Conference Preview: Big East

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The Big East put six teams in last year’s NCAA Tournament, including a pair of 1 seeds and, of course, the eventual national champion in Villanova.  It just does not appear possible for the league to replicate that level of success this season, with nearly all of the top programs having to rebuild.  At the end of the day, it should once again come down to Villanova and Xavier for the regular season title, though Butler will make some noise as well.

Two teams that do appear to be on the rise are teams that did not make the NCAA Tournament last season.  Chris Mullin may have the league’s best player at St. John’s in Shamorie Ponds, and a ticket to the Big Dance could definitely be in the cards this season.  Although we are not picking DePaul to join them in the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Demons have as much talent this season as they have had in any year in recent memory, and a winning overall record should at least be within their grasp.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Villanova – The defending national champions lost four players to the NBA Draft, but will still be a force to reckon with due to the return of Eric Paschall in the frontcourt and Phil Booth in the backcourt. Keep an eye on Albany transfer Joe Cremo and heralded freshman point guard Jahvon Quinerly as well.
  2. Xavier – The Musketeers not only lost a ton of talent, including three double-digit scorers, but saw their head coach head to Louisville in the offseason. Travis Steele takes over for Chris Mack and, given the school’s track record with head coaching hires, fans can rightfully have big expectations.  This season, Steele will need returnees Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin to lead the way for a solid group of graduate transfers and freshmen.  Don’t be shocked if the Musketeers are right back at or near the top of the league standings again.
  3. Butler – The Bulldogs were on the small side last season and lost their two best frontcourt players to graduation in Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman. The team should be set in the backcourt, led by Kamar Baldwin, but will need to find some size, especially during the first semester when Duke transfer and former top 100 recruit Jordan Tucker is ineligible.
  4. John’s – This could be the year the Johnnies get back to the Big Dance as Shamorie Ponds may be the best player in the conference, and having Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II, plus a strong defense, should help the team a ton. They key may be a pair of transfers – Mikey Dixon (Quinnipiac) averaged over 16 points per game, while Mustapha Heron (Auburn) did the same and has just received word that he will be eligible to play this season.
  5. Marquette – Even without Andrew Rowsey, the Golden Eagles should still score a ton of points led by Markus Howard and Sam Hauser. The questions will still be on defense where the Golden Eagles ranked dead last in the Big East and 315th nationally last season.
  6. Providence – The Friars have a ton of question marks, especially at the point guard position. Alpha Diallo should be a star for the team this season, but they need Emmitt Holt to be back close to 100% after missing last season with an injury if they want any shot at a sixth consecutive NCAA tournament bid.
  7. Seton Hall – Myles Powell will have to step up his scoring even more this season with three of last season’s top four point-producers gone. A pair of transfers – Taurean Thompson (Syracuse) and Quincy McKnight (Sacred Heart) will help, but a return to the Big Dance is probably a stretch.
  8. DePaul – The Blue Demons have a serious chance to avoid the basement this year with Devin Gage back healthy, allowing Eli Cain to return to the wing. Illinois transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands and North Carolina A&T transfer Femi Olujobi will be the keys to the team possibly posting a winning record and maybe even playing in a postseason tournament.
  9. Creighton – The Bluejays will likely take a step back this season without Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas. However, there is still enough talent here to cause opponents problems, especially if junior forward Martin Krampelj can remain healthy.
  10. Georgetown – The Hoyas only won 5 Big East games in Patrick Ewing’s first season but that was 6 or 7 more than some of us predicted! Don’t expect a big improvement this season, but the team does appear to be building in the right direction.
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