The Big East boasts the defending national champion, but at least early on they are proving that the conference is much more than the Villanova Wildcats. The top five teams in the conference; the aforementioned Wildcats, Creighton, Xavier, Butler and Seton Hall have raced out to a combined 22-0 record including wins over the likes of Wisconsin, N.C. State, Purdue, Clemson, Iowa and Northern Iowa.
The Wildcats, currently ranked 2nd in the country are 5-0 including a three-point victory over #15 Purdue in a true road game. Villanova is averaging over 80 points per game and are led by a quartet of players, two seniors and two sophomores averaging double figures. Seniors Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart are averaging nearly 32 points per game led by Hart’s 19.2. Sophomores Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are chipping in 24.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest. As the season goes on Fordham transfer Eric Paschall should have even more of an impact than the 8.8 points he is averaging right now. One question going forward for Jay Wright’s squad may be depth as of now only two other players, Phil Booth and Daryl Reynolds have appeared in all five games. But Villanova is just one of three teams that have started out 5-0.
The 12th ranked Creighton Bluejays are also 5-0 with wins over N.C. State and #9 Wisconsin and are averaging a scorching 93.8 points per game and 19.6 assists per game both good for 16th in the country. The Bluejays have eight guys who are playing over ten minutes per game and all five starters are double digit scorers. Coach Greg McDermott’s team is led by his three-guard lineup of Marcus Foster, Maurice Watson, Jr. and Khyri Thomas who are averaging 40.8 points and 11.4 assists per contest. Their frontcourt duo of senior Cole Huff and freshman Justin Patton are averaging 22 points and ten rebounds per game. The Bluejays have made 61 three pointers in 121 attempts in five games, is that a pace they can sustain heading into 2017.
A top 25 team that is from the Big East that has started 5-0 and is led by guards, sound familiar? This time it is the 9th ranked Xavier Musketeers. With what might be the conference’s best backcourt coach Chris Mack’s squad has just three players in double figures but boy is it a trio. Juniors J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett and sophomore Edmund Sumner are averaging a staggering 52.8 points and 15.2 rebounds and 9.4 assists per game. The guy early on that has been a key for the Musketeers has been Macura who has taken advantage of increased playing time averaging 17.6 points after averaging just nine last season. The question for Xavier is will they be able to get rest for their terrific trio as they all play at least 35 minutes per game, Sumner is playing 37 per game.
The Butler Bulldogs find themselves at 4-0 to begin the year. Granted they haven’t been challenged as of yet with a 2-point win over Northwestern being their best so far but they are averaging 84 points per game. Chris Holtmann’s team is doing it with depth though with six guys averaging over eight points per game led by Kelan Martin’s 16.8 and senior Avery Woodson’s 10.5. Even though they have yet to be tested, the Bulldogs are winning on the defensive end, giving up just 58.8 points per game so far. One other thing to keep an eye on when it comes to Butler going forward, they have gotten off to a quick start without a player who is thought to be a key contributor, Kethan Savage a transfer from George Washington who has been sidelined all year with pneumonia.
Seton Hall is the final undefeated team in the Big East at 3-0. The Pirates are doing it in similar ways to their conference brethren, averaging 88 points per game, but Kevin Willard’s team is also 51st in the country in rebounding at 42 per game. Three juniors and freshman are leading the Pirates offensively. Khadeen Carrington leads the team with 21.7 points and classmate Desi Rodriguez is second at 16.3 to go along with eight rebounds. The two combined for 45 points in a 91-83 victory over Iowa. Junior Angel Delgado has been a beast inside for the Pirates. The 6-10 junior is averaging 15 points and 13.7 rebounds per game and freshman Myles Powell has shown up on campus and averaged 15 points per game including 26 in the win over Iowa and is eight for his last 15 from behind the arc in his last two games.
That’s a look at the quick start of the top teams in the Big East, add in what should be improvements from Marquette, St. John’s and Georgetown and conference play in the Big East should be as competitive as any in the country.