After conference realignment in 2013 saw the Big East as we knew it disbanded, I, along with many college basketball fans, wondered whether the newly formed Big East, created with all non-FBS schools, would ever return to college basketball prominence. However, just 3 years later, the new look Big East has already reclaimed its stake as one of the top conferences in college basketball, sending 5 teams to the NCAA Tournament a season ago, including national champions Villanova, winning it all on a shot we will never forget:
This season, the league should continue to get stronger and deeper, with the multiple teams in position to make runs deep into March Madness.
- Seton Hall
- St. John’s
Champions: Villanova- The defending national champions have a chance to be just as good this season as they were last year. They bring back star guard Josh Hart and forward Kris Jenkins (see clutch gene above), along with other key contributors from a season ago, such as Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, and Phil Booth, a potential breakout star who scored 20 points in the national championship game. They also add Eric Paschall, who put up monster numbers as a freshman at Fordham before transferring to the Wildcats prior to last season. The one concern for the Wildcats will be size, as they lack a true center after Omari Spellman was ruled ineligible for this season. However, I expect them to get creative with small lineups and have another successful season.
Dark Horse: Seton Hall- The Pirates shocked many during last season’s Big East Tournament, upsetting Xavier and Villanova on consecutive days to earn the program’s first conference championship since 1993. They do lose Isaiah Whitehead, who was one of the best guards in the country towards the end of last season, but still have plenty of talent on the roster. They will rely heavily on the contributions of Khadeen Carrington, who averaged nearly 15 points per game as Whitehead’s sidekick a season ago, and Angel Delgado, an outstanding pick-and-roll big man who will likely average a double-double this season. However, the key to this team’s success will be the point guard position. Carrington will be looked to for much of the ballhandling until Jevon Thomas, a transfer from Kansas State, is eligible in late December. Another option at point guard is graduate transfer Madison Jones, who was originally at Wake Forest. If Thomas, Jones, and Carrington can piece together the point guard position, the Pirates should be in position for anothe NCAA Tournament berth.
Preseason First Team:
- F: Rodney Bullock- Providence
- F: Kelan Martin- Butler
- G: Josh Hart- Villanova
- G: Trevon Bluiett- Xavier
- G: Khadeen Carrington- Seton Hall
Player of the Year: Kelan Martin- Martin’s numbers from a year ago should balloon as he steps into the primary scoring roll for the Bulldogs. One of the best scorers in the conference, Martin showed the ability to explode at some points last season, putting up 35 points in a February game against Georgetown. He provides excellent versatility, as he can be deployed at anywhere from shooting guard to power forward. He’s especially dangerous as a stretch 4, where he can use his athleticism and shooting touch to dominate on offense while still holding his own on the glass. One thing Martin must do this season is become more consistent. Without Kellen Dunham as a safety blanket, Martin must show up every night for the Bulldogs to have a chance to win. With a big year, Martin could help bring Butler back to national prominence once again.
Newcomer of the Year: Rodney Pryor (Georgetown)- Pryor, a graduate transfer from Robert Morris, was one of the most coveted transfers in college basketball this offseason, drawing offers from Florida and Gonzaga, among others. After a tumultuous beginning to his college career, including spending time at 2 different junior colleges, Pryor, a shooting guard, starred at Robert Morris, scoring 15.6 points per game in his first season before averaging 18 points per game last season for the Colonials. Now, he enters a Georgetown program starving for guard help after graduating D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and will be expected to make a big impact. If Pryor solidifies the shooting guard position for the Hoyas, he could be one of the most valuable transfers in college basketball.