Going into the 2023-2024 season, the Big East Conference had a vintage, ‘90s feel encapsulated by a handful of top 25 teams and household names at every head coaching position. The conference features the defending national champion and fifth-ranked UConn Huskies, the No. 4 Marquette Golden Eagles, the No. 8 Creighton Bluejays and several other programs that will be in the hunt for a national tournament berth.
Even the best conferences in the country have their bottom-dwellers. The DePaul Blue Demons and Georgetown Hoyas will be prime candidates for the basement of the Big East Conference after their abysmal performances on Saturday. The Hoyas, who are in year one of the Ed Cooley era, blew a nine-point lead with seven minutes remaining to Holy Cross (ranked 309 in KenPom rankings) in front of their home crowd. The Blue Demons, who previously lost to Purdue Fort-Wayne (No. 234 in KenPom) to begin the season, lost another game to Long Beach State in front of their home crowd.
As both programs look to get back on track, Daily Campus correspondent CJ Dexter debates with himself which program is more likely to finish last in the Big East.
The Hoyas are a far cry from the juggernaut they once were during the ‘80s and ‘90s. The final two years of Patrick Ewing’s tenure saw the program go 2-37 in Big East play. In 2023, the team looks to get back on track under Cooley, but Saturday’s loss to the Crusaders brought back the same negative aura that has surrounded this program over the past few seasons. The Hoyas simply do not have enough talent to be competitive in this conference this year and will finish in last place. The roster has little depth and will not get a lot of production from their big men, often running four guards at once. Despite allowing just 62 points per game against two mid-majors ranked 309th and 361st in KenPom, the Hoyas are expected to be one of the worst defensive units in the conference as well. Last year they were dead last in points allowed and with all the offensive talent the Big East has, I don’t expect it to get too much better with the thin Hoyas roster.
There is no doubt the Hoyas are in for a rebuilding year but, the Blue Demons team are in far worse shape going into this season. Not only did DePaul lose to teams that don’t even come close to Big East talent, but they were playing from behind with double-digit deficits in both games. In the team’s most recent loss to Long Beach State, DePaul fell behind 4-3 with 17:23 to go in the first half and never took the lead again. If this team is trailing for the final 38 minutes of a game to Big West opponents at home, imagine what will happen in games against a top-three conference.
While losing to teams from the Big West is concerning, Long Beach State isn’t nearly as concerning as losing to Holy Cross. LBSU was projected to win their conference in the preseason and have looked as good as advertised. Holy Cross on the other hand, was projected to finish fourth in the Patriot League and was coming off a loss to KenPom No. 328 Siena College in their opener. Additionally, Georgetown lost a bulk of their scoring from last season and didn’t replace much besides adding Illinois transfer Jayden Epps. Even Epps didn’t score average double-digits last season. The Hoyas don’t have any elite scoring options, don’t have much depth and will struggle to get stops, which isn’t a recipe for success.
The Hoyas will certainly miss players like Primo Spears, Brandon Murray and Akok Akok but they still have more talent than the Blue Demons. DePaul lost Umoja Gibson (15.8 points per game), Javan Johnson (14.2 points) and Nick Ongenda (12.5 points) to the portal and didn’t add nearly as much as Georgetown. Prior to losing their core players, DePaul finished 10-23 last season and didn’t score or defend at nearly a high enough level to be competitive in the Big East. Losing the set of Gibson, Johnson and Ongenda will leave holes to fill on an already talent-decimated roster, and lead the way to a last-place finish and the 21st consecutive season the program misses out on the NCAA tournament.