Few believed Xavier would finish in the top half of the retooled Big East based on last year’s preseason predictions. But the Musketeers, picked seventh by the league’s media in the fall, went on to tie for third with a 10–8 conference record, including a 7–2 mark at home.
The first year of the new Big East alignment brought a little bit of everything: a national player of the year and one of college basketball’s all-time greats (Creighton’s Doug McDermott), a national top 10 team (Villanova) and one surprising NCAA participant (Providence).
Simply being in NCAA Tournament contention in the final days of February has to be a pleasant surprise for Georgetown.
The Hoyas have been out of sorts ever since losing to 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA Tournament last season. The season began with a puzzling loss to Northeastern in Puerto Rico. Guard Greg Whittington was dismissed in November. Center Josh Smith was ruled academically ineligible in January.
If there’s one thing we know about the Big East this season, it’s that Creighton has Villanova’s number. The first time around, the Bluejays launched 21 3-pointers against Villanova. The Wildcats shut down some of Creighton’s outside shooting, but they couldn’t contain McDermott, the Athlon Sports National Player of the Week.
More and more, the college basketball regular season fades into the background for the general sports public.
Early entries to the NBA Draft have left the sport with few players who become household names by the time they are upperclassmen.
Creighton’s Doug McDermott should be in that rare class of college basketball superstar, but his career began in the Missouri Valley Conference, giving him a barrier to notoriety other productive seniors — Tyler Hansbrough, for example — never had to battle.