Big East Way-Too-Early Preseason Rankings

The Big East has always been one of the best conferences in the country. This year will be no different, the conference brings back UConn who was once a dominant Big East team and is once again on the rise. The returning talent despite the loss of prolific scorers Markus Howard and Myles Powell is still high. With some questions about who will be returning and keeping their name in the the NBA Draft, these standings could be back and forth all the way up until the season and down to the final day of the regular season. Dylan Kelly and I break down our preseason rankings here:

  1. Creighton: Creighton is coming off one of their best season’s where they were in shape to make a run at the Big East title along with the National Championship. Fortunately for the Bluejays, Marcus Zegarowski is returning and will be there to continue controlling the offense. With Ty-Shon Alexander still keeping his name in the draft, he will not return. This will definitely raise a lot of questions considering he was the best player on the team, but I expect a lot of names on this team to take a leap. Mitch Ballock led the team with an offensive rating of 123.7, he won’t be the best offensive player, but definitely will be used a lot more. Despite losing their leading scorer, the Blue Jays return 3 double digit scorers and nearly all of their production outside of Alexander. Even if Ty-Shon keeps his name in the draft expect the Blue Jays to be in a back and forth battle for the top spot. 
  2. Villanova: Villanova could easily be the number one team and deciding this was very tough. Currently, Saddiq Bey has his name in the NBA draft which does hurt a little, but they can fill that void. Like Creighton, the Wildcats return the rest of their production. Gillespie, Moore, and Robinson-Earl certainly are a great trio for Jay Wright’s squad. Nova is a squad full of experience that won’t have a problem filling that whole because of the depth on this team. This might just help Robinson-Earl grab more rebounds and score the ball a bit more. The Wildcats have a great case to be the number one team but ultimately I chose to go with Creighton.
  3. UConn: The Huskies return to the Big East and enter Dan Hurley’s third year where they are a top 25 caliber team. Hurley brought in the number 2 recruiting class in the Big East and returns star James Bouknight for his sophomore year. Losing Christian Vital’s grit will hurt the Huskies but the energy of Isaiah Whaley who emerged as a star after the Akok Akok injury will be able to fill that void. To fill the shooting void Vital brought to the table, Tyler Polley will be ready to go at the start of the season who returns from a torn ACL that occurred 15 games into the season. Prior to injury, he led the Huskies with an offensive rating through the roof at 128.6. As the Huskies await to hear on the waiver of URI transfer Tyrese Martin they have a deep 12-man roster and will make a splash in year 1 of their return to the Big East.
  4. Seton Hall: Once again, the Pirates could certainly be up a spot ahead of the Huskies. The loss of Myles Powell is definitely difficult, that is if they weren’t able to replace him. Fortunately, Kevin Willard was able to land Bryce Aiken, the star Harvard transfer who is immediately eligible and will make a massive impact for the Pirates. On the other side, Quincy McKnight and Romaro Gill are the two that depart with Powell who both played productive minutes for Willard’s squad. Aiken and Mamukelashvili, who missed a portion of last year due to injury, will lead the bunch this year and keep Hall in the top half of the Big East.
  5. Xavier: Xavier definitely has a tough goodbye to a good amount of players especially all-conference players Naji Marshall and Tyrique Jones. Thankfully, Travis Steele will be able to make Paul Scruggs the focal point of the offense who has the ability to score at all 3 levels and can definitely make his name heard as he steps into a much bigger role. The Musketeers, who have never shot well from 3, bring in newcomers, Nate Johnson (Gardner Webb transfer)  and CJ Wilcher (Freshman) who will certainly help that cause. Freemantle, who showed great promise as a freshman will handle the front-court. Despite some key departures, Travis Steele has rounded out his roster to still be a middle-of-the-pack team.
  6. Providence: Providence loses a big piece of their rotation. The Friars will certainly struggle at the start of the season considering they need to get their feet a little wet, ranking 308th in the nation in returning minutes. Cooley was able to land a few transfers that will help add experience to the team if they are granted eligibility. David Duke will be in control of the Friars but expect AJ Reeves to make major improvements, along with Jared Bynum, who is now eligible after sitting out due to transferring. Ed Cooley always finds a way, and I expect no different here to take this underrated squad and put together wins.
  7. St. John’s: Although St. John’s is losing their two leading scorers in Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa, it is nothing that the Johnnies won’t be able recover from. St. John’s showed great depth last season as their top two scorers, Heron and Figueroa, only accounted for 47% of the scoring least season.  Players like Julian Champagnie, Marcellus Earlington, and Greg Williams each showed last year that they are capable of putting up big numbers in the Big East and they will be big for St. John’s in the 2020-2021 season.  Point Guard, Rasheem Dunn, who showed moments last season where he can take over a game will certainly be looked at as a top contributor once again this season.  The St. John’s recruiting class headlined by Posh Alexander and Vince Cole look like they will be able to have an immediate impact for the Johnnies next season.  
  8. Marquette: Marquette fans received great news this off-season when they landed Ohio State transfer DJ Carton.  However, they have yet to receive the good news that Carton has received a waiver.  If Carton does in fact get the waiver saying that he is eligible right away, he could be a tremendous replacement to Markus Howard and Marquette would become a team who could easily jump a couple of spots in the rankings.  But with a roster that has so much uncertainty at the moment it was difficult to rank them any higher than number 8. 
  9. Butler: Butler loses their top two leading scorers as well as their fourth leading scorer from a year ago.  Those players (Kamar Baldwin, Sean McDermott, and Jordan Tucker) account for 67% of Butlers scoring in the 2019-2020 season.  On top of this they are also losing a total of 6 of their 10 rotation players.  While the Bulldogs are not far off from St. John’s and Marquette and these losses will not be made up for in their recruiting class as they bring in five 3-star players. 
  10. DePaul: Landing Monmouth grad-transfer Ray Salnave gives the Blue Demons a lethal backcourt duo as he joins Senior Point Guard Charlie Moore.  DePaul also has another transfer who will be immediately eligible in DJ Williams, a former 4-star recruit.  If Salnave and Williams play to their highest caliber DePaul could be a team who finishes in the middle of the Big East. But at the moment, I do not think they have enough talent to match up with the top Big East roster.  
  11. Georgetown: Patrick Ewing has had a very tough time in his first few years coaching at his alma mater.  After losing his entire 2018 recruiting class including star guard Mac McClung, things are not looking good for Georgetown Basketball.  While I am optimistic about a couple of the Hoyas recruits like Jamari Sibley and Tyler Beard, losing almost all of your top players is going to be near impossible to recover from.  In order to turn this thing around Patrick Ewing has got to do a better job in retaining his top talent, something he has failed at time and time again in his young coaching career.

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