by Justin Bishop '24
Will Murphy ’23
As the 2022-23 Big East season unfolds, a few teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Four teams have made their way to the top of the standings: Marquette University, Xavier University, Creighton University, and Providence College. One thing all four of these teams have in common is their dominance at home; each boasts an undefeated conference record when playing in their home arena. This season has been a testament to the value of home court advantage. Marquette, led by star point guard Tyler Kolek, is in a prime position to get their hands on the regular season title. They benefit from a softer schedule during the season’s stretch run, with three of their final games coming against the bottom half of the conference. If Marquette can take care of business down the stretch, they will likely finish with 15 wins and five losses at worst. Head coach Shaka Smart has quietly been one of the best coaches in the country the past two years, as he’s led two over-achieving Marquette squads to impressive showings in the Big East. The Golden Eagles have one of the top offenses in the country, and that sets them apart from the rest of the customarily defensive-minded Big East. Kolek excels at setting up his teammates for open looks, averaging just under eight assists per game. His facilitating helps elevate the games of those around him, and one of the most prominent beneficiaries of that facilitating is sophomore guard Kam Jones. Jones came back for his sophomore season and elevated his game in a big way. He’s stepped into the starting role for the Golden Eagles and has been able to lead the team in scoring with an average of 15 points per game. The combo of Kolek and Jones has been a thorn in the side of Big East defenses all year long. Oso Ighodaro has also exceeded expectations this year, and become a big reason for Marquette’s success. His ability to score efficiently without needing too many touches has been invaluable for a team with skilled guards who can create easy looks for him, and his 65.7 percent shooting from the field has been reflective of that. In addition to his skills on the offensive side of the ball, Ighodaro has been one of the best defenders in the conference and helped control the glass for Marquette, leading them in rebounding with just under six per game. Another important piece for the Golden Eagles is Olivier-Maxence Prosper, as the forward from Montreal has found his stride in his junior year. Averaging 13 points per game and five rebounds, Prosper’s well-rounded game has been critical to Marquette’s success thus far, and just might be the x-factor for the Golden Eagles as the regular season comes to a close. Ultimately, Marquette is one of the deepest teams in the country, led by a great head coach, and benefits from an easier schedule down the stretch, and that is why the Golden Eagles will likely claim the Big East regular season title.
Justin Bishop ’24
At the time of this publication Providence sits third in the Big East conference standings behind, No. 11 Marquette, No. 16 Xavier, and No. 18 Creighton who are all separated by two games. Five games are left for most of those teams, and it is a very close race for the regular season title. Providence has the advantage as they play four of the last six in the Amica Mutual Pavilion, including matchups against Creighton, which they won 94–86, and Xavier. This is not only a huge win conference-wise, but it will also help the Friars in the AP Poll as the two teams are currently ranked in the top 25. Next, Providence will face a team they already beat on the road in Villanova University on Saturday which will nonetheless be another tough test. The rest of the season after that will hold two more big games in which the team will need to win in order to stay in contention for the Big East title. Those two games are: at a red hot University of Connecticut and then they will have their toughest battle left at home against Xavier on March 1. The toughest test out of those games is without a doubt going on the road against UConn. The Huskies sit at No. 6 in the conference, but have only lost twice at home this season, along with the fact that it is a rivalry game, it is the matchup to circle on your calendars. That game could decide who wins the conference this year if everything goes as needed for this team.
What needs to happen that Providence cannot control is for the two teams above them to both win their remaining home games. The Friars are currently unbeaten at home this year, posting a 14–0 record at the AMP, so defending home court is the team’s number one priority. This year is unlike last year when there were only two teams battling for the title, but it has been a very entertaining season to follow the Big East. The conference has 4 legitimate contenders, which shows the strength of the teams in this conference. Assuming the Friars take care of business at Georgetown University and then at home against Seton Hall, the conference title will come down to the wire. If Providence wins all their remaining games, and the other contenders only win their home games, the Friars will be back to back Big East Conference Champions.