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This week in the Big East: Providence Friars in position for first postseason berth since 2010

Plus, the Butler Bulldogs have suffered their first conference losses while the Marquette Golden Eagles are now a top-10 team.

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NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Charlotte
The Providence Friars have been the Big East’s surprise story in the 2018-19 women’s college basketball season.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Big East Conference has now gone through nearly half of its conference schedule. Let’s take a look at where the teams are heading into the last week of January.

Providence is beating preseason expectations

Last October, the Big East Conference predicted that the Providence Friars would finish ninth out of ten teams this season. Last season, the Friars were tied for last place with Xavier with a 3-15 record in conference play and a 10-21 record overall. In fact, Providence has finished in last place in the Big East — or close to it — since the 2009-10 season, when they made the WNIT quarterfinals.

Head coach Jim Crowley was hired from St. Bonaventure before the 2016-17 season, and his first two seasons leading the Friars haven’t resulted in a quick turnaround. But this season, the Friars have a 5-4 conference record and are 13-8 overall. After defeating Creighton 77-63 on Saturday on the road, the Friars now have their first three-game win streak since the 2001-02 season.

Before defeating Creighton, the Friars defeated the Butler Bulldogs 74-68 in triple overtime on Jan. 18, handing the Bulldogs their first conference loss. Providence followed up that win with a comfortable 71-58 win over Xavier on Jan. 20.

Senior guard Jovana Nogic has been one of Providence’s top performers over her college career. This season, she is averaging 14.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting 38 percent from the three-point line. Freshman guard Kaela Webb has also been a spark off the bench for the Friars, averaging 8.2 points per game and reaching double figures in three of the past four games she started.

Providence has made a lot of progress this season to turn their women’s basketball program around. An at-large NCAA Tournament berth is still probably out of reach for the Friars right now, but they are in a very good position to earn their first WNIT berth in nine years.

Big East games of the week

Butler Bulldogs (16-3, 6-2) vs. No. 10 Marquette Golden Eagles (17-3, 8-0)

When: Sunday, Jan. 27, at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

How to watch: Big East Digital Network

Notes: The Butler Bulldogs have lost two of their last three games, including an 86-78 loss to the DePaul Blue Demons last Friday. They will do what they can to upset Marquette, who is on an eight-game winning streak. It will not be easy for Butler to end that streak, but they are 9-1 at home so that could make things a bit easier since they are still looking for their first win over a ranked opponent this season.

Xavier Musketeers (10-9, 1-7) vs. DePaul Blue Demons (14-6, 5-3)

When: Sunday, Jan. 27, at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

How to watch: Fox Sports 2

Notes: The Musketeers come into today’s game on a three-game losing streak. However, each of their last four losses have come against the top teams in the conference, including a 90-44 loss to No. 10 Marquette last Friday. The Blue Demons have won four of their last five games, but that one 84-73 loss to Seton Hall last Sunday may also have been enough to keep them from winning the regular-season conference championship.

Elsewhere in the Big East

  • The Marquette Golden Eagles are now a top 10 team! Thanks to a flurry of movement in the middle of the polls, they are now No. 10 in the AP Poll and No. 9 in the Coaches Poll. Last week, they were No. 13 in the AP Poll and No. 14 in the Coaches Poll, respectively. Just three years ago, this team was rebuilding. But now, the sky’s the limit!
  • The Butler Bulldogs have lost two of their last three games and have a tough match against Marquette later today. But barring an extended losing streak, there is a good chance that they will earn their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1996. David Woods of the Indianapolis Star has a column on their strong turnaround this season.
  • Xavier may be last place in the conference at the moment, but the Georgetown Hoyas (9-10, 3-5) and St. John’s Red Storm (9-10, 2-6) are also facing hard times. Georgetown lost five of their last seven games while St. John’s lost five consecutive games before defeating Georgetown 59-51 at home last Friday.

Full Big East schedule