo should be back in action to help a Providence squad take down a St. John's team that has looked one-dimensional with LoVett out. The Red Storm has looked pretty vulnerable recently. My Pick: Providence 77, St. John's 68
#1 Villanova at Butler--Saturday, Dec. 30, at 4 p.m. on CBS
No Chris Holtmann, but the Bulldogs do have Kelan Martin and sophomore Kamar Baldwin, two players that gave 'Nova fits in Butler's regular season sweep of the Wildcats. New head coach LaVall Jordan has done a pretty good job so far, but he'll get a big test in the Bulldogs' biggest home game this season. Martin still appears to be in good shape as one of the conference's best, while Baldwin is an excellent two-way guard. Butler has also added sharpshooting George Washington transfer Paul Jorgensen, helping replace the production lost from graduating six seniors. However, I just can't see Butler downing the 'Cats again. The Bulldogs have one of the worst three-point shooting defenses around, allowing opponents to shoot 37.5 percent from deep (270th in the country). With five different 'Cats averaging in double figures--Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman, and Phil Booth--and each of them shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc, it's time for Butler to pick its poison. No upsets here. My pick: Villanova 72, Butler 61.
The rest of the Big East games this week:
Wednesday, December 27
Butler at Georgetown, 6:30 p.m. on FS1
#1 Villanova at DePaul, 7:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
#6 Xavier at Marquette, 8:30 p.m. on FS1
Saturday, December 30
DePaul at #6 Xavier, 2 p.m. on FS1
Georgetown at Marquette, 4:30 p.m. on FS1
Sunday, December 31
Providence at #25 Creighton, 2:30 p.m. on FS1
St. John's at #23 Seton Hall, 5 p.m. on FS1
Quick Picks for the last seven games (in order as above):