Husky Hoopla: Big East men’s basketball standings predictions

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Big East Men’s Basketball Projected Standings:

Villanova
Creighton
UConn
Providence
Marquette
Seton Hall
Xavier
St. John’s
Butler
DePaul
Georgetown

A Villanova basketball player in 2018. Photo by Ken Jacef

1. Villanova

Karthik Iyer: The big bad Villanova Wildcats are back with their team nearly intact from last year’s squad that entered the Big East tournament as the No. 2 seed. With four guys back who averaged double figures last season, the offense looks poised to make some noise. The team has also made a few notable additions in redshirted top 75 prospect Eric Dixon and redshirted transfer Caleb Daniel who seemed ready to make timely contributions. With their core player continuity, depth, versatility and top to bottom talent, the Villanova Wildcats appear primed to maintain their spot atop the NCAA food chain.

2. Creighton

Jon Synott: Coming in at No. 11 in the AP Preseason Poll, Creighton are hot off of a very successful season that was cut short by COVID-19. Last year, they went 19-11 while going 11-7 in the Big East, enough to earn a share of first place for the first time in the program’s history. Creighton finished ranked seventh in the entire nation, and would have looked to get their first NCAA tournament win since 2014. Despite the Bluejays recently losing their top scorer, Ty-Shon Alexander, to the NBA draft, a huge key returner for Creighton is Marcus Zegarowski, who averaged 16.1 points per game last year and notably played some of his best games of the season against top 25 teams. Creighton’s incoming freshman class is ranked 31st in the country and hopes to achieve another successful season atop the best conference in basketball.

3. UConn

Nick Hellinghausen: UConn’s men’s basketball team has tons of talent and potential this season as it returns to the Big East. The team lost its top scorer, Christian Vital, but has most of its other players returning. The squad will have plenty of quality leadership with the experience of seniors Tyler Polley, Josh Carlton and Isaiah Whaley. The team also features one of the best players in the nation, sophomore James Bouknight, who averaged 13 points per game as a freshman. UConn has a strong chance to not only make the tournament for the first time since 2016, but to make a deep run with the playmaking abilities of James Bouknight and the depth of their roster.

4. Providence

Evan Rodriguez: Coming off a 12-6 record, the Providence Friars come into this upcoming college basketball season with lots of question marks. With Ed Cooley returning for his 10th season, the Friars are looking to return back to the NCAA tournament. However, this will not be an easy journey for the team. Providence lost key players, such as Alpha Diallo and Luwane Pipkens. The star of the team is undoubtedly junior David Duke, who put up 12 points per game and will have the major task of leading this inexperienced Providence squad who only brought back a total of three players who saw playing time of 12 minutes per game last season. While guards A.J. Reeves and Jared Bynum provide much promise and should shine with plenty of touches, this Providence team will definitely need to step up and play for a successful season.

A Marquette basketball game in 2013. Photo by Basketball Travelers Inc. Staff

5. Marquette

Ashton Stansel: Marquette will enter the 2020-21 season as a very average team. Last season, they finished seventh in the division with an 8-10 record, a far cry from their 12-6 in the 2018-19 season. A big bright spot for Marquette, however, is freshman guard Dawson Garcia, who was given the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year pick. Garcia is considered to be a very good pickup for Marquette, but in the off season, they also lost one of their best scorers, Markus Howard, who holds the record for their highest all-time scorer. They’ve also picked up point guard D.J. Carton, who transferred to Marquette from Ohio State in April and is another very strong new player. After having to pause for two weeks due to COVID-19, Marquette’s chances at success will rely on how well they’re able to get their younger players to perform, and on Carton not having to take another break due to mental health issues like he did last season at Ohio State.

6. Seton Hall

David Sandoval: Seton Hall will enter the 2020-21 season in a rougher position than they were last season, where they finished third in the conference. Some of the major players the Pirates lost are Myles Powell, Romaro Gill and Quincy McKnight. On the flip side, returning players like Jared Rhoden and Sandro Mamukelashvili, who both had pretty good performances last season, could show their potential to fill in the gaps. However, it’s only a matter of how long they can fill those voids as Powell was Big East’s Player of the Year and Gill was the NCAA’s third-best in blocked shots per game. Those are some fairly big shoes to fill.

A 2016 Xavier basketball game. Photo by Keith Jancef

7. Xavier

Cole Stefan: Xavier lost two big scoring threats in Naji Marshall and Tyrique Jones to the professional leagues. Their losses are padded by returning starters Zach Freemantle and Paul Scruggs, but they need more. Luckily, Xavier acquired Gardner-Webb transfer Nate Johnson and Mercy transfer Bryan Griffin, both of whom will look to take their places as scoring and rebounding threats. With this diverse, veteran core and a strong recruiting class of perimeter players, Xavier looks to contend with some of the other teams in the Big East for years to come, even if that contention window is ajar this year.

8. St. John’s

Conner Gilson: The outlook for this Red Storm team isn’t great. After finishing last season 17-13 with a 5-13 conference record, St John’s were shockingly ahead of Creighton in the Big East tournament before it was cut short due to COVID-19. The main reason for that, however, was because of the stellar play from LJ Figueroa and Heron Mustapha, both of whom left the team this offseason. Now with those guys gone and no recruit within the top 225, the Red Storm will have to rely on the likes of Rasheem Dunn and Julian Champagnie to carry the scoring load. In a conference that is always improving at the top and has UConn coming in ready to make waves, it would be no surprise if St. John’s struggled without their top two scorers from last season and finished near the bottom.

9. Butler

Tim Keaten: The men’s basketball team at Butler have lost some key players that are going to be hard to replace coming into this new season. Kamar Baldwin and Sean McDermott were cornerstone players on the team that put up a good chunk of the points for the Bulldogs. With the loss of six key seniors, a big problem that now hangs over the team is a lack of depth on the court. Henry Baddley was an important defensive specialist for the team, and coach LaVall Jordan is going to have to develop defensive talent among the freshmen in order to fill the hole. The team is going to have to fight its way through the season, but it’s on a mission to get back to the tournament that it lost out on last season.

2 DePaul basketball players. Photo by W C

10. DePaul

Danny Barletta: DePaul have finished last or tied for last in the Big East every year for the last four years. We don’t have them there this year, but we don’t have them much higher either. The Blue Demons haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2004, when they were still a member of Conference USA, and we don’t see that streak ending this year. They have Charlie Moore, who was actually named to the preseason All-Conference First Team, returning for his senior year, but that’s really all there is to be excited about for DePaul. Jaylen Butz and Romeo Weems could be really solid if they build on last year’s performances, but overall, head coach Dave Leitao has his hands full in a conference full of teams much more talented than his.

11. Georgetown

Jorge Eckardt: With no East Carolina to write about this season (thank god), I had to pivot to the worst team in the Big East — Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas. There aren’t many expectations for Georgetown this season, and the expectations there are aren’t positive. Finishing last season on a seven-game losing skid, they then lost a bunch of their production. Leading scorer Mac McClung is now at Texas Tech and second leading scorer and leading rebounder Omer Yurtseven is with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Starters Jagan Mosley and Terrell Allen are also gone, so there’s just a lot of turnover to deal with. The Hoyas have six freshmen and two grad transfers, so they are going to have to rely on the senior guard tandem of Jahvon Blair and Jamorko Pickett if they want any chance of competing.

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