Jonathan Synott, Associate Sports Editor
Newly anointed Hall of Fame head coach Jay Wright is back for his 21st season, hoping to capture a share of the Big East regular season title for the eighth time in nine years. Everything seems to be pointed in that direction, with the Wildcats ranked No. 4 overall in the AP Poll and ninth in the Kenpom rankings. AP Preseason All-American Collin Gillespie is itching to wreak havoc on the court after a knee injury last season. Nova is supported by Big East Preseason Second Team members Jermaine Samuels and Justin Moore while boasting the No. 22 best recruiting class in the country. Incoming freshman Jordan Longino enters a crowded backcourt but looks to be a quality bench contributor. Looking to improve upon a Sweet 16 appearance from last year, the Wildcats are definitely top dogs in a deep conference.
Ashton Stansel, Sports Editor
UConn, currently No. 24 in the AP rankings and second in the Big East Coaches Poll, still feels underrated going into this season. No UConn players made it to the All-Big East First Team, though R.J. Cole and Tyrese Martin did make Second Team. Despite that, the team is coming into the season with returning graduate student Cole, who averaged 12.2 points per game last year. He’s joined by sophomore Adama Sanogo, who is looking to cement his status as one of the best big men in the conference and improve on a dominant freshman season, and redshirt junior Akok Akok who is hoping to put his injured achilles tendon firmly in the rearview mirror.
Nick Greco, Campus Correspondent
While both Villanova and UConn found themselves on the Preseason AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll, Xavier is not far behind as they also received a few votes. After a last second comeback by No. 10 seed Butler in the Big East Tournament last year, Xavier got knocked out in the first round. It hopes to bounce back with the return of both Zach Freemantle and Paul Scruggs, both of whom made the 2021-22 Preseason All-Big East First Team. Xavier also returned five of its top seven scorers last year, so the word of the day for the program is “progression.” The No. 54 ranked 2021 freshman class includes 4-star center Cesare Edwards and 3-star Elijah Tucker, with 4-star transfer Jerome Hunter also joining the team. Xavier is a team that prides itself on the defensive side, so it will have to rely on the likes of Scruggs to lead the offense to a similar level.
4. St. John’s
Sam Zelin, Campus Correspondent
After missing last year’s tournament, St. John’s looks to improve under the leadership of 2020-21 Big East Coach of the Year Mike Anderson. 2021 Big East scoring leader Julian Champagnie returns to the team for his junior season with big expectations. Also notable for St. John’s is Posh Alexander, coming off a Big East Freshman of the Year season. While much of the buzz around the team comes from these two players, Anderson said “[their] team will not be a one-or-two man team,” mentioning players like Stef Smith, Montez Mathis, Aaron Wheeler and Joel Soriano as key pieces to the puzzle for St. John’s success. With Champagnie opting to return, it seems as if the team has a win-now mentality, but it’s going to need to overcome some tough Big East opponents to get to it’s goals.
Cole Stefan, Campus Correspondent
After losing to Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, the Blue Jays offseason had ups and downs like the Toronto Blue Jays. The bad was losing their entire starting rotation to transfer, graduation or the draft. The good is the best-ever recruiting class (No. 7 according to 247 Sports) Creighton has coming in. Marcus Zegarowski is the notable departure among those that left, but there are some solid pieces that have stayed behind including sophomore Ryan Kalkbrenner, who is expected to be the starting center. As for the recruiting class, the leading guys are Arthur Kaluma and Ryan Nembhard, both of whom should have an impact right from the get go. Even if the Blue Jays do not participate in March Madness this year, they have new pieces that can lead to a lot of noise coming out of Omaha this season.
6. Seton Hall
Stratton Stave, Campus Correspondent
The Pirates of South Orange will be looking to rebound from what was a disappointing campaign last time around with them missing the NCAA tournament by inches, thanks to a four game losing streak to close out the regular season. Despite losing NBA Draft Pick Sandro “Mamu” Mamukelashvili to the Bucks, they still return several key pieces, namely Jaren Roden. The senior averaged 14.9 points and 6.7 boards last year and will look to improve on those numbers with Mamukelashvili gone. Another critical returner is sixth-year senior Bryce “I ain’t ever missing” Aiken, who is better than his 5.7 points per game suggests. Aiken has potential to score big numbers as he did while at Harvard, benefiting greatly from Mamukelashvili’s absence. One last player to watch for is Syracuse transfer and former-UConn target Kadary Richmond.
Taylor Coonan, Campus Correspondent
Can I get a HOYA for 5-star recruit Aminu Mohammed? Big East coaches presented him with the Preseason Freshman of the Year Award just a few weeks ago. Coming in hot as well, Georgetown has transfer grad student Kaiden Rice as a wing. Rice is a big guy who takes even bigger risks shooting. His experience and court presence should prove to be beneficial for the Hoyas. The team is overall pretty young, but still has a lot of premature talent that will only continue to be recognized this year. Dante Harris is a perfect example of this, as he played in all 26 games last season as a freshman, starting in 20 of them and leading the team with 30 steals defensively. Alongside Mohammed, the Georgetown underclassmen could dominate the roster and set the team up for higher rankings in the next few seasons if head coach Patrick Ewing can keep them around, of course.
Nick Spinali, Campus Correspondent
The Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll has Butler slated to finish as No. 6 among the 11 Big East teams, ahead of both Creighton and Georgetown — two teams we have projected to be better than the Bulldogs this season. Butler will be returning 10 of their top 11 scorers from a season ago, led by sophomore Chuck Harris, a member of last year’s Big East All-Freshman Team and the first freshman to lead the ‘Dawgs in scoring in 40 years. Under head coach LaVall Jordan, Butler upset the higher-ranked Xavier Musketeers in the first round of the Big East Tournament last year, but fell to tournament runner-up Creighton in the quarterfinals. Jordan helped Butler secure its highest-rated recruiting class last summer, and his coaching has gotten BU as high as No. 5 in the national rankings — Butler’s highest ranking ever.
Ajeeth Vellore, Campus Correspondent
The Providence Friars are hoping the 2021-22 season is a bounce-back year for their program. After making a surprising run two seasons ago and putting themselves in a position to do well in The Big Dance (before the tourney was cancelled because, well, you know why), last season was a massive disappointment when they went 9-10 in Big East play and 13-13 overall. What’s worse is that Providence lost its star point guard David Duke Jr. to the NBA. Nonetheless, the Friars still have some pieces to work with. Redshirt senior Nate Watson is still around after posting some gaudy numbers a year ago and will likely be the starting center. Also with Providence are transfers Al Durham from Indiana and Justin Minaya form South Carolina, who bolster a rotation that needed wing help. In the end, how this team does depends on if veteran coach Ed Cooley can put the pieces together. If he can get the best out of them this season, maybe the Friars can be a pesky middle-of-the-road spoiler for teams at the top like Villanova and UConn.
Jacob Sondik, Campus Correspondent
In well-known head coach Shaka Smart’s first season at Marquette, the Golden Eagles are looking to improve up on their mediocre 2020-21 season that saw them go under .500. The departure of Dawson Garcia and DJ Carton, along with other starters Koby McEwen and Jamal Cain, opens the door for underclassmen production. A half dozen first year players will look to replicate the offensive production left behind and improve upon defense, as Smart prides his teams on an aggressive defensive approach. Marquette welcomes in key transfers Kur Kuath and Darryl Morsell, who come in from Oklahoma and Maryland, respectively. Both players have attained tournament experience, which will be crucial in helping this young core exceed expectations and establish themselves as a competitive threat in the Big East.
Evan Rodriguez, Staff Writer
Unlike the women’s team, the DePaul men’s basketball team is in full rebuild mode and with new head coach Tony Stubblefield, the program has nowhere to go but up. (Especially after a putrid offensive performance throughout last year’s season.) However, it’s not all bad for the projected last place Blue Demons. The team has a great defensive plan and plenty of length to go around to cause problems for opposing offenses. The Blue Demons were able to grab a slew of transfers who could make an impact including Jalen Terry from Oregon and Brandon Johnson from Minnesota. There’s also freshman Ahamad Bynum, a former ESPN top 100 prospect, who could make a solid impact. Finally, there’s Javon Freeman-Liberty, the 6’3 guard who averaged 14.5 points and will be a major offensive piece on a struggling offensive team.