The season continues to roll forward as we get closer and closer to conference play. Five weeks into the season, and there is one thing we know: the Big East is legit. With the non-conference part of the season close to ending, there are seven teams with only two losses or less in the league. There is a common theme with the “big” teams this week. They all are a part of the Big East. Which teams are they? Here are your week five nominees for “Big and Bust.”
Providence Friars- Wins: Vermont, Central Connecticut
Week 5 Record: 2-0
Coming into the season, Providence was a team that I saw as a sleeper in the Big East. At this point in the season, Ed Cooley has his Friars sitting at 10-1 on the season and a five-game winning streak. Providence looks like a legit tournament team as we hit the mid-way point of December. The inside-out duo of AJ Reeves and Nate Watson is a combo that will be tough to stop in the Big East.
Both seniors helped in the wins this past week over Vermont and Central Connecticut. On Tuesday against Vermont, Reeves and Watson combined for 48 points and 18-24 shooting. The rest of the team combined for 20 points. This is possibly a top-three or four team in the Big East.
DePaul Blue Demons- Wins: Duquesne, Louisville
Week 5 Record: 2-0
One of the biggest surprises of the season so far is DePaul’s 8-1 start. The Blue Demons were picked dead last in the Big East Preseason Poll but started 6-0 on the year. Their only loss comes to a good Loyola Chicago team, where DePaul only lost by four. Javon Freeman-Liberty is the star of the show in Chicago.
The senior guard is averaging north of 20 PPG this season. He has hit the 20 point mark six times in nine games. Freeman-Liberty had 26 points in Depaul’s win against Duquesne but struggled against Louisville. With him shooting 2-15 from the floor against the Cardinals, someone had to step up. David Jones was the man for the job, dropping a career-high 33 points in the win. The sophomore forward is averaging 17.7 PPG on the young season.
Tony Stubblefield has this team in a good spot in his first season as Head Coach. Let’s see if this continues into conference play.
Xavier Musketeers- Wins: Ball State, Cincinnati
Week 5 Record: 2-0
Xavier is another team like Providence. They have the talent to be in the top three of the conference and they are showing it as of late. The Musketeers already have wins over Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, and Cincinnati. Xavier is coming off of a 46-point win against Ball State and a 20-point rivalry win in the Crosstown Shootout.
Xavier showed off their depth against Cincinnati, where Jack Nunge came off of the bench and scored a career-high 31 points, also adding 15 rebounds to the mix. Xavier will contend for a top-five spot in the Big East unless something major happens to the team.
Iowa Hawkeyes- Wins: None
Week 5 Record: 0-2
Iowa had a hot November starting 7-0. Now with the temperature falling, so are the Hawkeyes. Iowa went 0-2 this past week with losses to Illinois and Iowa State. The Hawkeyes December record is now sitting at 0-3. In a Big Ten matchup on Monday night, Iowa fell to Illinois 87-83. Kofi Cockburn was too much for Iowa, as he posted a 17 point, 18 rebound double-double.
In an in-state rivalry game against Iowa State on Thursday night, the Cyclones dismantled the Hawkeyes. Iowa State’s defense was in the face of Iowa all night long. The biggest key of the game was holding the nation’s then leading scorer to zero points at halftime. Keegan Murray then finished the game 4-17 from the field.
Iowa has a chance to bounce back against Utah State on Saturday evening.
Kentucky Wildcats- Wins: Southern
Week 5 Record: 1-1
The Wildcats have started the season 7-2, with losses to Duke and Notre Dame. The biggest individual storyline so far in Lexington is the dominance of Oscar Tshiebwe in the paint. The West Virginia transfer is averaging 16.3 PPG and 14.4 RPG this season. The biggest team storyline so far is shooting- which hasn’t been there. Kentucky is shooting 30% from deep as a team, which is good for 212th in the country.
The Wildcats went 2-19 from three in their loss to Notre Dame on Saturday. The three-point shot was supposed to be Kentucky’s strength coming into the season, getting transfers like Kellan Grady from Davidson allowed for this. The shooting struggles are something to continue to follow as the season moves along into conference play. The SEC is going to be tougher than ever this season.
Florida Gators- Wins: North Florida
Week 5 Record: 1-2
Florida had one of the hottest starts to their season. The Gators’ defense flourished as they started 6-0, with wins over Florida State and Ohio State. Since then, Florida is 1-3, with losses this week to Texas Southern and Maryland. Texas Southern is a bad, bad loss. They came into Gainsville winless and came out with a 15-point victory.
It does not seem like the same Florida team we saw to begin the year. Mike White has to turn his team’s play around before conference play starts. Like Kentucky, the struggles now may lead to negative outcomes in the SEC.
Week 5 of college basketball did not disappoint. There is a lot to unpack from a lot of different teams. Especially watching games from Saturday. That’ll about wrap up this week’s edition of Big and Bust, hopefully, you guys enjoyed it. Did I miss someone? Who would be on your list? Let me know in the comments section.
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