The Big East just keeps on rolling. And while it’s a very different Big East than the one Chris Mullin knew as a player – not to mention a very different Big East than the one Syracuse was a part of just a few short years ago – one thing remains the case: the conference’s teams win a lot.
That’s not to say it’s come easily, because winning never does. It’s been far from a birthright. But like last year, Big East teams are winning at a clip few probably imagined, and Sunday continued that as they went 3-0 on the day, with another signature win among them.
It wasn’t too surprising that Villanova dominated La Salle 76-47 at home, or that Seton Hall knocked off St. Peter’s 72-46, also at home. But the highlight came as St. John’s, with Mullin now the head coach at his alma mater, beat old conference rival Syracuse 84-72. The Red Storm shot over 49 percent from the field, while Syracuse struggled to shoot, and the Red Storm out-rebounded the Orange 51-36.
The Red Storm are now 7-3 on the season, which was unthinkable before the season. Remember, this is a team with a depleted roster after they were a senior-laden team a year ago and then watched Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa, who figured to be key holdovers into the Mullin era, walk away. It gives you reason to believe that the Red Storm can be very good if they can win some recruiting battles and get more talent in the door, then gain experience.
If that happens, the Big East only gets better. The conference is already doing well this year, though.
Big East teams are now 77-20 on the season. To be sure, the conference took some dings recently – Oklahoma convincingly beat Villanova in Hawaii on Monday and DePaul lost by 22 at UALR on Saturday (though UALR is 8-0). But you balance that off with games like Marquette winning at Wisconsin (Big East teams are 9-6 against Big Ten teams now) and Xavier beating Cincinnati (3-0 against teams from The American) on Saturday. In all, the Big East is 23-13 against teams from the Power 5 conferences, a big reason why they entered last week at the top of the RPI heap.
The powerhouses and legendary coaches of the past aren’t walking through that door. Plenty of wins are, though, for the Big East, and that’s what matters.
LSU may have the nation’s best freshman, but the Tigers haven’t exactly been a team on the rise with him and his talented classmates joining a few good veterans. Instead, they fell to 4-4 after a 105-98 overtime loss at Houston in which Simmons fouled out. Simmons had 13 points on 5-7 shooting along with 14 rebounds and five assists. Keith Hornsby (32 points on 10-17 shooting) and Tim Quarterman (27 points, 10 rebounds, six assists before also fouling out) led the way there, but Antonio Blakeney continued to struggle as he was 2-9 from the field. Houston improved to 6-1 behind 31 points on 10-19 shooting from Rob Gray Jr.
A team going in the other direction is Arizona. The Wildcats are younger this season, and early on the jury was out on just how good they would be. But after blowing out Missouri 88-52 to improve to 9-1, they are clearly on the upswing. Six players scored in double figures and they shot over 56 percent from the floor.
A pair of Atlantic 10 teams had tough road games on Sunday and came up short. Rhode Island had a halftime lead but lost 70-67 at Nebraska, while UMass dropped a tough 77-76 decision at FGCU. On the other hand, Saint Joseph’s headed across town to take on Big Five rival Temple and edged the Owls 66-65 in overtime to improve to 7-2.
South Dakota State continued their fine start on Sunday, improving to 9-1 by beating UC Santa Barbara 86-68.
Another week with a lot of teams off for final exams is upon us. A fairly light slate is on tap, but there are a few good ones among them.
- Gonzaga host St. Martins in the only action involving a ranked team on the day.
- St. Francis Brooklyn and Manhattan meet in a battle of local rivals who have had a tough time getting wins thus far.
- Coastal Carolina travels to Wofford for a sneaky good matchup.
- St. Mary’s looks to bounce back from their first loss of the season as they host Cal Poly.