As February comes to an end, it generally means two things; Spring is just around the corner, and college basketball teams are fighting for position in their respective conferences as season-end draws near. Here we’ll look at the current Big East standings, recap the past week of conference action, and what each game means for the Huskies in their battle for a top-four seed in the Big East tournament.
Current Big East conference standings as of Wednesday, Feb. 24
Sunday (Feb. 14)
Seton Hall 57 | Marquette 51
Junior guard Jared Rhoden scored 20 while Sandro Mamukelashvili had yet another double-double, as Marquette fell to Seton Hall for the second time this season. Dawson Garcia (12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds), the Golden Eagles’ 6-foot-11 freshman forward who has been the best newcomer in the conference this season, was held scoreless, missing all six of his attempts from the field. Marquette as a team shot 3-25 (12%) from the three-point line, and 18-60 (30%) overall.
What this means for UConn: The teams that UConn is competing with the most for seeding right now are Seton Hall and Xavier, and sort of St. John’s. So, whenever those teams win, it’s not great for the Huskies. This outcome was expected though. One positive to take away is that both teams scored under 60 points, and UConn still has both of these teams on their remaining schedule.
Monday (Feb. 15) featured zero Big East conference matchups
Tuesday (Feb. 16)
In James Bouknight’s first game back since Jan. 5, UConn didn’t have much problem putting away the friars of Providence. Bouknight came off the bench, but scored 18 points in 25 minutes, seemingly getting whatever and anywhere he wanted on the court.
UConn needed this win badly. If they had lost to Providence for a second time this season after regaining their star player, their NCAA tournament hopes would have taken a massive hit.
What this means for UConn: Bouknight was uber-efficient in limited minutes and UConn got a much-needed win to avoid a sweep by Providence.
St. Johns 94 | Xavier 84
Xavier had just lost to a Bouknight-less UConn team that was seemingly reeling at the time, which was their first game back in a month. St. John’s has flirted with being a legit team all season, and winning against Xavier at home almost solidifies them as one of the best second-tier teams in the conference. The Red Storm’s three-headed monster of cat-quick Posh Alexander, Big East-leading scorer Justin Champagnie, and senior guard Rasheen Dunn willed them to a victory in this one with a combined 53 points, 16 rebounds, and 14 assists.
Xavier forward Zach Freemantle continued his breakout season with 22 points and 10 rebounds. However, the Musketeers are struggling mightily on defense recently, as they have given up 80 and 93 points in their past two games.
What this means for UConn: While UConn is technically fighting both of these teams fairly closely for Big East tournament seeding, Xavier is the bigger problem, so this was definitely the best outcome for UConn.
Wednesday (Feb. 17)
Marquette 73 | Butler 57
A matchup with two teams in the Big East’s basement culminated in a convincing win for Steve Wojciechowski’s squad. Freshman guard Chuck Harris was one of the lone bright spots for Butler, as he poured in 21 points off the bench. Bryce Golden also scored 18 points on an efficient 7-10 from the field, but that was all worth noting for Butler.
The Golden Eagles won this game with balance, as they have had to in most of their games thus far. Four different players scored 12 or more points, highlighted by an unexpected 17 from guard Greg Elliot (5.4 points, 1.6 rebounds).
What this means for UConn: Almost as irrelevant as it gets. The outcome was expected and didn’t really impact UConn’s seeding. UConn still has to play Marquette, so making sure Elliot doesn’t pull a Tyler Polley — as he seemed to in this game — should be something to look out for. Not for nothing, but it appears that Chuck Harris will be a very solid Big East guard in the coming years. The freshman is now averaging 11.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists.
Seton Hall 60 | DePaul 52
Not much to take away from this one. Seton Hall stays afloat in the conference and takes care of business against the worst team in the Big East. Mamukelashvili had another monster game with 25 points and 11 rebounds, further supporting his bid for Big East player of the year. He is now putting up nightly averages of 18.1 points and 7.3 rebounds. Guards Jared Rhoden and Myles Cale rounded out the low scoring affair with 17 and 11 points, respectively. DePaul dropped to 1-10 in conference and 3-10 overall at the conclusion of this game. There’s always next year for the Blue Demons, I guess.
What this means for UConn: Seton Hall stays firmly ahead of the Huskies in the conference standings with this win. It would have been nice to see Seton Hall drop an absolute stinker here, but it's DePaul we’re talking about.
Thursday (Feb. 18) and Friday (Feb. 19) featured zero Big East conference matchups
Saturday Feb. 20
Bouknight started off a scorching 6-7 in the first half en route to 14 points, but was then completely blanketed the rest of the game, not making another shot until the final minute — a desperation three. Villanova had the perfect recipe to beat this UConn team by limiting turnovers and transition points and effectively taking Bouknight out of the game for at least a half. Crafty senior guard Collin Gillespie, a Ryan Archidiacono incarnate but better, made two dagger 3-pointers in the game’s final three minutes to keep the lead just out of reach. Gillespie scored 20 points on the afternoon to go along with six rebounds and was assisted by bruising forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds. This was definitely a missed opportunity that would have gone a long way for the Huskies' at-large bid portfolio.
What this means for UConn: The Huskies would have likely solidified their ticket to the big dance, but opportunity still knocks. With the win, Villanova remains at the top of the conference, meaning the Wildcats likely get the No. 1 seed once again for the Big East tournament.
Georgetown 81 | Seton Hall 75
The Hoyas had one of their most impressive performances of the season, shooting 50% from the field and 60% from three (10-16), led by former top 100 recruit Jamorko Pickett who scored 20 in the contest. No matter how you look at it, this was a bad loss for a Seton Hall team that was heading in the right direction with two wins already this week. Even when Georgetown’s leading scorer Jahvon Blair scored only three points on 1-6 shooting, Seton Hall couldn’t stop the Hoyas from getting open looks.
Patrick Ewing’s squad has not capitalized many times when they’ve gotten opportunities throughout the year, but they sure did in this one. For Seton Hall, they really can’t afford to lose any more games or they will be looking at a situation where they will have to win the Big East tournament to get into the NCAAs. It’s possible that’s the scenario they find themselves in already, but time will tell.
What this means for UConn: Good news. Again, the two teams that UConn is tight on seeding with are Xavier and Seton Hall. This opens up a small window of opportunity for UConn to possibly jump the Pirates in the standings by season’s end. Also remember, UConn plays Seton Hall on March 3. That is a must-win for both teams, so that game will be very tough.
DePaul 88 | St. John’s 83
Similar to the game before this, an absolutely brutal loss for the home favorite. At home, going up against the worst team in the conference, coming off of a very convincing win in which the Johnnies hung 94 on Xavier. They put up an absolute stinker in this one, conceding 88 points to the worst offense in the conference in DePaul.
What this means for UConn: While the Huskies weren’t in any real danger in conceding conference positioning to St. John’s, the result of this game solidly puts this possibility out of reach.
Sunday (Feb. 21)
Xavier 63 | Butler 51
The Musketeers took care of business against a severely depleted Butler team which was without three starters - Aaron Thompson, Bryce Nze, and Bo Hodges - all non-COVID-19 related. Freemantle continued his dominant play with another double-double (17 points and 10 rebounds), his fifth of the season, but third in the last three games.
This game was very close throughout and Butler was only down by five with about two and a half minutes left, but Freemantle was not letting the Musketeers lose this one, scoring seven points in the final 90 seconds. With four games left and the only real challenge being against No. 13 Creighton at home, Xavier is in a good position to push for a top four seed in the Big East tournament. For their NCAA tournament prospects, a 12-4 record and early season dismantling of now No. 7 Oklahoma 99-77 — a win that has aged flawlessly — should get Xavier in barring a semi-collapse.
What this means for UConn: This tightens the gap between Xavier and UConn for the fourth seed. However, it really doesn’t matter too much in terms of the bracket structure, because in the new Big East tournament format, the No. 4 seed plays the No. 5 seed in the second round, and then the winner of that will subsequently play the top seed.
Monday (Feb. 22) featured zero Big East conference matchups
Tuesday (Feb. 24)
Villanova 81 | St. John’s 58
This was a very important game for St. John’s, who was coming off of a horrible loss to DePaul. Unfortunately for head coach Mike Anderson, the Red Storm were completely blitzed by Villanova right from the start and had absolutely no answer for the Wildcats’ frustratingly efficient offense. Lead guards Posh Alexander and Rasheen Dunn combined for just eight points on 4-14 from the field and 0-5 from 3-point range. When those guys aren’t on, it’s very hard for St. John’s to win games, especially when they are playing against the best team in the Big East. Credit to Villanova though, as they have proven once again that they easily have the best starting five in the conference. It’s tough to find a weakness with their lineup of Gillespie, Moore, Daniels, Samuels, and Robinson-Earl.
What this means for UConn: Not a whole lot. Villanova stays at No. 1 in the conference and the gap widens even further between UConn and St. John’s.
What an interesting game. A 4.5 point spread favoring UConn to start out seemed much too close for this one but looked like it was about right for 70% of the game. UConn got out to a tremendous 10-0 start, hitting six of their first seven shots, and looked like they were about to run the Hoyas out of their own high school-esque gymnasium. UConn then went ice cold, making two of the next 11.
Up until 8:34 left to go in the game, it really seemed to be anyone’s game, but then UConn built a steady lead and kept extending to finish the game ahead by a comfortable margin. Bouknight was incredibly passive for a long stretch of this game - virtually the entire first half - but still finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. R.J. Cole’s impact cannot be understated as well, as he was a major reason that the lead was able to build in the second half to put the game away. UConn is at their best when Bouknight is attacking, Cole is confident in the lane, Martin is attacking the offensive boards, Sanogo is getting his share of looks in the paint, and everyone is challenging shots at the rim. This game featured all of those things at times, but never simultaneously. Hopefully, the Huskies can find that consistency over the next three games.
What this means for UConn: Despite sitting at eighth place overall in the Big East, Georgetown has played some teams very tough this year. They actually boast wins over St. John’s, Creighton, and Seton Hall, all top half conference teams. For UConn, it’s a quadrant two win on the road that keeps their hopes of landing an at-large bid alive.