**NOTE: This was written on Sunday and wasn’t posted until Tuesday, which is why there is no mention of the Monday Big East results**
Butler (AP: 13 Coaches: 14)
1-1 is a very good week for the Bulldogs as they lost on the road against a very good Creighton team and beat a very good Xavier team at home. The emergence of Kamar Baldwin has been crucial to Butler’s success this season and Baldwin continues to improve as he plays each game. This is a very dangerous and deep team — if they can stay healthy do not be surprised if they challenge Villanova for the Big East title. Butler will host an upstart Marquette squad and then head to Rosemont to play DePaul.
Creighton (AP: 7 Coaches: 7)
After being ranked their highest (8th) in school history, the Jays handle the aforementioned Butler Bulldogs and blow-out Truman State to move to a very impressive 17-1 on the season. Not enough can be said about the job Greg McDermott has done with this program. A difficult week ahead as Creighton heads to the Cintas Center to play Xavier and then hosts Marquette on Saturday.
1-1 week for the Flyers as they drop a head-scratcher to UMass and the beat up Duquesne on the road. Consistency will be key for this team as they move through the rigors of the A-10 schedule. Huge showdown this Thursday in Dayton as the Flyers host A-1o the leader and undefeated (in conference play) Richmond Spiders. Dayton also hosts last-place St. Louis this Sunday.
An OK week for the Illini going 1-1 with a double-digit win over Michigan and a narrow loss at home to decent-at-best Maryland. Offense, more specifically, consistent offense has been Illinois’ problem the whole season. They scored a measly 56 points against Maryland. That will not cut it in the B1G, unless you’re playing Rutgers. Illinois heads to Purdue and then Ann Arbor to play the Wolverines for the second time in ten days.
Illinois State (Coaches: RV)
Wow. All I can say is wow. What a week for the Redbirds. ISU took down the two tops teams in the conference to remain unbeaten and take sole possession of first place. This team screams NCAA Tournament and could be the best since the Osiris Eldridge and Champ Oguchi days. Osiris was easily one of the most electrifying mid-major players during his time at ISU and sadly they couldn’t get into the tourney. This team seems different. There is depth. They have a balanced scoring attack. Not to mention two legit big men in Deontae Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh.
Indiana (Coaches: RV)
A road loss to Maryland and a blowout win over Rutgers is how the Hoosiers fared last week. There was a big of a scene at the end of the Rutgers game as an alley-oop was thrown by IU and Tom Crean absolutely exploded. As he should have. But back to basketball…Crean’s group is really struggling right now and sits at 12-6 (2-3) on the year. They are still a tournament team, but are in danger of slipping onto the bubble. A winnable week at Penn State and home for a struggling Michigan State team is what Indiana has. Crean needs 2-0 to settle the fan base down.
How bout the Hawkeyes? A very nice home win over Purdue followed up by an absolute pounding at Northwestern by 35 points. Yikes. Peter Jok was everywhere in the win over Purdue, scoring 29 points, and nowhere in the loss to Northwestern, scoring 4 points. He is their key. Without Jok, this team really, really struggles, and that was on full display against the Wildcats. Just one game for the Hawkeyes this week as they host Maryland in a very winnable game.
Big, big week for the Golden Eagles as they win two games and vault themselves into 5th place in the Big East. Marquette started the week with a gut-it-out win in overtime against Seton Hall in a game that nearly got away from Marquette for the 2nd time in 10 days. They followed that up with an absolute blow-out over DePaul. If you don’t know Markus Howard’s name you better learn it quickly. This freshman is legit and if he can stay out of foul trouble, he will give Wojo a great group of guards with Cheatham, Johnson and Wilson. The Golden Eagles have a hellish gauntlet this week as they travel to Butler and Creighton, yikes.
Notre Dame (AP: 15 Coaches: 15)
Raise your hand if you had Notre Dame leading the ACC at 5-0 halfway through January. And as I suspected, no one. What Mike Brey has done in South Bend these last few years is very impressive. He’s adopted the old “Coach K Model” of taking and molding quality players into his system to get the most out of them as upperclassmen. There is no one and done talent on this team and I’d be very surprised if there were in the future. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Brey’s team took down Miami and Virginia Tech on the road (I’m not sold on Va Tech yet, but still a good win). His team will now square off with the surprise #2 in the ACC, Florida State on the road this Wednesday and then finish off the week with Cuse back in South Bend. Two wins this week and there is a strong case to be made that the Irish are a top 10 team.
It was a disappointing, yet textbook week for Kevin Willard and the Hall as they drop two very important conference games in spectacular fashion. After playing very poorly at Marquette, a herculean effort brought the game into overtime where the Pirates’ piss-poor free throw shooting finally caught up with them in a close loss. SHU followed that game up with what Kevin Willard described as an “embarrassing” effort against a sub-par Providence squad. All-of-a-sudden Seton Hall has fallen to 2-3 in Big East play and has to head to Villanova and The Pavilion, a building the Pirates haven’t won at since 1994. SHU will finish off the week with a Sunday matinee at home against St. John’s.
St. John’s (MN)
The Johnnies knocked off both opponents last week (Macalester and St. Mary’s for those of you scoring at home) bringing their record to a stout 10-3 (6-2) on the year. Against St. Mary’s the Johnnies shot an outstanding 76.9% in the first half and finished the game at 62.7%. St. John’s has a big week this week with three games against Bethel, Hamline, and Carleton College, the latter two games are on the road.
Washington University (St. Louis)
Wash U jumped all the way up to #11 this week after two impressive road wins at Emory and Rochester. The Bears will play host to NYU and Brandeis this week as they look to stay perfect in conference play.