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The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Torch Sports’ 2023-24 Men’s Big East Basketball Power Rankings: Week Three

The conference’s lone unbeaten team claims the top spot.
Torch Design / Sean Bertolini

As November winds down, Big East teams are starting to find their identities. In a week full of both competitive and lopsided matchups, the conference once again proved why it is one of the NCAA’s best. This week’s Torch Sports’s men’s basketball power rankings saw shake-ups at the top and bottom as December begins to roll in. 

1. UConn (7-0)

AP National Ranking: 4

Last Week: 1 ↑

The UConn Huskies have improved to a 7-0 record after wins over Texas, Manhattan College and University of New Hampshire. The team’s week was filled with impressive scoring performances, solidifying their No. 1 spot. 

The team defeated No. 16 Texas (5-1) 81-71 on Nov. 20 to earn the Saatva Empire Classic title. Redshirt sophomore forward Alex Karaban led the team with 20 points, while graduate guard Tristen Newton tallied eight points and eight assists to earn the tournament’s MVP honors. 

Later in the week on Nov. 24, the Huskies downed Manhattan College (3-3), in a 30-point victory at home, 90-60. The game once again featured stellar performances, with Newton earning the third triple double of his career (15 pts., 13 assists, 10 rebounds), followed by graduate guard Cam Spencer (18 pts.) and sophomore center Donovan Clingan (17 pts.). 

Most recently on Nov. 27, the team further proved their prowess in a 84-64 victory over New Hampshire (4-3). Clingan put up a team-high 29 points, while Newton and Spencer each earned 17 points. Newton also led the team in rebounds with 10. 

Dan Hurley and the Huskies will face No. 5 Kansas (5-1) in the Big East-Big 12 Battle on Dec. 1, in their toughest test so far. 

2. Marquette (5-1) 

AP National Ranking: 3

Last Week: 1 ↓

It’s been an eventful week for the Marquette Golden Eagles, who earned their first loss of the season in the Allstate Maui Invitational.

The team opened play with a narrow victory over UCLA, 71-69. Sophomore guard Sean Jones made a three-pointer with a mere 39 seconds left to give the Golden Eagles a late victory. Junior guard David Joplin put up a team-high 19 points against the Bruins, shooting 47% from the field; while senior guard Tyler Kolek tallied nine assists and five rebounds. 

Moving on, the Golden Eagles soared past former No.1 ranked Kansas (5-1), 73-59, on Nov. 22. After a 11-0 run in the first half, the team led 38-28 at halftime and never looked back. Leading the team with 21 points, senior forward Oso Ighodaro also put up nine rebounds. The team shot 45% from the field compared to Kansas’ 41%, with Marquette’s highest lead being 17 pts. compared to the Jayhawks’ two. 

All good things must come to an end though, as Marquette was defeated by former No.2, now No.1 Purdue (6-0), 75-78, in the invitational championship. Trailing by as many as 15 points, Kolek’s 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists followed by junior guard Kam Jones’ 17 points weren’t enough to defeat the Boilermakers. 

The team continues non-conference play vs. Southern University (1-5) in an expected home win on Nov. 28. 

3. Villanova (5-1)

AP National Ranking: 18

Last Week: 1 ↑

Since suffering an embarrassing home loss to Penn, Kyle Neptune’s Wildcats have put the rest of the Big East on notice. Villanova spent their week competing in and ultimately winning the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis, defeating Texas Tech (5-1), No. 14 North Carolina (5-1) and Memphis (5-1). 

The Wildcats’ victory over North Carolina would be the most impressive of their 3-0 stretch, where senior forward Eric Dixon lifted Villanova over the Tar Heels in an overtime thriller, 83-81. Dixon tallied a career-high 34 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Senior guard Justin Moore continues to return to his pre-injury form, also adding 16 points on 5-11 from the field in the victory. 

With Big East play right around the corner, Villanova will face three solid opponents in St. Joseph’s (4-2), Kansas State (4-2) and UCLA (4-2) leading up to their now much-anticipated matchup with No. 15 Creighton (5-1) on Dec. 20. 

4. Creighton (5-1)

AP National Ranking: 15

Last Week: 1 ↓

Despite jumping out to a 5-0 start to begin the season, the Bluejays were unable to remain undefeated, losing a buy game to Colorado State (6-0) in a contest that was never close. Creighton would ultimately fall 69-48, largely due to their atrocious 27.9% shooting. The Bluejays had no answer for senior Colorado State guard Isaiah Stevens, who gashed them for 20 points on 9-16 shooting. While it is not time to panic for Creighton, losing to an inferior opponent is one thing. Getting blown out by an inferior opponent at home is quite another. This loss will raise questions about the Bluejays, who were ranked as a top-10 team in the nation in the Associated Press’ preseason poll. 

Creighton will have the opportunity to answer these questions in a Nov. 30 matchup at Oklahoma State (3-3). 

5. Providence (5-1)

AP National Ranking: N/A

Last Week: No change

The Friars concluded week three in a non-conference win vs. Lehigh University (1-5), 78-64, on Nov. 24. Leading the offense, senior forward Josh Oduro and junior forward Bryce Hopkins led the team with 29 points and 25 points, respectively. The team shot 52% from the field. Hopkins simultaneously led the defensive with 14 rebounds vs. the Mountain Hawks. 

The team continues their pursuits vs. 2-3 Wagner College on Nov. 28. 

6. St. John’s (4-2)

AP National Ranking: N/A

Last Week: No change

 

The Red Storm concluded their week in a 91-45 blowout vs. Holy Cross on Nov. 25. Sophomore forward RJ Luis Jr. shined in his first appearance of the season, putting up 14 points, four rebounds and three steals. After a mediocre beginning of the first half, the Red Storm entered a 12-0 run and continued for the rest of the game. The team shot 58% from the field, and earned 45 bench points. 

After the win, the Red Storm appear to be honing in on their team identity, showcasing a newfound cohesion. Rick Pitino and the team will travel to Morgantown, WV to face the 3-3 West Virginia Mountaineers in the Big East-Big 12 Battle on Dec. 1. 

7. Xavier (4-3)

AP National Ranking: N/A

Last Week: No change

The Xavier Musketeers went 1-1 this week in matchups against Bryant and Oakland. Against the (3-4) Bryant Bulldogs on Nov. 24, Xavier earned a 100-75 victory.  The team shot an impressive 56% from the field and featured five double-digit scorers. Senior guard Quincy Olivari led the team in scoring with 22 points, while senior guard Dayvion McKnight led the Musketeers in rebounds. 

On Nov. 27, Xavier fell to 4-3 Oakland in a narrow 76-78 loss. Shooting 41% from the field this time compared to Oakland’s 52%, the Musketeers weren’t able to secure this much-needed victory. Thanks to a 24-point performance by sophomore guard Desmond Claude (a season-high) and another team-high rebound stat for Olivari, the team fought until the last minute. 

Sean Miller and the Musketeers face No. 6 Houston (7-0) on Dec. 1 in the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

8. Butler (5-2)

AP National Ranking: N/A

Last Week: 1 ↑

Don’t look now, but the Bulldogs have quietly turned into a potential threat in the Big East. Butler has already played two nationally ranked teams this season, and despite losing both contests, their 91-86 loss to No. 19 Florida Atlantic (5-1) offered more than enough optimism. Senior guard Jahmyl Telfort scored a very efficient 19 points on 6-11 shooting, giving the Bulldogs a platform to build on. 

Butler would take full advantage of their newly-found competitiveness, matching their two game losing streak with a two game winning streak. The Bulldogs took care of Penn State (4-3) at home 88-78, led by junior guard Pierre Brooks’ 26 points. Brooks has flown under the radar with immense inter-conference talent this season, averaging nearly 17 points per contest on an astounding 49.4% from the field. 

Butler would follow up their victory with more of the same against Boise State (3-3), as Brooks would lead his team yet again with 26 points on 9-16 shooting in the 70-56 win. 

While they find themselves near the bottom of the power rankings this week, the Bulldogs should not be taken lightly heading into the bulk of the young season. They look to extend their winning streak in a home matchup with Texas Tech (5-1) on Nov. 30.

9. Seton Hall (4-2)

AP National Ranking: N/A

Last Week: 1 ↓

The Pirates were unable to collect a win at the Rady Children’s Invitational, despite putting up a fight in the first round against previously-ranked USC (4-2). Seton Hall would eventually fall 71-63, with senior guards Kadary Richmond (18 pts.) and Dre Davis (15 pts.) putting up valiant efforts. 

Seton Hall would prove unable to carry this performance into their consolation game, as Iowa (4-2) would make quick work of the Pirates in a 85-72 loss. Davis would once again post a solid showing with 18 points on 6-16 shooting, but it would not be enough for Seton Hall to record a victory in San Diego. 

The Pirates have an opportunity to get back on track on Nov. 29 against Northeastern (3-4) before heading to No. 9 Baylor (6-0) on Dec. 5. 

10. Georgetown (4-2) 

AP National Ranking: N/A

Last Week: No change

The Hoyas have rebounded from their early two game losing streak, firing off back to back wins led by the impressive play from sophomore guard Jayden Epps. In victories over American (2-3) and Jackson State (1-6), Epps recorded consecutive career games. After recording 31 points in the matchup with American, he would immediately follow up with a new career-high of 34 points in a close 88-81 victory against Jackson State. 

While Epps recent offensive outputs offer optimism for the Hoyas, their defense remains a massive question mark. Georgetown is allowing 72 points per game, which will be an intriguing storyline to follow heading into their Dec. 2 matchup with undefeated TCU (6-0), who is averaging 93 points a night. 

11. Depaul (1-5)

AP National Ranking: N/A

Last Week: No change

The Blue Demons continue to find themselves at the bottom of this list, with no change in sight. DePaul is in the midst of a three game losing streak after going winless at the Arizona Tip-Off. They would lose a nail-biter to South Carolina (5-0) 73-68, despite a strong performance by senior guard Chico Carter Jr. In a revenge game for Carter Jr., the transfer from South Carolina, he led the Blue Demons with 24 points on 8-13 from the field.  

The senior guard would continue showcasing his offensive talent in DePaul’s final game in Arizona, where the Blue Demons would once again fall to San Francisco (3-2) 70-54. Carter Jr.’s 15 points would lead all DePaul scorers, as the Blue Demons were unable to overcome their ugly 36.2 field goal percentage. 

DePaul’s most recent flop would come courtesy of Northern Illinois (5-2) as senior forward Da’Sean Nelson would tally 23 points, one short of his career-high, in a 89-79 home loss. The Blue Demons would have no counter to junior Northern Illinois guard David Coit, who would finish with 34 points while shooting 53.3% from deep.

Now scrambling for a bright spot, DePaul will look to end their losing streak on Dec. 1 in a home matchup with Iowa State (5-2).

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About the Contributors
Kyler Fox, Asst. Sports Editor
Kyler is a junior journalism student serving as an Assistant Sports Editor. Outside of The Torch, Kyler is a contributor for both A Daly Dose of Hoops and Last Word on Sports. When he isn’t writing, you can either find him keeping up with his favorite sports teams or checking out the latest sneaker drops.
Olivia Seaman, Managing Editor
Olivia is a junior journalism student serving her second year as Managing Editor. Outside of The Torch, she is a student ambassador and an Undergraduate Writing Consultant at the University Writing Center. You can find her with a matcha latte in hand, listening to SZA and watching St. John's basketball. Olivia can be reached at [email protected]

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