Though still among the conference elites, Villanova is a risky pick to be the top team in the BIG EAST. Hall of Fame Head Coach Jay Wright has retired, and star returnee Justin Moore and highly-touted freshman Cam Whitmore are injured to start the season. That being said, Wright constructed a well-balanced roster with some extremely talented players before departing, and while Kyle Neptune is still inexperienced as a head coach, his one-year turnaround of Fordham’s program last year is nothing to scoff at.
Creighton, while not my pick, is the near-consensus favorite to win the conference. There is much to love about this season’s Bluejays: They returned the reigning conference DPOY in Ryan Kalkbrenner, added possibly the nation’s best transfer in Baylor Scheierman, and held on to many other key contributors from last year. The critical issues Creighton faces are finding shooters outside of Scheierman and Francisco Farabello, as well as finding an efficient way for Scheierman, Ryan Nembhard, and Trey Alexander to share the court, and the ball.
Perhaps the oft-forgotten BIG EAST contender, UConn has ample reason for optimism entering the season. Forward Adama Sanogo could very well take home conference POTY honors, and the Huskies have major break-out candidates in wings Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson. The key here is whether transfer guards Tristen Newton and Nahiem Alleyne can provide enough ball movement to sustain the offense.
Coach Sean Miller returns to Xavier after a mostly successful but highly controversial stint at the University of Arizona. Bribery and fake transcripts controversies aside, there’s an argument that Miller is the conference’s second-best coach (behind the next coach on this list). Miller will have an opportunity to immediately do some damage in conference with Xavier’s roster, which, though light on shooting, has an abundance of guard and wing talent.
Butler projected fifth in the BIG EAST? Even after going 6-14 last year, firing their head coach, and returning only three contributors from last year’s roster? That’s the Thad Matta difference. Before stepping away from Ohio State for medical reasons, Matta was one of the nation’s premier coaches. While he’ll need to rely on some transfers, Matta will squeeze the absolute most out of Butler’s roster.
Former St. Peter’s head coach Shaheen Holloway takes over at Seton Hall and is creating a new-look Pirates team following Kevin Willard’s departure. Holloway has reshaped his roster using the portal, bringing in Clemson’s Al-Amir Dawes, Pitt’s Femi Odukale, and former St. Peter’s KC Ndefo. There are a lot of moving pieces between the roster and coaching staff, but Seton Hall has a real tournament upside.
This is a bit of a projected slide for Providence after finishing atop the conference standings last year. The Friars return few contributors from last year’s roster, the biggest being Jared Bynum, last year’s BIG EAST 6th Man of the Year. Like others in this tier, there is a large range of possible outcomes. The play of transfer forward Bryce Hopkins, who was very highly regarded out of high school but averaged only two points per game for Kentucky last year, will be critical to watch.
So many new faces on the Hilltop. Only three of the thirteen scholarship players played at all for the Hoyas‘ last season. Brandon Murray profiles as one of the conference’s most impactful transfers, and he is surrounded by a talented supporting cast. The biggest question is whether Patrick Ewing’s retooled coaching staff can find a way to make all the new pieces fit together.
St. John’s has one of the most electric open court trios in the country in Posh Alexander, Illinois transfer Andre Curbelo, and DePaul transfer David Jones. However, they won’t win many games if the Red Storm can’t make 3-point shots. For reference, the trio above was 54/212 (25 percent) from three last year, and there isn’t much shooting help around them.
Shaka Smart is going to have his work cut out for him this year. Following a quality 2021-22 season, Marquette lost star forward Justin Lewis and second-leading scorer Darryl Morsell, among others. What is left is potential sophomore breakout Kam Jones, point guard Tyler Kolek, and frankly not much else. Shooting and depth are major concerns.
Oh, DePaul. Not only are their three highest scorers from last year’s roster gone, but now, a core piece of this year’s roster is temporarily absent due to a significant wrist injury to Caleb Murphy. If nothing else, this year’s team, led by returning point guard Jalen Terry and Oklahoma import Umoja Gibson, should put an entertaining, high-scoring product on the court, even if it won’t be able to overcome defensive woes.