For decades, the Big East Conference has been a standard of excellence in collegiate men’s basketball, and last season was no different. In the NCAA tournament, the Big East boasted six tournament berths and two No. 1 seeds and saw Villanova crowned the national champion. With a wealth of new and returning talent in the conference, the road ahead will be hard for Georgetown. However, with new freshmen in the backcourt, improvement from last season’s returning stars and more head coaching experience for Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85), the Hoyas have a chance to pick up valuable conference wins.
2018-19 Projected Big East Standings:
The defending national champions have won the Big East regular season championship for four of the last five seasons and finished last season with the top-scoring offense in the country. Head Coach Jay Wright has cemented himself as one of college basketball’s all-time great coaches and will command a team led by redshirt senior guard Phil Booth and redshirt senior forward Eric Paschall, who both played influential roles in Villanova’s championship season. Booth and Paschall are joined by senior transfer guard Joe Cremo, who averaged 17.8 points at Albany, as well as five-star freshman guard Jahvon Quinerly. The Wildcats lost four key starters to the NBA, including Big East Player of the Year Jalen Brunson, Final Four Most Outstanding Player Donte DiVincenzo and 10th-overall pick Mikal Bridges. However, if history has told us anything, it is that the Wildcats will continue to replace the players they have lost and maintain their dominance in the conference.
After upsetting Xavier and finishing runner-up in the Big East tournament last season, the Friars were granted a berth in the NCAA tournament. However, Providence graduated two key scorers in forward Rodney Bullock and guard Kyron Cartwright. The Friars look to fill the gap with the return of their second-leading scorer and top rebounder in junior guard Alpha Diallo and one of their strongest defenders in junior forward Kalif Young. The loaded frontcourt will also feature redshirt senior forward Emmitt Holt, who averaged 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in 2017. The team’s height and experienced scorers will be a nightmare for Big East opponents.
The Golden Eagles have a plethora of offensive weapons that could lead them on a deep run in the NCAA tournament. The explosive offense is led by junior guard Markus Howard, who is coming off a season in which he was the Big East’s third leading scorer with 20.4 points per game. If Marquette can clean up defensive errors and brave a tough nonconference schedule, the team could find itself in prime position come March.
The Hoyas finished eighth in the Big East last season after losing multiple overtime and one-possession games. Ewing returns for his second year on the Hilltop as head coach and brings with him two talented freshman guards in James Akinjo and Mac McClung, who will add a spark to an already talented backcourt that contains sophomore Jamorko Pickett and junior Jagan Mosely. Essential to success for Georgetown is center Jessie Govan, who returns for his senior year after averaging 17.9 points, 10 rebounds and 1.1 blocks as a junior. Govan can score from everywhere — the low block, midrange and from three — but will need to take on a larger role to fill the shoes of forward Marcus Derrickson, who signed with the Golden State Warriors. There are a lot of question marks surrounding this Georgetown team, but the pieces are in place for the Hoyas to make a run this season.
Following a dominant sophomore season in which he averaged 15.7 points, junior guard Kamar Baldwin is poised for a big 2018-19 season. After the graduation of forwards Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman, the Bulldogs’ scoring will need to come from some untested players such as senior big man Nate Fowler and redshirt junior Sean McDermott. The uncertainty regarding the Bulldogs’ upperclassman leadership must be answered before they can contend for another NCAA tournament berth.
6. St. John’s
The Red Storm made a splash this offseason by adding junior guard Mustapha Heron from Auburn. Heron averaged 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Tigers last year. He teams up in the backcourt with Preseason Player of the Year junior guard Shamorie Ponds. Last season, Ponds led the Big East with 21.6 points per game. The talent on this St. John’s team rivals that of any in the conference, but a history of poor cohesion and defense could plague them yet again.
Last year’s Big East champions, the Musketeers lost more this offseason than perhaps any other team in the country. Head Coach Chris Mack left for Louisville, while the Musketeers’ three leading scorers, Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura and Kerem Kanter, all graduated. Xavier does return sophomore forward Naji Marshall — a talented and athletic two-way player. Despite the matchup nightmare Marshall poses for defenses, the combination of transition and inexperience will likely keep Xavier on the outside looking in come March.
The Bluejays look to back up their performance last season with a third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Creighton’s success is predicated on the recovery of junior forward Martin Krampelj, who averaged 11.9 points and 8.1 rebounds before tearing his ACL. However, the departure of two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year Khyri Thomas to the NBA, as well as the graduation of key players like Marcus Foster and Toby Hegner, make it unlikely Creighton will receive another tournament bid.
9. Seton Hall
After nearly upsetting Kansas in last year’s NCAA tournament, Seton Hall will enter a rebuilding phase. The exits of three talented scorers in forward Desi Rodriguez, center Angel Delgado and guard Khadeen Carrington will leave a large offensive hole in the team. However, junior guards Myles Powell and Quincy McKnight should provide some scoring spark.
The Blue Demons finished last in the conference in 2018 and will likely face a similar fate this year. Seniors Max Strus and Eli Cain are skilled scorers at the guard position, but a depleted frontcourt following the graduation of three senior forwards will leave DePaul lacking the balance and experience to bounce back this season.