Despite the loss of first team All-American Josh Hart and 2016 national championship hero Kris Jenkins to graduation, Head Coach Jay Wright’s Wildcats still sit in a solid position to extend their Big East regular season title streak to five. With no scholarship seniors on the roster, Villanova will be reliant upon its trio of guards, junior Jalen Brunson and redshirt juniors Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges. They are joined by sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo and redshirt freshman forward Omari Spellman, a five-star recruit. Booth and Spellman were both sidelined last season, but their contributions during the 2017-18 campaign will be critical if Villanova wants to rectify last year’s disappointing second-round exit from the NCAA tournament with a deep post-season run.
After finishing seventh in the Big East last year, the Musketeers went on to win three NCAA tournament games, making an Elite Eight appearance with the help of then-junior guard Trevon Bluiett. Bluiett, after pulling out of the NBA draft pool, chose to return to Cincinnati for his senior year where he will lead Xavier’s offense and compete with Villanova for the conference’s top spot. If Bluiett improves on his average of 18.8 points per game last season, he will likely be Brunson’s biggest challenger for Big East Player of the Year.
3. Seton Hall
Even when sitting toward the bottom of the Big East standings last year, Seton Hall still managed to upset top-ranked teams when it mattered most. The Pirates defeated No. 1 Villanova in 2016’s Big East Tournament Championship and proceeded to take the Wildcats to the final seconds of the 2017 Big East semifinals, only to fall by a score of 55-53. This year, senior forward Angel Delgado and senior guard Khadeen Carrington will lead No. 23 Seton Hall toward the top of the table with the hopes of rattling the Wildcats once again.
The Friars are set to return four senior starters this season and are positioned to be top contenders in a conference with three of The Associated Press’ preseason top-25 teams. Senior guard Kyron Cartwright returns to Providence after leading the Big East in assists during the 2016-17 season. He is joined in the backcourt by the former UConn signee and guard Makai Ashton-Langford, who was rated No. 39 in the class of 2017 Recruiting Services Consensus Index. Together, the pair hopes to carry Ed Cooley and the Friars to another winning season.
Under the guidance of Head Coach Greg McDermott, Creighton is hoping to hold its own in the talent-laden Big East. Junior transfer guard Kaleb Joseph will head to Omaha, Neb., after shooting just 35 percent from the field during his 50-game run with the Syracuse Orange. He will likely take a back seat in the Bluejays’ top-50 offense, as he joins a squad of shooters in senior guard Marcus Foster, senior forward Toby Hegner and junior guard Khyri Thomas. Foster led Creighton with 18.2 points per game in the 2016-17 campaign, while Hegner and Thomas both shot over 40 percent from three.
6. St. John’s
The combination of sophomore Shamorie Ponds and redshirt sophomore Marcus LoVett forms one of the most dangerous returning backcourts in the conference. The two averaged 17.4 and 15.9 points per game respectively, and are joined by transfers in redshirt sophomore guard Justin Simon and redshirt junior forward Marvin Clark II, from Arizona and Michigan State, respectively. Under Head Coach Chris Mullin, the Red Storm will look to rise in the Big East ranks while improving upon last year’s 7-11 conference record.
Marquette will need to see some breakout performances from its freshman class as well as meaningful contributions from its returning players in sophomore guards Sam Hauser and Markus Howard if the Golden Eagles want to finish higher than seventh place in the Big East this year. Howard is currently ranked in the top 1o of Sports Illustrated’s list of projected top 100 scorers in the nation after averaging 13.2 points per game last season. Senior guard Andrew Rowsey, who shot 92.6 percent from the line during the 2016-17 campaign, will also need to be an anchor for the Golden Eagles.
With the departure of former Head Coach Chris Holtmann in June to Ohio State, along with their top recruit Kyle Young, Butler will turn to senior forward Kelan Martin and sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin to lead its offense this season. With the additional losses of four of its top seven scorers from last year, Butler will likely fall in the rankings under new Head Coach LaVall Jordan, who returns to his alma mater with a tough undertaking.
DePaul has struggled for years to find success in the Big East conference. The Blue Devils went 9-23 (2-16 Big East) last year, but are anticipating a talented freshman class featuring four-star guard Justin Roberts. Roberts is also joined by three transfers in sophomore guard Austin Grandstaff, junior guard Marin Maric and graduate student center Max Stras. After placing last in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, Head Coach Dave Leitao says his underrated Blue Demon squad will use their ranking as motivation.
The 2017-18 campaign will most likely be a rebuilding year for Head Coach Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas. Arguably handed the toughest coaching job in the conference, Ewing is faced with a team that won a combined 29 games over the past two seasons and lost six players from last year’s rotation, including transfers and decommits. Despite the tough outlook, the Hoyas landed ESPN 100 prospect JaMarko Pickett, a former Ole Miss signee, who will help contribute to their lineup.
(All logos courtesy sportslogos.net)