1. Villanova: The Wildcats will miss James Bell’s production from last season, but Villanova brings back the other four starters from a squad that won the Big East last season. Returning starters Ryan Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard, JayVaughn Pinkston, and Daniel Ochefu form a strong core to build around. Sophomore Josh Hart will take Bell’s role after a quality freshman campaign that saw him on the floor for 21.4 minutes per contest. Villanova also adds ESPN 100 prospects Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth to the roster, but with so much returning talent, head coach Jay Wright will certainly be patient with his new additions. As the defending champions in the conference, Villanova has more than enough experience and talent to defend their Big East crown.
2. Georgetown: D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera was voted as the Preseason Big East Player of the Year and will be the top offensive weapon at the point guard position. He averaged 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game last year and will hope to push Georgetown to the top of the Big East. Inside, 6-foot-10, 350 pound center Josh Smith is a beast on the block but has struggled with his conditioning in the past. Five-star freshman Isaac Copeland should step into the power forward spot immediately while Aaron Bowen is an athlete on the wing. Jabril Trawick is a good glue guy in the backcourt while freshman Tre Campbell should see some minutes at point guard off the bench. ESPN 100 recruits L.J. Peak and Paul White will also work their way into the rotation. There’s enough leadership and ability for the Hoyas to possibly push Villanova for the top spot.
3. Xavier: Although the Musketeers lost three vital pieces in Semaj Christon, Justin Martin, and Isaiah Philmore, Xavier should be among the top teams in the conference. Matt Stainbrook is a 6-foot-10 center that averaged 10.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last year and point guard Dee Davis added 7.7 points and 4.7 assists per contest. Outside of the two seniors, Xavier will rely on a heavy dosage of newcomers. Indiana transfer Remy Abell and sophomore Myles Davis will fight for the other spot in the backcourt while Trevon Bluiett is a touted freshman expected to start on the wing. Jalen Reynolds looks ready to step into the starting lineup as a sophomore while James Farr will also contribute as a stretch four. The Musketeers have two pieces to build around in Stainbrook and Davis, but with a combined 10 underclassmen listed on the roster, Xavier will need some younger players to step up.
4. St. John’s: Leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison returns after averaging 17.5 points per game last year and should continue to score at a high rate. The Red Storm will likely utilize a three-guard lineup, with sophomore Rysheed Jordan at the point next to Harrison and senior Phil Greene IV on the wings. Elite shot-blocking presence Chris Obekpa will help compensate for some lack of size on the perimeter. The frontcourt took a hit when JUCO addition Keith Thomas was ruled ineligible, so senior Sir’Dominic Pointer and redshirt freshman Christian Jones will see extended minutes. With Harrison leading a strong backcourt, St. John’s could fight for an NCAA Tournament appearance, but the Red Storm will need to find reliable scoring options up front to make this happen.
5. Providence: Do-it-all point guard Bryce Cotton graduated after playing 39.9 minutes per game last season and the Friars will look for a new face of the program. Senior forward LaDontae Henton could be that guy, as he averaged 14.0 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game while his play in the postseason gives hope that he can become the focal point for Providence. Henton scored 16.8 points and grabbed 12.3 rebounds per contest during the four-game stretch and will try to continue his stellar play into his final collegiate season. With Tyler Harris, another double-figure scorer from last year, and 7-foot shot-blocker Carson Desrosiers rounding out the frontcourt, Providence should have plenty of talent inside. A lot will rest on point guard Kris Dunn, a former McDonald’s All-American that has struggled with injuries during the course of his career. He played in only four games last season but will need to produce to keep the Friars competitive. ESPN 100 freshmen Paschal Chukwu, a 7-foot-2 center, and Jalen Lindsey, an athletic forward, will see plenty of playing time while Kyron Cartwright could fill the backup point guard role.
6. Butler: Kellen Dunham returns for the Bulldogs after a sophomore season in which he averaged a team-high 16.4 points per game. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard was the primary scoring option last season, but should have some additional help this year. Roosevelt Jones returns after suffering a wrist injury and his reemergence should allow Kameron Woods to slide over to the center position after he led the Big East with 9.0 rebounds per contest. Alex Barlow was a solid set-up man that averaged just 1.2 turnovers in 32.9 minutes per game last year. Andrew Chrabascz had a nice freshman season and should improve as he becomes a full-time starter. Freshman Kelan Martin will also push for minutes at the power forward position. Butler has a solid core to build around, but the depth should dictate how the Bulldogs finish in the Big East.
7. Seton Hall: With three double-figure scorers from last season graduated, there will be a great deal of pressure placed on McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Whitehead and ESPN 100 power forward Angel Delgado. Whitehead is the highest rated freshman entering the Big East and, as a pure scorer, he could shoulder a big scoring load. Delgado should also enter the starting lineup immediately. Returning point guard Sterling Gibbs will add a stabilizing presence after averaging 13.2 points and 4.2 assists per game as a sophomore. Senior Brandon Mobley will have a crucial role in the frontcourt while Stephane Manga will need to take a step forward. The Pirates signed six freshmen, so a lot will depend on how the youngsters perform on the bigger stage.
8. Creighton: The Bluejays lose four starters from last year, including National Player of the Year Doug McDermott. Without McDermott’s 26.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, there will be a lot of production to be replaced. Senior guard Austin Chatman is the lone returning starter and should see a bigger role offensively. Fellow seniors Will Artino, Devin Brooks, and Avery Dingman add experience to the starting lineup, although it will be interesting to see how they perform with added expectations. Creighton also adds California transfer Ricky Kreklow and ESPN 100 recruit Ronnie Harrell on the wing. This team looks like it will struggle after losing a talented senior class, but there’s a chance that hungry seniors who waited their turn will outplay expectations.
9. Marquette: Former Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski takes over the head coaching spot after Buzz Williams left for Virginia Tech and added a huge addition over the offseason in BYU transfer Matt Carlino. The 6-foot-2 guard is eligible to play immediately after averaging 13.7 points per game last year. Paired with senior Derrick Wilson, the Golden Eagles should have a solid backcourt to build around. JaJuan Johnson, Deonte Burton, and Duane Wilson are all former ESPN 100 recruits from the 2013 class and could have breakout years ahead. The key will be finding the size to remain competitive. Indiana transfer Luke Fischer is 6-foot-11, but won’t be eligible until December. The 6-foot-7 Steve Taylor Jr. is the next tallest player on the roster and will see a major role on the smaller squad. Freshman Sandy Cohen should contribute immediately. Marquette will have the guard play, but will need enough rebounding inside to compete in the conference.
10. DePaul: The Blue Demons lose their top two leading scorers from last year, but do return the 2014 Big East Rookie of the Year, Billy Garrett Jr. The 6-foot-6 point guard averaged 12.4 points to go with 3.0 assists per game last season and will be a key piece moving forward. DePaul adds Illinois transfer Myke Henry and a trio of JUCO transfers, but it could be another tough season in the Big East for the Blue Demons.
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