Big East Basketball Season Preview

Story posted November 25, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Jonathan Draeger

As college basketball starts up on Nov. 25, one conference to look forward to watching is the Big East.

With nine out of the ten teams over .500 last season, about five teams were projected to make the NCAA tournament before it was cancelled due to COVID-19. As the new season begins, the Big East is ready to make a run to crown another champion in the conference.

Butler

The Butler Bulldogs are coming off a 19-17 season, with 11 of those losses coming from conference play. The team averaged 68.5 points per game, with guard Kamar Baldwin leading all players with 16.2 points per game.

The team shot about 46 percent from the floor, while connecting on 36 percent from beyond the arc. Butler needs to improve the shot creation and have more production coming off the bench, since most players averaged three to seven points per game.

Most of the production from last year is gone, but the Bulldogs have brought in five freshmen from the 2020 recruiting class. The future seems to be the outlook for this year’s team. This leaves seniors Bryce Nze and Aaron Thompson to lead the pack to a Big East Conference championship.

Creighton

The Bluejays enter the season coming off of a third-place finish in the Big East with a 20-15 record. That came in part with four players scoring in double digits last season.

Ty-Shon Alexander led Creighton with 16.9 points per game, but three other guards averaged 10 plus points per game. The problem came from the front court, with the forwards not producing to the level as the guards are at.

With five new faces added to the roster, the Bluejays need to go back to the three ball since their leading scorer is no longer with the team. Along with perimeter shooting, the team struggled from the charity stripe, hitting 73.9 percent of their free throws. The best way to winn crucial games is taking advantage of free points.

DePaul

Near the bottom of the standings last year, the DePaul Blue Demons look to get out of the basement of the Big East and back to the tournament for the first time since 2004.

Going 7-11 in conference play, the Blue Demons had Charlie Moore and Paul Reed lead the team in all categories on the scoresheet. Moore returns for his senior year, as Reed left the team to enter the NBA Draft.

With a vast majority of the squad returning to the squad this year, DePaul looks to get back to prominence in the conference, and to do so, players like Romeo Weems need to elevate their game, since they will now see more playing time with Reed out of the picture.

Georgetown

The Georgetown Hoyas may have been a team to sneak into the NCAA tournament last year with a 19-14 record. That was all in part to guard Mac McClung leading the team with 15.7 points per game.

McClung has transferred to Texas Tech, along with a multitude of their scorers leaving due to their personal benefits. This leaves the Hoyas without a star player, meaning Jahvon Blair must step up as the number one guy.

Head coach Patrick Ewing has a healthy mix of freshman and seniors on this team, which can help create a great foundation for a prominent future. In time, Georgetown can become great once again, but this year will show how the future is going to go.

Marquette

The Marquette Golden Eagles finished one game back of the conference lead with a 12-6 record in conference play. That came all in part by a stellar season by guard Markus Howard.

Howard led the team scoring 27.8 points per game, which put him on top as the leading scorer in Big East Conference history since 1985. With their star player leaving for the draft, players like Koby McEwen need to fill in the shoes left by Howard and provide for a tournament run again.

The team struggled from the free throw line, only hitting 74.3 percent of their shots from the charity stripe. To overtake the conference leader, free throws must be an area to improve before the season tips off.

Providence

The Providence Friars trailed everyone else in the Big East last season, with a 7-11 record in conference play. Alpha Diallo, the team’s leader in four statistical categories, has left Providence to play overseas in Greece, causing the Friars to scramble for a new priority on offense.

Looking at the roster, the team struggles with shooting, putting up totals of 41.3 percent from the field, 33.2 percent from three and 69.4 percent from the free throw line. If they want to get back to the days of Kris Dunn, the Friars need to start making shots.

Providence has height, with exception to Jared Bynum, so defense has to be able to stop the passing lanes from being open and protect the rim. They averaged 8.3 steals and 3.3 blocks a game, but can they produce more defensive stops this season?

Seton Hall

After a tournament caliber season, the Seton Hall Pirates plan to step up as the favorite for the Big East. After going 9-9 in conference play, the Pirates can surely rebound from last season.

However, they do need to find another primary player, since Big East Player of the Year Myles Powell went undrafted to the New York Knicks. Last season, Powell led the Pirates with 21 points per game.

As Seton Hall looks to continue after the Powell Era, a huge chunk of last year’s core returns to the team. The experience will help them down the road as they look for another NCAA tournament bid.

St. John’s

The St. John’s Red Storm ended their season with an 8-10 conference record, even though they were 21-13 overall. The main concern for this team was field goals, only converting 40.9 percent of their shots.

With the lack of shots made, guard LJ Figueroa, who’s now with the Oregon Ducks, had a team high 14.5 point per game season. The lack of points may also come from the lack of a traditional big man in the paint.

As the new season approaches for the Red Storm, the small ball strategy will have to do them well, since most of their players have guard capabilities. For St. John’s, they got to live and die by the three ball to beat the bigger teams.

Connecticut

After the university decided to go independent in all athletics, the Connecticut Huskies basketball program rejoined the Big East Conference in hopes to repeat history this year. The Huskies were previously in the American Athletic Conference.

Guard Christian Vital led the team in points, steals and assists last season. He was one of two players to average double digit points a game: the other being guard James Bouknight.

UConn finished fifth in the AAC, going 10-8 in conference play. The Huskies ended their season on a five game win streak.

As the Huskies try to turn back the clock, they have to rely on the big man underneath, especially Akok Akok. Akok averaged 5.8 points per game while also posting 2.6 blocks per game. His game needs to elevate if UConn wants to win the conference.

Villanova

The Villanova Wildcats were crowned 2019 Big East Conference champions in the regular season. They had a 26-10 overall record while winning the conference with a 13-2 record in the Big East.

The core of Saddiq Bey and Collin Gillespie led Villanova to its continuous glory in the Big East. Bey now heads to Detroit to play for the Pistons, leaving Gillespie to take this team back to the Final Four, and it is possible with his 15.1 points, 4.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

Head coach Jay Wright has created a dynasty in eastern Pennsylvania, and he plans to continue down the war path. With the Wildcats ranked third in the preseason polls, the expectations are high for this team to win their third championship in five years.

Xavier

The Xavier Musketeers fell to fourth place last season with a 9-9 conference record, which added to their 19-16 overall record. The team was primed for a tournament run, as per usual.

Even though they did phenomenal last season, three starters left for the draft or graduated. The biggest loss was Naji Marshall, who averaged 16.8 points per game and was a defensive force for the Musketeers.

To go over top this year, the free throw will have to be their best friend. After an abysmal 65.8 percent from the stripe, Xavier needs to convert those free points to return as the conference champion.

 

Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jrd6052@psu.edu.

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