Villanova won the last two Big East regular season titles — with a combined record of 32-4 in the conference during that span — and is widely expected to continue its dominant run this year. Undersized in the frontcourt, the Wildcats will rely heavily on a few talented guards. Senior guard and reigning co-Big East Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacono will be joined in the backcourt by freshman Jalen Brunson, a McDonald’s All-American, and junior Josh Hart, the team’s leading returning scorer.
After finishing tied for second place in the Big East last season, Georgetown returns several key players. Senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who has averaged at least 16 points per game in each of the last two seasons, will return to lead the Hoyas. Smith-Rivera, a First Team All-Big East selection last year, will be joined by sophomores Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak and Paul White, each of whom scored at least 5 points per game last season.
Butler returns the most important members from the team that surprised many last year by reaching the NCAA Tournament and taking No. 3 seed Notre Dame to overtime in the Round of 32. Senior guard Kellen Dunham and senior forward Roosevelt Jones are All-Big East-caliber players who can light up a scoreboard, and junior guard Trey Lewis is a transfer from North Carolina State who was a McDonald’s All-American in high school. For the ever-overachieving Bulldogs, it will be a disappointment to finish worse than fourth in the conference.
A three-time victor over Georgetown last year, Xavier will look to build on the Big East’s lone Sweet 16 appearance in the past two seasons. Gone is goggle-wearing center Matt Stainbrook, but sophomore guard Trevon Blueitt averaged 11 points per game as a freshman last season, and junior forward Jalen Reynolds is one of the strongest players in the conference. Expect at least a fourth-place finish out of the Musketeers.
Junior guard Kris Dunn will be a one-man show in Providence this year. Finally healthy, Dunn exploded to average 15.6 points, 7.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game last year and could very well be the National Player of the Year this season. It remains to be seen if Dunn has the talent around him to take the Friars to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament.
Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski had a largely forgettable first year in Milwaukee, with his team finishing at the bottom of the Big East standings. The Golden Eagles will hope to make some memories this year with arguably the most talented frontcourt in a league largely devoid of quality big men. Junior center Luke Fischer, who averaged 11 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last year, will be joined by freshman forward Henry Ellenson, who is expected by many to go in the lottery of next June’s NBA Draft.
7. Seton Hall
Many were surprised Head Coach Kevin Willard retained his job after Seton Hall squandered a promising start and fell into dysfunction and a sixth-place finish last season. The team now belongs to sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead, a highly touted recruit out of high school who struggled at times last year, and sophomore forward Angel Delgado, last season’s Big East Rookie of the Year.
After enduring yet another year of mediocrity, DePaul fired Head Coach Oliver Purnell and brought back Dave Leitao, who led the Blue Demons to their last NCAA Tournament in 2004. The hiring decision was puzzling, but Leitao has enough talent to surprise some in the league with junior guard Billy Garrett Jr., senior forward Myke Henry and junior center Tommy Hamilton IV, all double-digit scorers last season.
Creighton struggled to adjust to the post-Doug McDermott era last season, stumbling to a 14-19 (4-14 Big East) finish. Unfortunately for the Bluejay faithful, which consistently packs the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, the outlook is not much better this year. Junior guard Mo Watson Jr. could be a bright spot; the Boston University transfer averaged 13.3 points per game as a sophomore for the Terriers two years ago.
10. St. John’s
Although St. John’s lost nearly the entirety of last year’s team that qualified for the school’s first NCAA Tournament in five seasons, there is an excited buzz around the Red Storm this fall because Hall of Famer and St. John’s legend Chris Mullin has returned to Queens to coach his alma mater. Mullin made ripples on the recruiting front, but it is tough to envision the Red Storm finishing much better than eighth or ninth in the Big East.
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