College basketball is under way for the 2013-2014 season. The Big East will be very interesting as the season progresses mainly due to the new structure and dynamics of the league. The league retains some of its traditional powers such as Georgetown and Villanova, and due to restructuring has added Butler, Creighton, and Xavier to the fray.
The league takes on a new dynamic adding a great offensive Creighton team to a league that has prided itself on defense. They also add returning Senior and 3 time All-American and NPOY candidate Doug McDermott, widely considered the best scorer in college basketball.
1. Marquette Golden Eagles
26-9 (14-4 Conference)
Key Departures: G Vander Blue, G Junior Cadougan, G Trent Lockett
Notable Newcomers: G JaJuan Johnson, G Duane Wilson, F Deonte Burton
Head Coach Buzz Williams has led the Golden Eagles to two straight Sweet 16s, to breaking into the Elite Eight after winning a split of the Big East regular-season title for the first time. Even with the departure of Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan, the team should be able to maintain their level of success within the conference and compete for the conference title. Forward Davante Gardner is the top returning scorer for the program as he averaged 11.5 ppg last season and won the Big East Sixth Man Award. Gardner also shot 58.5 percent from the floor, grabbed nearly 5 rpg, and showed great touch at the free-throw line 83.5 percent for a team that finished second in the league in free throw percentage. Jamil Wilson will be a key contributor after averaging 9.7 ppg and 4.9 rpg, but he will have to prove that he can be consistent starter and be efficient if given additional minutes. Chris Otule and Juan Anderson were starters last year, although they only contributed a combined 8 ppg and may not be starters the entire year for the Golden Eagles. This team takes after their coach, and what they lack in star power they make up for in grit.
2. Georgetown Hoyas
25-7 (14-4 Conference)
Key Departures: F Otto Porter Jr.
In the past four years Georgetown has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament three times, which is not acceptable for a program that is known as a traditional powerhouse in college basketball. Georgetown will have to improve upon its 25-7 mark from last year without Otto Porter, Jr. who scored 16.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 2.7 apg, while being a unanimous choice for Big East Player of the Year and a consensus First-Team All-American. The loss of Porter to the NBA will hurt, as well as forward Greg Whittington (12.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg) being sidelined indefinitely due to a knee injury. Senior guard Markel Starks averaged 12.8 ppg as he shot 42 percent from beyond the arc during an impressive season last year. Starks was the leader in assists with 96 and one of the better defenders and had 43 steals for the Hoyas that ranked fifth in the country in field goal percentage defense (.378) and 10th in points allowed (56.4 ppg). Smith-Rivera is a very talented guard in his own right and should be a key performer for the Hoyas in his sophomore year.
3. Creighton Bluejays
28-8 (13-5 Conference)
Key Departures: C Gregory Echenique
Notable Newcomers: F Zach Hanson
Top Returning Players: Doug McDermott, Grant Gibbs
The Blue Jays received great news that PG Grant Gibbs will receive an extra year of eligibility, which should help bolster their backcourt. The main returning player for Creighton is three time All-American selection Doug McDermott (23.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg), who is one of the best scorers in the country. McDermott returning solidifies the Blue Jays as one of the best offenses in the Big East. The conference change for Creighton provides McDermott the opportunity to silence the critics that question his ability to consistently play at a high level against competition in a major conference. The departure of Gregory Echenique is a loss for the Blue Jays interior defense, which was already a suspect area for the team.
4. Xavier Musketeers
17-14 (9-7 Conference)
Key Departures: F Travis Taylor
Notable Newcomers: C Matt Stainbrook, G Myles Davis
Last year the Musketeers had a very subpar year finishing 17-14 in the A10. The school will look to get back on track after having been to five consecutive tournaments prior to last season. The Musketeers will depend on Christon to be the engine that runs this year’s team. Christon was the A10 rookie of the year and averaged 15 ppg and has star potential. Xavier returns three players that will need to boost their offensive output as they take on new teams. Xavier ranked 65th in the country on points allowed at 62.5, but only scored 65.2 ppg for themselves.
5. Providence Friars
19-15 (9-9 Conference)
Key Departures: G Vincent Council
Coach Ed Cooley is starting to move the Friars in the right direction as last year they finished at 9-9 in conference play, which still was only good enough for 9th place in the Big East. They earned a bid in the NIT and had a decent run as they won two games before losing to eventual NIT champion Baylor. The returning players give the Friars a huge advantage as Cotton averaged 18.3 ppg, Batts 14.2 ppg 7 rpg, and Henton 13ppg 8rpg. The transfers from the ACC Carson Desrosiers and Harris along with freshman Austin boost this roster and should provide a huge benefit to the Friars.
6. Villanova Wildcats
20-14 (10-8 Conference)
Key Departures: C Mouphtaou Yarou
The Wildcats have been pretty inconsistent over the last few years. This has led to coach Jay Wright being placed on the hot seat over the last couple years as he probably will be again this year. The Coaches are enthusiastic that JayVaughan Pinkston, can continue to progress after a solid season last year averaging 13.2 ppg and 5 rpg. Arcidiacono should provide solid leadership after being named to the Big East All-Rookie Team after scoring 11.9 ppg and 3.5 apg. The Wildcats could surprise people this year as the team should be more consistent and experienced.
7. St Johns Red Storm
Key Departures: G Phil Greene IV
The most important addition to the Red Storm is that they have finally added a natural point guard in Jordan. If you add him with D’Angelo Harrison (17.8 ppg), Jakarr Sampson (10.1 ppg), and Sir’Dominic Pointer (6.9 ppg) the Red Storm should have a solid year. Sampson is returning after being named the Big East freshman of the year along with the top five scorers from last year’s team. The Red Storm was very solid last year on the defensive end, but this year they need to focus more on improving their scoring efficiency and three-point shooting after just making 3.6 per game and ranking 338th in the country.
8. Seton Hall Pirates
15-18 (3-15 Conference)
Key Departures: G Aaron Cosby
Top Returning Players: Fuquan Edwin, Eugene Teague
Kevin Willard was able to coach the Pirates to the postseason following the 2011-12 regular season appearance in the NIT, as the team had a winning record of 20-14 overall. The Pirates regressed last year. The Pirates have consistently been in the cellar of the Big East for a while now, and last year the team only had three wins in 18 conference games and finished in a 12th-place tie in the standings. With just 10 teams in the league now it would be impossible for them to finish 12this year, but look for them to climb out of the cellar by a spot or two. They do have one of the best players in the league in their wing Fuquan Edwin. He’s someone who can score in bunches for the Pirates, as long as his teammates provide help and keep opposing teams from double and triple teaming him.
9. Butler Bulldogs
27-9 (11-5 Conference)
Key Departures: Coach Brad Stevens, G Rotnei Clarke, C Andrew Smith, G Roosevelt Jones
Over the past 6 seasons Butler has been the ultimate David vs Goliath story making it to back to back final fours with limited talent, a tribute to the masterful coaching of Brad Stevens. The Bulldogs had averaged 27 wins per game and Stevens deservedly had received much of the credit, but he’s left for the NBA. Insert Brandon Miller as the new coach and a very inexperienced coach that has the loss of several key players such as Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith. With the news that Roosevelt Jones will be sidelined for the entire season with a wrist injury, it appears that it will be a difficult year. Butler only returns two starters that combined averaged 12 ppg. With a lack of offensive production and and no key newcomers, Butler will likely struggle to be competitive in a strong Big East.
10. Depaul Blue Demons
11-21 (2-16 Conference)
Key Departures: G Worrel Clahar
Oliver Purnell has been coaching college basketball for around 25 years (Clemson, Dayton, Old Dominion, and Radford) and this year again at Depaul he will be challenged more than ever. The team a year ago went 11-21 overall and finished last in the Big East standings at 2-16. So, the Blue Demons can only improve from their efforts from last season. On the bright side, they’re returning four players, who started 19 games last year and including their top performers Brandon Young (16.7 ppg and 4.6 apg) and Cleveland Melvin (16.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg). The Blue Demons have to improve defensively as the team ranked 326th in the country in points allowed (75.3 ppg) and 329th in field goal defense (.469).