The Big East Conference has always been a classic college basketball conference even if they lost UConn, Syracuse, etc. The conference did a great job finding replacement schools to keep the conference and its image together.
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Surprise Villanova is picked to win the Big East yet again and you can thank Jay Wright for that. Sure, they are only returning one double digit scorer from a season ago in guard Collin Gillespie but forward Saddiq Bey was pretty close and both should be money this year.
Mix that in with incoming 5-star-recruit Bryan Antoine and 4 star recruit Justin Moore and this team should be loaded. Depth should be fine with Jermaine Samuels, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree & Cole Swider all contributors from a season ago returning.
2. Seton Hall
The Pirates got a huge break when star guard Myles Powell announced he was returning to school for his senior season. Powell averaged 23 points per game last year and it’s hard to replace that kind of scoring. Alongside Powell returning is Myles Cale & Quincy McKnight to take the bulk of the scoring for this team.
Head coach Kevin Willard also went out and got a big shot blocker in center Ike Obiagu who is transferring in from Florida State. Mix Obiagu with fellow big man Taurean Thompson a transfer from Syracuse and this team has to be the team to watch out for if you are Villanova. This team returns 87 percent of the teams scoring from a season ago.
Head coach Greg McDermott is back for another season at Creighton and this year there is plenty of optimism surrounding the program. The Bluejays return three double digit scorers from a year ago in Marcus Zegarowski, Ty-Shon Alexander, & Mitchell Ballock. Shooting guard Davion Mintz also averaged just shy of 10 points a year ago so this Creighton team should have no problem scoring the ball.
The Bluejays also return Damien Jefferson who was injured most of last year and they welcome in a nice transfer in Denzel Mahoney who sat out last season after coming over from SE Missouri where he averaged 19 points per game. So the scoring is certainly there but can the Bluejays improve on the defensive side of the ball? That’s going to be the real question of the season. Regardless, a team with this much offensive firepower will be a tough matchup for anyone.
There’s plenty of reason why this team could finish 2nd in this conference or perhaps even win the whole conference. This team is pretty loaded especially when you just look at the front line and realize the entire starting five averaged over double digits a season ago and should only be better this year. Naji Marshall is back after flirting with going pro. Marshall averaged just shy of 15 points and 7 boards a season ago. Alongside Marshall are veterans (PG) Quentin Goodin, (SG) Paul Scruggs, (F) Tyrique Jones all whom were big contributors to this team a season ago.
The Musketeers then landed some big transfers specifically Ohio grad transfer Jason Carter who averaged close to 17 points and 7 boards a season ago. He’ll start with the other four. That starting lineup could be the best in the entire Big East. Another transfer worth noting is guard Bryce Moore coming over from Western Michigan where he averaged just shy of 10 points per game. He’ll need to help create offense because he’s the only proven player that resides on Xavier’s bench.
The Friars and head coach Ed Cooley are back and if you’re a Providence fan you should be excited for the upcoming season. Cooley is a really underrated coach that always seems to over achieve with the Friars. Cooley was a hot name in the coaching ranks and some doubted Providence’s ability to keep him but Cooley stayed put in Providence. The Friars should be in good shape for this season since they return star forward Alpha Diallo who averaged 16 points and 8 boards a season ago. Alongside Diallo is forward Nate Watson who averaged just shy of 12 points and 5 boards a game.
Together the Friars forwards should be a problem for everyone in the Big East. Cooley also landed a nice transfer in Luwane Pipkins coming over from Umass where he averaged 16 points, 5 boards and 5 assist per game. Pipkins and last years freshman David Duke should be a nice backcourt for the Friars. G/F A.J. Reeves is another nice piece to the starting 5 that should have Providence heading into the NCAA Tournament come March.
LaVall Jordan and Butler had a down year last year which is why I think perhaps they could surprise some this year. Jordan losses a lot from a season ago but returns his star guard in Kamar Baldwin who averaged 17 points per game a season ago. Baldwin will need someone else in the starting five to step up and deliver some more scoring I’m guessing that will come from Guard Sean McDermott and Forward Jordan Tucker.
The Bulldogs also went the transfer route and brought in grad transfer Forward Derrik Smits who averaged 12 a game at Valpo last year. Another option via the transfer route is Forward Bryce Nze coming over from Milwaukee where he averaged 10 points per game.
Markus Howard is back and that’s all we really need to say here. Howard averaged 25 points per game a season ago and the offense should run through him again this season. Gone though is the Hauser brothers who both transferred out. Head coach Steve Wojciechowski went the transfer route to find some replaces adding in former Utah State guard Koby McEwen who averaged 16 points per game for the Aggies.
Wojo also brought in Utah transfer Jayce Johnson to give this team a big body and depth at the Center position. The Golden Eagles are going to need forwards Sacar Anim and Brendan Bailey to step up if Marquette is really going to be a threat in the Big East.
Things are now starting to get interesting in Washington D.C.. The first few years we couldn’t blame brand new head coach Patrick Ewing but now comes the first year of real pressure for the former New York Knick. It’s year three at Georgetown and normally the third and fourth years are when you really start to tell if perhaps this thing is going to work out.
The good news for Ewing is that he brings back two really good guards in James Akinjo and Mac McClung but after that he’s going to need some players to step up. Odds are it’s going to be NC State transfer Forward Omer Yurtseven who averaged 13 and 7 with the Wolfpack not too long ago. Another few to watch is Forward Josh LeBlanc who had a really good freshman year and JaMorko Pickett. It’s a big year for Ewing who I’d personally love to see bring Georgetown basketball back.
DePaul was better than most expected last year despite still not being a real threat in the Big East. Head coach Dave Leitao showed signs of life with this program and now comes the question of whether or not they can build on it? If they are they are going to need to have some players step up because the Blue Demons loss key players Max Strus and Femi Olujobi.
They do return their best player in Forward Paul Reed and Leitao did have the Big East’s 3rd best recruiting class bringing in freshman players Romeo Weems who should start immediately. Markese Jacobs and Oscar Lopez are the other notable freshman that should get some burn in year one under Leitao. Leitao also brings in Arkansas transfer Guard Darious Hall who’ll need to contribute right away to get the Blue Demons off to a solid start. All in all it’s a work in progress but I kind of like what Leitao is doing in Chicago.
10. St. John’s
I’m not sure what is exactly happening at St. John’s. I thought Chris Mullin was doing a decent job but then he quit and now comes in Mike Anderson. Anderson is a solid coach who did okay at Arkansas but I really thought St. John’s was going to go a different route coaching wise. So in comes Mike Anderson and well Mullin left him a few nice pieces in guards LJ Figueroa and Mustapha Heron who should handle the bulk of the scoring for the Red Storm.
Anderson has a few transfers that should be able to contribute right away in Forward David Caraher who 16 points per game at Houston Baptist and grad transfer Guard Nick Rutherford coming over from Monmouth. Year one is always a challenging year and this should be no different for head coach Mike Anderson who’s most likely going to need to work some magic if the Red Storm want to make the NCAA tournament.