Big East Season Preview

Story posted November 8, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Austin Groft

After an upsetting end of the season for the Big East, many teams retained veteran players who are looking to run it back one more time.

The conference is back stronger than ever from last season, and even though Villanova is the early favorite, this is Big East basketball.

The No. 8 seed won it last year and who knows, maybe that can happen again this year considering the competitiveness all around.

Big East Title Contenders

Villanova

Projected Starting Five: Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels, Caleb Daniels, Eric Dixon, Justin Moore.

Everything seems too good to be true.

Despite losing Jeremiah Robinson Earl, Villanova was able to bring back its core players from last year.

Gillespie is back after his MCL injury last season and the Wildcats bring in 4-star recruits Nanna Njoku, Jordan Longino and Trey Patterson.

There’s no doubt they have great guard play, but a lot of pressure will fall on their bigs Dixon and Njoku.

UConn

Projected Starting Five: R.J. Cole, Tyrese Martin, Isaiah Whaley, Adama Sanogo, Andre Jackson

The hype around this team is real after finishing third for its first season in the Big East since 2013.

Dan Hurley will have his team prepared even with the departure of James Bouknight to the NBA.

Martin and Cole are the two top leading scorers from last year’s team, and there’s no doubt this team will be one of the best defensive teams in the nation.

Xavier

Project Starting Five: Paul Scruggs, Nate Johnson, Jack Nunge, Jerome Hunter, Colby Jones

Watch out, this team is sneaky good.

However, Xavier didn’t even make it inside the AP Preseason Top-25 Poll. That’ll be extra motivation for a team who returns several veteran players and two elite Big Ten transfers Nunje (Iowa) and Hunter (Indiana).

Zach Freemantle is the leading returning scorer, averaging 16.1 points per game last season, but he will miss the first five weeks due to a left foot injury.

Seton Hall

Project Starting Five: Alexis Yenta, Kadary Richmond, Myles Cale, Jared Rhoden, Ike Obiagu

The Pirates may be one of the most complete teams in the Big East.

People forget how elite Rhoden can be, and he will emerge as the star of the team.

Kevin Willard brought in two great defenders, Yenta and Richmond.

Looking at the projected starting lineup, Seton Hall is going to be a big, physical team. 

Saint John’s

Projected Starting Five: Posh Alexander, Montez Mathis, Tareq Coburn, Julian Champagnie, Joel Soriano

Mike Anderson must be thrilled that he has the Big East leading scorer Champagnie back on his team for another season.

There will be a lot of grit with this team after barely missing out on March Madness last season.

Transfers Mathis (Rutgers) and Coburn (Hofstra) are two guys that can help contribute to Saint John’s offense alongside Champagnie.

Under the Radar Teams

Providence

Projected Starting Five: Nate Watson, Jared Bynum, Al Durham, A.J. Reeves, Noah Horchler

It seems to be a recurring theme in the Big East that everyone is returning their top players.

Leading scorer Watson, averaging 16.9 points per game last year, will dominate the paint in the conference this year.

Bringing in Durham from Indiana was a great acquisition to help the perimeter offense since they lost David Duke.

Georgetown

Projected Starting Five: Dante Harris, Donald Carey, Aminu Mohammed, Kaiden Rice, Timothy Ighoefe

Remember when this team punched the ticket to March Madness last season being an eight seed in the Big East Tournament?

Well, that team is back again and with the way Patrick Ewing had his team playing it’ll surely be back to fuel that fire from last season.

Harris and Carey led the backcourt last season and they also added 5-star prospect Mohammed.

Butler

Projected Starting Five: Aaron Thompson, Jair Bolden, Bryce Golden, Bryce Nze, Chuck Harris

Another veteran team looking to make noise in the Big East, the Bulldogs return 10 of their top 11 scorers from last year.

This is a roster that has six fifth-year players.

Thompson is fully healthy after dealing with injury last season, and it looks as if Butler will be a sleeper team using its experience to its advantage.

Rebuilding Teams

Marquette

Projected Starting Five: Tyler Kolek, Justin Lewis, Greg Elliott, Darryl Morsell, Kur Kuath

It is now the Shaka Smart era in Marquette.

Even without star players Dawson Garcia and D.J. Carton, Smart comes in with the 16th-ranked recruiting class in the nation.

Marquette also acquired transfers Morsell (Maryland), Kolek (George Mason) and Kuath (Oklahoma) who will all make an immediate impact.

Creighton

Project Starting Five: Arthur Kaluma, Ryan Nembhard Alex O’Connell, Ryan Hawkins, Ryan Kalkbrenner

All five starters from last season are gone.

The team’s leading returning scorer, Kalkbrenner, averaged only 5.9 points per game last year.

Even though coach Greg McDermott has a top-five recruiting class, it will take some time to develop them in this competitive conference.

DePaul

Projected Starting Five: Tyon Grant-Foster, Philmon Gebrewhit, Javon Freeman-Liberty, Brandon Johnson, Nick Ongenda

Yet again, it will be another rebuilding season for DePaul.

This squad lost 11 players from last season, but there is some promise bringing in transfers Grant-Foster from Kansas and landing 4-star recruit Ahamad Bynum.

It’s been since the 2006-07 season that DePaul had its last winning record in the conference.

 

Austin Groft is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email atg5271@psu.edu.