Villanova is the Big East’s best claim to being a true Power-6 conference, having won two of the past four national championships. And in Collin Gillespie, the Wildcats have one of the best returning guards in the conference. He tied for 10th in the Big East in scoring with 15.1 points per game, and he was fifth in assists (4.5 apg). He’s been a strong contributor for Villanova for three years, increasing his points, assists, and rebound total in every season, while shooting over 80% from the free throw line each year. Consistency was a huge part of Gillespie’s game, as he scored less than ten points on just four occasions all season.
Gillespie showed out on several occasions as well, putting up huge performances while playing alongside projected first round pick Saddiq Bey. He put himself on the radar with a 18-point, 9-assist effort in a tight non-conference victory over Mississippi State, followed with a 27-point, 6-assist performance against Baylor, ranked 24th at the time. As the Wildcats progressed through another dominant conference season, tying for a three-way share of the conference lead with a 13-5 record, Gillespie consistently torched opposing Big East defenses. He notched 24-point efforts against Xavier and Creighton, followed by a 21-point a double-double at St. Johns, before delivering his best performance of the year against #19 Butler. Playing the Bulldogs on the road, Gillespie shot 9-19 from the field and 7-10 from the charity stripe to collect 28 points, while dishing out six assists.
Gillespie stayed consistent throughout the year, impacting the game in various ways, even when his scoring touch was off. That consistency was a relief to Villanova fans, who watched their star guard virtually disappear in the 2019 postseason, averaging just 5.5 points per game in their final four playoff clashes. Gillespie has virtually eliminated those hiccups, becoming a high-impact player for the Wildcats in almost every game. Set to receive the lion’s shares of shots and scoring opportunities next season, Gillespie should continue to boost his numbers, continuing his upwards trajectory in his final collegiate season.
We are back with the third edition of our power rankings, and while the top of our rankings stayed largely the same, there was some significant movers. We highlighted the major movers here, but be sure to check out the full top 10 (and honorable mention) below!
Biggest Riser: Villanova
Biggest Faller: Michigan State
Dropped Out: Michigan State
Joined The Ranks: Villanova, Seton Hall, West Virginia, Dayton
West Virginia (Last week: Not ranked)
Seton Hall (Last week: Not ranked)
Kentucky (Last week: Honorable Mention)
#10 – Dayton Flyers (Last Week: Not Ranked)
The Flyers appeared on just one of our ballots last week, but they got the nod in three of four ballots this week, after they dismantled St. Bonaventures and took down a solid Richmond squad on the road. An under-the-radar mid-major due to the success of San Diego State, the Flyers have their eyes on the Atlantic 10 title and an NCAA tournament run.
#9 – Oregon Ducks (Last Week: 9)
Oregon choked up a late lead before surviving in overtime against USC, and they followed that up with a dominant victory over a struggling UCLA squad. We didn’t learn too much about the Ducks, as we already knew they were extremely good at home (12-0) so the Ducks tread water at #9 until further notice.
#8 – Villanova Wildcats (Last Week: Not Ranked)
The Wildcats shot up our rankings, after being little more than an afterthought on last week’s ballots. Villanova looked absolutely dominant in beating #16 Butler by 15 points, and they edged out Providence for a key road conference win to secure their sixth straight win. They are our biggest risers of the week, joining the rankings for the first time this year at #8.
#7 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: 5)
The Blue Devils drop due very little to their own doings. They played one game against a horrendous Miami team and won handily, but their elite ACC competition had more wins against better competition, and so Duke slides two more spots to #7 this week.
#6 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: 7)
The Aztecs continue to win and continue to climb. In a prior mid-major report, we identified their road game at New Mexico as a potential trap game. The Lobos have struggled recently, but they are 13-0 at home, so whether the Aztecs continue their climb up the rankings remains to be seen.
#5 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: 6)
There are two ways to look at Florida State’s lone game and win of the week – an 85-84 thriller over Notre Dame. One is a really close game against a below-average ACC squad. The other way is a gutsy finish against a resilient team that plays everyone close. We tended to side with the latter, as the Seminoles won their twelfth straight to move up a notch on the ladder.
#4 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: 4) – 1 First Place Vote
The ACC-leaders looked shaky in holding off Georgia Tech before rebounding with one of their most complete performances of the year against Clemson. The Cardinals utilized a 20-0 run to seize control and dominated the upstart Tigers for their sixth straight victory. They are holding off Florida State, but they’ll need to keep winning if they want the top seed in the ACC tournament because the Seminoles aren’t backing down.
#3 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week: 1) – 1 First Place Vote
Gonzaga slid in the AP Poll out of the #1 slot, and they slide here, largely due to their weak schedule. It’s hard to make a statement when you beat every team in your conference by 20 or 30 points, and that’s exactly Gonzaga’s issue currently. Whereas other top teams are winning huge statement games, the Bulldogs are cruising through the West Coast conference, beating up on a cupcake schedule.
#2 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: #3)
The Jayhawks haven’t lost since their home defeat to Baylor, but they’ll play second-fiddle to the Bears in these rankings. They showed flashes of brilliance in putting away Tennessee, and they sandwiched that outing with dominant performances versus Kansas State and Oklahoma State. They’re a legitimate national title contender.
#1 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: #2) – 2 First Place Votes
Baylor shut down a lot of haters with a dominant performance at an unranked Florida team. The #1 team in the nation, the Bears entered the game as 2-point underdogs. They played with a chip on their shoulder and stifled the Gators to the tune of a 72-61 victory that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. With 15 straight wins, the Bears finally rise to the top of our Power Rankings.
There was very little Big East action on Saturday, so here’s a quick summary and takeaway from the two conference games that were played.
Villanova 64 Providence 60
The Game: Collin Gillespie scored 18 points and notched 8 rebounds to lead the Wildcats to victory at Providence – holding off a Friars comeback bid for their 12th win in 13 games.
The Takeaway: Providence Needs A Signature Win. The Friars have lost four of five in Big East play, and despite being competitive in each contest, they have not locked down a big win yet, which they will likely need to do to earn an at-large bid in March.
St. Johns 79 DePaul 66
The Game: LJ Figueroa was a beast for the Red Storm on Saturday, dropping 28 points on DePaul as St. Johns won handily in a battle of Big East cellar dwellers.
The Takeaway: Butler is in trouble. I know, this takeaway is about a team not involved in the game. But this game highlighted many DePaul deficiencies as they were slapped around on their home-court by another team in the basement of the conference. That Butler lost to this DePaul team is embarrassing and says a lot about the state of their team right now.