Big East Preview
We are now less than one week away from the start of the college basketball season. As the anticipation for another exciting season builds up, we take a look around the college basketball world and preview how each conference may shape out this year.
Today, we look at the Big East Conference. The Big East has gone through a lot of realignment over the past eight years with powerhouses like Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville depart for the ACC. Teams like Creighton, Xavier and Butler have made the switch into the Big East over the past handful of years.
The conference still has some of its original teams, such as Villanova and Georgetown. As a conference that has seen so much turnover in the past decade, the Big East still remains one of the premier conferences in the sport.
This season will be an interesting one for the conference, as many of the top players in the Big East have departed as graduates or early for the NBA. With a lot of turnover, how can we expect the Big East to look come March? Well, let’s take a look around the Big East and preview what is to come throughout the 2018-19 season.
Tier One: Elite
Over the last five years, Villanova has established itself as not just the class of the Big East, but as arguably the best program in all of college basketball. Jay Wright has captured two of the last three national championships, putting him amongst the best coaches in all of college basketball.
This year’s Villanova team will look vastly different from the team we saw cut down the nets in San Antonio last April. Three of its starters, Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman opted to leave school early for the NBA. Sixth man and Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Donte DiVincenzo, also left for the NBA.
Villanova will look to the leadership of fifth-year seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall this season. Contributions will also be given by returners Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, and Jermaine Samuels.
Losing blue chip players like Brunson hurts, but guard Jahvon Quinerly should make an impact right away as part of a strong freshman class for Villanova. This is a Villanova team that should be in the thick of things come March, and between its prior tournament experience and young talent, the Wildcats could make another run into deep March.
Tier Two: Tournament Contenders
If you think Villanova lost a lot, take a look at Xavier. Chris Mack departed for Louisville, making Travis Steele the next head coach. Steele has been with the program for ten years, so he knows how things are run in Cincinnati.
Xavier lost last year’s leaders in Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura, forcing Quentin Goodin and Naji Marshall to take on bigger roles. A slew of graduate transfers should help, but it will have to rely on its culture to keep it near the top of the Big East race in 2018. This Xavier team will not be as good as the past few years, but if things go right, then the Musketeers can see themselves dancing in the tournament for yet another year.
Providence has not missed an NCAA tournament in five years, but the Friars will have their work cut out for them this season. Kyron Cartwright and Rodney Bullock are gone, so head coach Ed Cooley will look to Alpha Diallo and Emmitt Holt to fill those roles.
Providence has been a team that has given Villanova and Xavier fits in years past. Can it do that again and see itself competing for a Big East Championship? It may be tough, but if things go right, then the Friars could see themselves in a good situation to make the NCAA Tournament come March.
Marquette Golden Eagles
Marquette has a lot of firepower this season, and its offense should rank near the top of the Big East. The Golden Eagles will be led by Markus Howard, Sam Hauser and graduate transfer Joseph Chartouny.
The issue for Steve Wojciechowski and his team is going to come on the defensive end of the floor. Marquette will be able to score, but can it slow down opponents on the other end of the floor. That will be the difference between a run in the Big East tournament and NCAA Tournament bid or falling back into the NIT tournament in 2019.
Tier Three: Bubble Teams
St. Johns Red Storms
This will be a big year for Chris Mullin’s St. Johns team. The former Red Storm star now turned coach will look to lead his team back to prominence this season. There are a lot of questions surrounding St. Johns, but if things go right, the Red Storm could see themselves making a run at the NCAA Tournament.
Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron will lead a St. Johns team that will have one of the best backcourts in the country. One of its shortcomings last year was on the defensive end of the floor, but that should improve this year.
Less weight will also be on Heron’s shoulders offensively. Watch out for St. Johns as a team that could make some noise in March if things go right.
Butler made its fourth straight NCAA Tournament last year but getting back there might be tough for the Bulldogs as they lost their leader, Kelan Martin. This is a team that returns three starters, including Kamar Baldwin so it has plenty of experience going into this season.
In its second year under LaVall Johnson, Butler will have a lot of scoring to make up for with the loss of Martin. But if Baldwin can pick up the slack and improve in a bigger role, then watch out for Butler as a team that can make some strides this season.
Tier Four: Work cut out for them
Seton Hall Pirates
It is a brand-new chapter in North Jersey for the Seton Hall Pirates. Head coach Kevin Willard loses his three best players from last season. Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado helped lead the Pirates to three straight NCAA tournament berths, but that run might come to an end this season.
Myles Powell will be looked to take on the leadership role left by the departures of the aforementioned Rodriguez, Carrington and Delgado. Can the Pirates compete in the Big East this year? Most likely not. It might be a struggle for them to finish with a winning record, but with Willard at the helm, we’ll see what he can do with what he has this season.
With Patrick Ewing at the helm, there have been high expectations for Georgetown the past few years. This year, that is not the case. The Hoyas are making progress, but a tournament appearance still may be a few years away.
Jessie Govan is the best player on the roster and one of the best players in the Big East, but outside of him, there is not that much talent on the Hoyas’ roster. If the younger guys step up, then maybe they can make some noise. But more likely than not, it will be another down year for Georgetown.
Creighton lost a lot of pieces from last year, most notably Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas. This season is appearing to be more of a rebuilding year than anything for Greg McDermott’s Bluejays.
There is a lot of hype surrounding Mitchell Ballock, who may be too young to carry the load this year but is someone to watch out for down the road. Creighton has a past history of success but may need to wait a few years until returning to the tournament.
DePaul Blue Demons
DePaul has seen itself as the bottom dweller in the Big East for much of recent history. Will that trend continue this season? The only way to go is up for Dave Leitao’s Blue Demon squad after back-to-back last-place finishes in the Big East.
Max Strus and Jalen Coleman-Lands will lead DePaul this year. But outside of those two, there is not too much talent on this roster. It has the looks of another down year for the team from Chicago.
Jake Starr is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.