Big East Preview

The new Big East has been a great conference in its time but has also largely been dominated by Villanova, which could change with the sudden retirement of Jay Wright. Now everyone is jockeying for position atop the league standings in the near future with the sudden coaching change. Villanova has always been great but Kyle Neptune is not Jay Wright and that’s almost impossible to replicate his success. Creighton has been great for a while and could be up next, while UConn and Xavier looked poised to contend as well, while Ed Cooley and Providence won the league and could repeat. This league has been great and provides us with an iconic conference title, but much of the near future is more unknown than in the past, so let’s dive into the preview. 

1.Creighton Blue Jays

Creighton is one of the most fascinating teams in the sport, as they are clearly due for a major breakthrough season as a program, yet how good this team will actually be is at the center of the Big East offseason discussions. The Jays return a good chunk of their roster, plus add transfer Baylor Scheierman, who fills a role as a sharpshooter and ball-mover. Ryan Nembhard returns to be a pure point guard, who can score but is more known for being an elite passer. While Ryan Kalkbrenner is an extremely efficient interior scorer, good shot-blocker, and rebounder.

The role players fit nicely alongside that main trio, Trey Alexander can play both on and off the ball, knock down shots and run the offense. That’s without even mentioning Arthur Kaluma, who is the best pro prospect on the roster, his size, and athleticism, mixed with an ability to be a floor-spacer will be huge for this team. Shereef Mitchell will come off the bench and provide the team with a lockdown defending guard, who can create. Francisco Farabello can knock down shots in a bench role, while Mason Miller looks to be a capable scorer in a bench role.

The Blue Jays have all the upside you can imagine, having three sophomores that are all poised for breakout seasons is key, plus a reliable center and a great grad transfer make this roster great. The question is how good can this team be and that I think will be largely dependent on the game. We saw last year the highs of them dominating Villanova and nearly beating Kansas, while there were plenty of games where they were blown out. While they should be more consistent and win, a team with shooting variance like this one could be out early or make the Final Four. Greg McDermott’s Jays should win the Big East regular season title, and if things break right, they can make a Final Four as well. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Ryan Nembhard 

SG: Trey Alexander 

SF: Baylor Scheierman

PF: Arthur Kaluma 

C: Ryan Kalkbrenner 

Bench: Shereef Mitchell, Francisco Farabello, Mason Miller

2.Villanova Wildcats 

Jay Wright leaves Villanova with a Hall-of-Fame career, 2 National Championships, 4 Final Fours, and as a mainstay atop the sport. Now the Kyle Neptune era begins with a team that has the potential to win the Big East in his first year. The roster brings back solid pieces but the athletically dominant, freshman guard Cam Whitmore will be the main attraction, as he has takeover ability for this roster and will likely be what makes Villanova go. He’ll be joined in the backcourt by Caleb Daniels, who provides the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter and be a good guard scorer. Eric Dixon provides stability and is a capable scorer down low. Add to that Brandon Slater, an athletic wing with scoring pop and three of the main pieces are back from last season’s team.

The Wildcats have questions outside of that group, Justin Moore might or might not be healthy, he could bring some scoring pop and quality guard play but probably won’t be healthy until league play assuming no setbacks occur. Chris Arcidiacono provides some experience at the point but that’s about it. The Wildcats could turn to Mark Armstrong to try to fill in at the point, his three-level scoring and vision are big for the roster. Angelo Brizzi could also fill in, hoping to take some of the reins at the point. Jordan Longino looks to get a bigger run this season, as he was an effective piece a year ago and has coaching trust. Trey Patterson will provide some additional help in the front court for this roster. 

In a sense, this is a perfect roster for Kyle Neptune to take over, but that doesn’t mean it is a great team. Neptune will have experienced players to help teach the young guys, he will be able to implement some of the younger pieces into the rotation early and doesn’t have to guide by the same trust that Jay Wright had in some players. Neptune will have his early struggles as with any first-time coach, but at the end of the day, this team can win the league title. If Whitmore can be the star he’s projected to be, plus they can get steady play at the point, the upside is high, but don’t expect it to be easy in the process. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Chris Arcidiacono

SG: Caleb Daniels

SF: Cam Whitmore 

PF: Brandon Slater 

C: Eric Dixon 

Bench: Mark Armstrong, Jordan Longino, Angelo Brizzi, Trey Patterson, Justin Moore 

3.Xavier Musketeers 

Xavier had dramatically underwhelmed under Travis Steele, but that era is over and Sean Miller returns to take over at Xavier. He’s left with a good roster with plenty of returning pieces to help lead the Musketeers. Souley Boum looks poised to take the lead guard role, he’s a pure scorer, who can run the offense and score with ease. Zach Freemantle will join him, his mobility, rebounding, and scoring makes him a dangerous threat. Colby Jones looks to develop into a starring role, as he can score from all three levels, run the offense, and acts as their best all-around player.

A year ago Jack Nunge led the Musketeers in scoring and while that probably doesn’t continue, his big body and ability to score at the rim make him a unique piece. Kyky Tandy returns as a piece that can play on and off the ball, and score from the perimeter but he will need to remain healthy. Jerome Hunter should factor into the rotation as a wing defender who doesn’t need to shoot to be effective. Adam Kunkel looks to be a good three-point threat off the bench. The Musketeers also add freshmen guard depth with Kam Craft and Desmond Claude, who hope to be good pieces in their first year.

This Xavier team doesn’t get dramatically better on paper from last year but that doesn’t really matter. The reason Xavier didn’t have success was largely coaching and player mismanagement, which both should change. Look for Miller to play just one of Freemantle and Nunge, while putting out a lineup that makes sense and having better game plans. While Miller’s time at Arizona didn’t end great, he consistently overachieved and had great teams. While there’s only so much he can do this year, don’t be surprised to see Xavier pop up as a consistently Top-20 team on a yearly basis, much like the Chris Mack era. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Souley Boum

SG: Kyky Tandy

SF: Colby Jones 

PF: Jerome Hunter

C: Zach Freemantle 

Bench: Jack Nunge, Adam Kunkel, Kam Craft, Desmond Claude

4.Connecticut Huskies

Coming into this season, UConn is hoping to build on last season and have this year be the one they win the Big East. The Huskies do lose quite a bit but kept their best player Adama Sanogo, who is one of the best bigs in the sport, he is a great low-post scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, who should be the league player of the year. The Huskies look for breakouts from Andre Jackson and Jordan Hawkins. Jackson fits next to Sanogo up front as a more versatile, playmaking wing that should make the offense run efficiently. Jordan Hawkins was good at points last season but he moves into a starting spot and should show off as a pure shot-making guard. 

The Huskies add transfers to help right away like Nahiem Alleyne, who is a good shooter that can have his big games. Tristen Newton comes in to fill a role as a lead guard, he can both score and pass but will have less leeway than at East Carolina. Hassan Diarra will come off the bench providing an extra ball-handler and shooter with experience. Freshman Donovan Clingan will come off the bench for Sanogo but he projects to be the next great center, it just won’t be this season. The Huskies also look for rotation minutes from Samson Johnson and Joey Calcaterra. 

This Huskies team has a good modern-day lineup construction, Sanogo being a dominant center down low is great but he needs good guard play around him. Luckily they have a collection of four guards that can shoot, score, and be good defensively. I question how this team handles the point guard spot but if that gets ironed out, the Huskies have Big East Championship upside. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Tristen Newton

SG: Nahiem Alleyne

SF: Jordan Hawkins 

PF: Andre Jackson

C: Adama Sanogo 

Bench: Hassan Diarra, Donovan Clingan, Samson Johnson, Joey Calcaterra

5.Providence Friars

The Big East Champion Providence Friars enter this season hoping to replicate the success of a year ago. While much of last year’s team is gone, the Friars have hit the portal, while returning a couple of pieces. Jared Bynum will run the show at the point, his ability to run the offense at a high level and make tough shot after tough shot makes him one of the top players in the Big East. Ed Croswell is poised to take a major step forward, his size, efficient scoring inside, and rebounding should make him one of the better bigs in the league as he sees a larger minute load. 

The Friars add in some key transfers to help out, most notably Bryce Hopkins, who while he got little play at Kentucky, comes in with something to prove and athleticism and skill that Providence rarely sees. Noah Locke should provide a solid shooter at the guard spot, which will be pivotal for spacing. Devin Carter joins the backcourt being a combo guard that can play on or off the ball while being a longer guard. The Friars fill out their rotation with Clifton Moore being a decent frontcourt piece, while Alyn Breed is a good bench guard. The Friars also hope to get something out of Corey Floyd, Rafael Castro, and Jayden Pierre as freshmen. 

The Friars won a lot of close games a year ago and it is unlikely they are able to have the same record as a year ago, that said, this team is still Tournament good. They have good point guard play with Jared Bynum, going from Nate Watson to Ed Croswell is not much of a downgrade. They also have an upgrade of talent on the wing, as well as good shooting. Add in a coach that knows how to win close games in Ed Cooley and this Friars team will find themselves back in the NCAA Tournament. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Jared Bynum

SG: Noah Locke

SF: Devin Carter

PF: Bryce Hopkins

C: Ed Croswell

Bench: Alyn Breed, Clifton Moore, Corey Floyd, Jayden Pierre 

6.Seton Hall Pirates

The Shaheen Holloway era begins now and while Kevin Willard brought the program to new heights, Holloway hopes to build on that success into the future. This team is really deep and has plenty of pieces that hope to step into a bigger role. Kadary Richmond was inconsistent but provided stability at the point while being a large guard. They also bring in transfers Al-Amir Dawes on Clemson, who provides consistent shooting, and Femi Odukale, who provides scoring upside. 

Seton Hall has a depth of players rounding out the front line, Alexis Yetna should start at the four providing this team with a good defender and interior scorer for the Pirates. KC Ndefo is a good defensive big, who was pivotal in St. Peter’s deep NCAA Tournament run. Tyrese Samuel is a bulky forward, who could shoot and is a good defensive five, while Tray Jackson is a floor-spacing forward. Dre Davis transfers in looking to be a good four-man because of his skill and size. Jamir Harris also could play a role because of his shooting ability. 

This Pirates team has a large amount of depth, size, and defensive capabilities to be a really good team. Shaheen Holloway knows how to get buy-in, coach defense, and build a culture and that groundwork will be laid this season. The lack of elite offensive players could be an issue in terms of competing in the Top 25 but they should once again make the NCAA Tournament. 

Projected Rotation: 

PG: Kadary Richmond 

SG: Al-Amir Dawes

SF: Femi Odukale 

PF: Alexis Yetna

C: KC Ndefo

Bench: Tyrese Samuel, Tray Jackson, Dre Davis, Jamir Harris, Tae Davis

7.St. John’s Red Storm

Mike Anderson is one of the more consistent coaches in the sport and while the upside hasn’t been there, this team has been and should continue to be good. Posh Alexander will be one of the top players in the Big East, his defense, scoring, and passing ability make him a great do-it-all guard. Dylan Addae-Wusu took a step forward, his perimeter scoring, as well as playmaking, makes him a great second option. David Jones comes in to fill the backcourt wing role, being a good scorer and defender as a bigger guard. 

The Red Storm have a solid defensive anchor inside in Joel Soriano, who is a good shot-blocker. Montez Mathis should provide stability and shooting on the perimeter as well. The most intriguing addition was that of Andre Curbelo, who when on can be an electric guard that can carry you to a win and when off is the opposition’s best player. Freshman AJ Storr, along with Rafael Pinzon and O’Mar Stanley also should factor into the rotation as solid pieces with size and scoring capabilities.

It feels like a new year and a similar vibe with St. John’s, there are certainly some good pieces, the backcourt should be terrific at times but is it good enough? This team will play fast, they have good on-ball defenders but the team just hasn’t come together in a way needed to make the NCAA Tournament, and frankly, I don’t think that changes this year. Yes, the upside is there for this team to finish in the top half of the Big East and mark the NCAA Tournament but I’ll take a wait-and-see approach on them. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Posh Alexander 

SG: David Jones

SF: Montez Mathis

PF: Dylan Addae-Wusu

C: Joel Soriano

Bench: Andre Curbelo, AJ Storr, Rafael Pinzon, O’Mar Stanley

8.Marquette Golden Eagles

Last year was a bit of a surprise as Marquette was not projected to do much but instead found a way to the NCAA Tournament. Now heading into this year they turn towards a heavy sophomore-laden core for success. Tyler Kolek returns as the clear point guard, he’s a great passer who will get others involved first while being a capable scorer himself. Olivier-Maxence-Prosper will be one of the breakout candidates, his athleticism, size, and scoring is what make him a great prospect, but he flashed potential late last season. Kam Jones will also take a bigger role, likely being a reliable three-and-D athletic guard, who hopes to break out as a sophomore guard scorer. 

Continuing on the role expansion, Oso Ighodaro should move into the starting center spot, where he will be an efficient interior scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker. Stevie Mitchell was disappointing a year ago but should get a full starting role and that alone gives him a chance to step into a scoring role. David Joplin will also look to have a role as a combo forward who can knock down shots from the perimeter and defend. Emarion Ellis will also hope for a bigger role as a guard, while the Golden Eagles could also turn to freshmen Chase Ross and Sean Jones to get minutes. 

This Marquette team certainly has plenty of talent and potential breakout candidates to work behind, Tyler Kolek is a proven quality point guard, while Olivier-Maxence-Prosper and Kam Jones are due for big-time breakouts. Add in good role pieces in Oso Ighodaro and David Joplin, plus a breakout candidate in Stevie Mitchell, and this team has the offensive potential. They lose a little bit in experience and proven production with Justin Lewis and Darryl Morsell gone but if the breakouts come, this team still has the horses to make the NCAA Tournament, especially with how well this team defends. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Tyler Kolek

SG: Stevie Mitchell

SF: Kam Jones

PF: Olivier-Maxence-Prosper

C: Oso Ighodaro

Bench: David Joplin, Emarion Ellis, Chase Ross, Sean Jones

9.Butler Bulldogs 

The Lavall Jordan era ended somewhat disappointingly with a year of not reaching expectations and now the Thad Matta era begins. Matta has a solid roster to start his tenure, Chuck Harris is a high-volume scorer, who can make shots from all three levels. Eric Hunter Jr comes over from Purdue and looks to provide a steadying hand at the point. The other big addition was Manny Bates, who is one of the premier shot-blockers in the sport, as well as a good inside threat offensively.

Matta also added Ali Ali, an Akron transfer who is a good perimeter threat at the four spot. Simas Lukosius was a good piece who flashed potential in year one, a breakthrough year could see him being a key piece. Jayden Taylor is an experienced guard who can knock down shots. Myles Tate missed much of last year but could return to be a nice steadying hand at the point. Also, look for Pierce Thomas to see a large minute load as a freshman. Rounding out the rotation, Jalen Thomas will be a quality backup center to Manny Bates. 

This Butler team has a complimentary roster on paper but the question comes down to whether some of their younger pieces can take a step forward. Chuck Harris needs to be an All-Big East type of player, while the guards need to provide shooting around him. Add a healthy Manny Bates and the potential is there for Butler to make the NCAA Tournament. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Eric Hunter Jr

SG: Chuck Harris

SF: Simas Lukosius

PF: Ali Ali

C: Manny Bates

Bench: Myles Tate, Jayden Taylor, Pierce Thomas, Jalen Thomas

10.Georgetown Hoyas

If you want a word to describe last season for Georgetown, disaster would be the word, yet there’s growing optimism for this year. The return of Qudus Wahab is a big key, his size, athleticism, and rebounding is a big factor for their success in 2021 when they won the Big East. Brandon Murray transfers in from LSU as a breakout sophomore candidate who can score from all three levels, pass and defend. Dante Harris pairs next to him as a high-assist and decent scoring point guard to make a solid backcourt. 

The Hoyas take a chance on Akok Akok, who while hasn’t been consistently healthy, could be in for a breakthrough season. Jay Heath should provide the team with another quality guard with plenty of high-major experience. Bryson Mozone and Wayne Bristol come in as up-transfers who can both shoot the ball. Add in a young duo of Ryan Mutombo and Denver Anglin to round out the rotation and this roster is decent. 

It came as a surprise that Patrick Ewing got another year after last season’s disaster but he has filled out the roster nicely. A reunion with Wahab will be good for both parties, and unlike last year the Hoyas have legitimate depth. This team probably won’t make the NCAA Tournament but it can be good enough for them to consider keeping Ewing around for one more year. 

Projected Rotation: 

PG: Dante Harris 

SG: Brandon Murray 

SF: Jay Heath

PF: Akok Akok

C: Qudus Wahab 

Bench: Bryson Mozone, Wayne Bristol, Denver Anglin, Ryan Mutombo

11.DePaul Blue Demons

Coming into each season most of the time the Big East has Villanova at number one and DePaul in last in the preseason preview and while the first wasn’t delivered upon, DePaul projected at the bottom is the case. This team does have room for optimism though despite this projection, Umoja Gibson comes in to be a high-level scorer who should contribute as a go-to option. Caleb Murphy comes in as a quality passer, who hopes to be solid at the point for the Blue Demons. Add in a proven commodity that can score and pass at the guard spot in Jalen Terry and the guard core is experienced and talented.  

Inside, Nick Ongenda is more of a scoring threat, as he can make shots around the rim and rebound. Yor Anei is a good shot-blocker, who while not an offensive threat will be able to stop opponents’ bigs. Javan Johnson provides shooting and the ability to switch defensively on the perimeter at the four spot. Zion Cruz is a freshman to watch as he’s a combo guard who has real NBA potential. Philmon Gebrewhit can provide some bench production, while the Blue Demons hope to get something out of freshmen Ahamad Bynum and Kok Yat. 

The Blue Demons seem to be on the rise but yet there doesn’t seem to be an NCAA Tournament upside coming soon. Murphy, Gibson, and Terry are good enough backcourt-wise to win games, while Nick Ongenda provides consistent scoring inside. Add in a high-upside piece like Zion Cruz and this isn’t your usual DePaul, it just probably isn’t good enough to escape a bottom-feeder finish in the Big East. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Caleb Murphy

SG: Umoja Gibson

SF: Zion Cruz

PF: Javan Johnson

C: Nick Ongenda

Bench: Jalen Terry, Philmon Gebrewhit, Ahamad Bynum, Kok Yat


Player of the year: Adama Sanogo, UConn

Freshman of the year: Cam Whitmore, Villanova

Newcomer of the year: Souley Boum, Xavier

Defensive Player of the year: Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton

Most Improved Player: Ed Croswell, Providence

First-Team All-Big East:

Ryan Nembhard

Posh Alexander

Cam Whitmore

Adama Sanogo

Ryan Kalkbrenner

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