Good teams are going to lose. And eventually, one or more good teams finish last.
But that’s the reality of Big East play this year.
All 10 league squads have built legitimate NCAA tournament résumés. Providence was perhaps the biggest long shot after a couple of damaging nonconference defeats — but its NET ranking rose to No. 78 Friday morning.
Though no Big East team expects to sink to the bottom of the league standings, someone will. That’s the nature of competition.
But after two weeks of conference play, the differences are barely discernible between those who’ve triumphed from those who faltered. Home teams went into Friday with an 8-6 league record. Half of the games weren’t decided until the final four minutes.
“We’re sitting 0-3, and yet I think we’re not that far off,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said on the league’s teleconference this week.
The Red Storm arguably picked up the best set of nonconference wins, taking down No. 17 West Virginia and No. 24 Arizona. Yet they’re at the bottom of the Big East. They’re hosting 0-2 DePaul Saturday in what feels like an early must-win for two promising teams.
That might be the theme of the weekend, actually.
Creighton plays at Xavier on Saturday in a battle of squads with 1-2 conference records. Georgetown and Marquette are two other postseason hopefuls off to 1-2 starts. They’ll both be underdogs on the road this weekend.
“Unforgiving.” That’s the word Creighton coach Greg McDermott used when asked about the depth of the league after practice Friday.
It’s inevitable that you’re going to take some lumps during an 18-game schedule, McDermott said. How quickly you’re able to respond will make the difference, he said.
Last year’s conference season unfolded similarly. Every team except one had at least one three-game losing streak during league play. Creighton lost four in a row twice, costing it an NCAA bid.
The Jays would like to avoid a similar slump this year. The Big East has improved, though. And Creighton has lost two in a row — falling to the league’s two ranked teams in No. 6 Butler and No. 16 Villanova.
“The teams that are mature enough and focused enough to get through the bumps in the road, they’re the teams that are still going to be standing in the end,” McDermott said.
How Creighton handles this two-game road swing will be telling.
Then again, its opponents have identified this as a pivotal point in their seasons as well. That’s especially true for Xavier, which dropped a home game to Seton Hall on Wednesday.
Now the Musketeers are hosting Creighton. Neither team wants to be 1-3.
A sense of desperation may be evident in the way both squads carry themselves on the court Saturday — but that just might be how it’s going to go in Big East play this year.
“You better play with urgency. Because you’ll get embarrassed every single night if you don’t,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said after Wednesday’s loss. “We better be ready to go on Saturday. We will be ready to go.”
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